Q+A: Fashion Denver’s Brandi Shigley
For this Colorado couture icon, fashion isn’t about having an eye for hot trends; it’s about having the courage to be authentically you.
Brandi Shigley has been a player on the Mile High City’s fashion scene since she graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 1999. She’s as bright and bold as her signature style, but her calling card is her unquenchable desire to help other creatives through her consulting business, Fashion Denver.
How would you describe your signature style?
Memories, comfort and super-eclectic. Everything that is on me is usually thrifted, hand-me-down and local. Fashion for me is being able to express who I am and what my heart is outwardly, and I find that expression in the treasures I find on racks at the thrift store and in hand-me-downs.
How did you break into the fashion biz?
When I was a young, I was obsessed with making paper purses. Flash forward, and I started a handbag business after graduating (from MSU Denver). I didn’t study fashion; I just put out what my heart wanted to do. I was just some girl learning how to make a handbag and breaking my needles on my sewing machine. I also taught myself how to build and launch a website, and then literally within four months I was selling internationally – London, Paris, New York, Chicago.
Tell us about Fashion Denver.
My passion really lies in helping people see their own potential. I help designers start their businesses by providing the services that I had to learn on my own: how to build a website, how to build your brand, how to plan an event. Since 2004, I have produced quarterly fashion markets bringing 20 to 40 local designers under one roof. They’re like fun fashion flea markets; there are three fashion shows throughout the day, and it always benefits a local organization.
How did MSU Denver help you find success in fashion?
MSU Denver was instrumental in shaping my future. My professors understood my personality, understood the way I learned and allowed me to be who I am. I had a professor named Carl Johnson for Intro to Speech who changed my life. He told me, “I want you to speak about what you’re passionate about.” And that experience completely changed everything about education for me. But even more so, it influenced how I went out into the world.
How does Denver’s fashion scene stand up to other fashion destinations?
Our local boutiques have really been elevated by 303 Magazine’s creation of Denver Fashion Week – it helped the scene to find the national spotlight. We have everything from couture high-end designers to affordable, fun and chic to athletic apparel, so we really have it all here.
What is your advice for others breaking into the fashion industry?
Finding a mentor is huge – having somebody who’s been there, done that. Volunteer and get hands-on experience. Surround yourself with people who believe in your vision. It’s so important to create a network of people who are trustworthy and community-oriented. Fashion Denver would not be where it’s at had it not been for the amazing designers who helped me to keep it going and believed in me and lifted me up when I needed it.
What are the achievements in your career that you are most proud of?
I was on the Denver Women’s Commission, which was a mayor-selected position with the city. Those things are cool, but I think my biggest accomplishment is just being able to live my life purposefully and hopefully bring purpose into other people’s lives. That’s really what it all comes down to: being able to make a living while living in a way that allows me to love on other people in a fun and creative way. I can make a handbag; I can build a website, but I feel like the thing that I’m best at is supporting and encouraging people.