Mona Lucero creates fashion with an artist’s eye – The Denver Post
Mona Lucero has worked in about every facet of the fashion industry. Sheâs been a designer, pattern-maker and seamstress. She has been a wholesaler and had her own retail store for a decade in Denverâs Highland neighborhood.
Luceroâs latest chapter finds her in the River North (RiNo) district, where she just opened a studio at Bindery on Blake, a repurposed building that will house a dozen additional artists when all the spaces are rented. Stainless steel racks of clothing line two walls of her studio. A shiny white mannequin wears a multicolored asymmetrically draped dress, another a dress with a front panel made from a vintage silk scarf.
On a recent afternoon, Lucero wears a white lace top and a full circle skirt of her own design, tulle netting peeking out from the hemline. With signature red lipstick and her dark hair pulled back from her freckle-dotted face, thereâs something about her that recalls the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
The new studio is perfect for Lucero because sheâs among people practicing her first love: art. She got a degree in fine art from the University of Colorado at Denver before studying fashion. At Bindery on Blake, she is in both worlds: working alongside artists as she meets with clients by appointment, markets her designs and greets potential new customers when people stop in for the areaâs popular First Friday art walks.
It also suits her because sheâs involved with the local fashion community. Lucero was one of the co-founders of the Fashion Association of Denver, which supports and promotes local fashion designers and brands. She also serves on Denver Arts & Venuesâ Imagine 2020 Arts Initiative and is an advisor to the Denver Architectural Foundation.
Her latest community effort is to be one of about a dozen designers and boutiques that will be featured in the Aug. 26 Urban Nights fashion show, Â a benefit for Urban Peak. Itâs Luceroâs second year participating, and sheâll show 10 looks on the runway.
The local fashion scene has come a long way, she says. âIâve always felt that there was a lot of talent here even though there wasnât much of a garment industry. That makes it hard to progress.â The advent of social media, particularly Facebook, has given fledgling businesses a way to share resources, use each otherâs expertise, and communicate, she says.
Lucero studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and felt the pull of the fashion capitals of Paris, Milan and Tokyo, but only wanted to move abroad if she could work for such brands as Moschino or designers like Miuccia Prada and Issey Miyake.
She grew up in Grand Junction before moving to Denver to go to college and says she felt comfortable here. âIn the early 1990s, there was a lot of friendly competition among designers,â Lucero recalls.
Starting with her first fashion collection in 1993, when she dyed cotton and screen-printed Victorian motifs on the fabric, Lucero has been designing in one form or another since. Her logo, a stylized butterfly, has multiple meanings. The many stages of a butterflyâs life cycle speak to how transformative fashion can be, for both the creator and the person wearing the clothes, Lucero says. The creature is also light and often colorful, things she likes in clothing. Swallowtail-type hemlines are featured in a current dress design and sleeves are winglike.
Many of Luceroâs current designs, which typically sell for $150 to $380, drape and flow around the body rather than confine it with a lot of structure. She showed a series of caftan-like pieces Â in the Urban Nights show last year, and this time around will be presenting gowns with more elaborate draping, as well as scarf dresses.
Lucero creates garments that fit and flatter a variety of body types, something she learned women liked when she had her retail store. Â âMy customers also taught me a lot and what to keep in mind as I designed. They wanted more casual clothes, and color,â she says.
But sheâd always have a few special pieces on display as well; looks that were one-of-a-kind. And thatâs her current direction on dresses she sells through her website, monalucero.com. âItâs definitely where my heart is,â she says. âI wanted to do more dresses and pieces that are a little more date-night.â
Selling directly rather than having to maintain a retail business allows her to spend more time on the creative side, Lucero says.
âIâm inspired when I see a stylish person; Â that makes me want to go back to my studio and create something equally interesting,â she said. âMy recent trip to Santa Fe inspired me to think about layering and big jewelry.â
Lucero loves color and pattern, as well as vintage fabrics she finds when she travels. âOnce the fabric arrives in my studio, I start playing with it to see what can be done with it,â she says. âAfter I’ve started to drape, I start drawing to create the rest of the collection.â
URBAN PEAK BENEFIT
The fourth annual Urban Nights Fashion show and fundraiser for Urban Peak is Aug. 26 at Mile High Station, 2027 Old West Colfax Ave. The eveningâs honoree will be Patrick J. Hamill, founder and CEO of Oakwood Homes.
Funds raised from ticket sales and an auction will be used for Urban Peak programs providing services to homeless youths aged 15-24, including housing, food, clothing, shelter and showers. Also offered are GED classes, job training and certification programs.
Show producer Dahlia Weinstein says the runway show will feature 30 female models and 10 male models, with Matthew Morris Salon doing the hair and Â Gina Comminiello of The Look supervising makeup. Designers and retailers on the runway will include Mona Lucero, Andrea Li Jewelry, Amy Cabrera for Lotti Clothing, Evey K Boutique, Bikini Luxe, Suit Supply, Goldyn, Aussie Bum, Gino Velardi Designs, Andreas Tsagas for A. Tsagas Fur & Leather and Eve Jenkins for Parasite Eve.
VIP admission begins at 6 p.m.; general admission at 7 p.m.; event begins 7:30 p.m.; after-party at 10 p.m. Tickets are $75 for general admission with open seating and cash bar; and $250 for VIP with early arrival, patron party, hosted bar, valet and more; details at urbannightsdenver.org.
URBAN PEAK INFO
Urban Peak serves more than 2,000 youths age 15-24 each year who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.
It offers housing and a variety of services to youths with the goal of stabilizing them to be healthy and self-sufficient, either returning to their families or living on their own.
The Denver organization does only two big events each year, according to Kim Easton, CEO. It hosts its annual community breakfast, Reach for the Peak, on Sept. 16. And in March it held its Maverick Thinkers event, where it honored community members and people it previously served who have made progress in their lives.
Third-party fundraisers, such as Urban Nights, are organized with minimal staff support but a lot of encouragement from Urban Peak, Easton says. âItâs truly a volunteer-driven event with its own committee, and itâs big and splashy and exciting. It brings all of these new eyes to the issue that wouldnât have been connected otherwise.â
Urban Peak participants do artwork that is sold at the fundraiser, and one of its program participants will speak at the event about his or her experience with homelessness.
Urban Peak served 2,035 youths in 2015 and has a budget of about $5 million. âWe had fewer overall participants because the youths were staying longer in housing and shelter. That creates fewer slots for new people,â she said. Youths in shelter stayed an average of 44 days.
Other shelters that previously served youths that Urban Peak partnered with have either closed or are no longer accepting young people, putting more pressure on the organization to find beds and services, Easton says.
âThe needs are constant and we seem to always be lacking enough resources,â she says, adding that fundraisers like Urban Peak help fill in the funding gaps. âWe are so grateful for to the Joseph Family Foundation for its support and to various organizations for their marketing and branding and sponsorships. They pour their hearts and souls into it.â