February is Black History Month, a period to recognize and celebrate Black culture. 303 Magazine sat down with some of the powerhouses in our community who redefine Denver fashion. Listed below are a few of the many Black-Owned businesses in Denver that all have a fascinating story behind their brands.
To showcase the incredible Black designers and business owners in this community, we came together at RedLine Contemporary Art Center in RiNo for a photo shoot. Redline features different types of artist exhibitions every year, falling under specific themes. Their 2021-2022 theme is “Afrofuturism + Beyond.”
Tyne Hall is the owner and designer of her eponymous brand that has been around for six years. She makes a personal connection with her brand by designing and producing everything on her own. “It’s a lot of work but I love every minute of it,” she said.
“Tyne Hall is a womenswear brand that focuses on custom pieces. My aesthetic takes gothic and rocker motifs and mixes them with clean and classic silhouettes,” Hall said.
Hall was aware of her love and passion for fashion for a while and had been wanting to create her own garments. She found that fashion was a very important way of expressing who she was, and what better way to do that than to create apparel pieces? She started by diving into some fashion shows around Denver and shortly received great feedback from customers.
Hall is very passionate about making women feel unique and giving them the space and opportunity to express themselves. Being one of the many Black-Owned businesses in Denver, she looks up to other Black female designers as she feels they have given her the opportunity and courage to do what she does today – create amazing garments.
In describing what Black History Month means to her, Hall touched on a specific female in fashion that inspires her.
“Black History Month gives us an opportunity to reflect on the ways in which Black Americans have been a democratizing force in this country and a force that pushes this country and its citizens to live up to the ideals we espouse,” Hall said. “I was recently reading about the fashion designer Zelda Wynn. She gave space to Black women who faced discrimination in white-owned shops and was instrumental in creating the National Association of Fashion and Accessory Designers that elevated Black women designers. I think you see in her legacy a person who worked to push inclusivity in fashion and beauty. Her work is why I am able to design today.”
Lawrence & Larimer
Owners of Lawrence & Larimer, John Chapman IV and Keyonna Chapman, have been in businesses for five years and now have an immediate team of 12 passionate people.
Lawrence & Larimer was created as an outlet for the Chapmans to release their creative ideas through fashion. “We felt the need to fill the void of fashion and style in our hometown,” said John and Keyona. They produce high-quality products for men, women and children. They also have a selection of home decor.
“Our brand thrives on the motto: beat all odds,” said the Chapmans. This is a saying that they chose to commit to in 2017. Throughout the years, they have been through many different ups and downs. “Therefore, Beat All Odds has been something that has definitely kept us pushing forward,” they said.
This year, Lawrence & Larimer have curated three different in-store exhibits for people to come, enjoy and learn. Additionally, February isn’t the only time they are showing their support for the Black community. They offer a space for Black business owners and creatives in the community, allowing them to create, mingle and network at all times.
“Black History Month is just one of the moments that we get to show our appreciation for/to our ancestors that have paved the way for us. We take advantage of this time by producing limited amounts of apparel and other goods that have a Black history lesson with each custom-designed item,” said the Chapmans
You can check out their collections on their Instagram.
Owner of ASEL Classics, Asmeret Tesfay, runs the company by herself, making her line a lot more personal. Tesfay’s business started with a vision way before she launched. With the realities of life, it took her over 10 years to put the vision into action and she launched her online store in the Spring of 2018.
Tesfay’s inspiration all started with her mother who raised her as a single parent on the East Coast. Her mother was designing and sewing for her full-time job, as well as on the side. “That was our bread and butter,” said Tesfay.
As she was growing up, Tesfay’s home environment always had “sewing tools, fabric patterns, and the sounds of a sewing machine,” she said. Tesfay mentioned that her mother’s style was a “one-of-a-kind, she was effortless, elegant and chic.”
Tesfay makes a strong connection with her company’s name, ASEL, using the first two letters of her own name and the first two letters of her mother’s name combined. ASEL Classics is inspired by Tesfay’s personal style; one-of-a-kind vintage clothing finds, statement accessories and being comfortable in what she wears.
“ASEL is my love for statement pieces and fabrics. I consider statement pieces as an accessory and or clothing item that stands out. A unique piece that can tie an outfit together or complement it. A statement piece also says something about you. It shows a personality,” she said.
Tesfay has expanded into creating t-shirts that contain empowering statements. “I love words, powerful statements and quotes. Words can either heal you or harm you,” she said. ASEL Classics has taken this opportunity to create empowering statements to heal. Therefore, ASEL’s tagline is classic, effortless and unique.
Tesfay enjoys attending community vendors to promote her inventory and give customers the opportunity to enjoy her amazing creations. She enjoys making a connection and feels fulfilled in meeting new people and establishing new relationships.
“The purchases/support are the bonus. I also love to meet other local Black creators,” Tesfay explained.
Tesfay is always creating empowering and unique products for everyone. She has a section on her store’s website where you can find products with Afro-centric prints. For the month of February, she is running a promotion for Black History Month on selected statement tees.
When Tesfay reflected on what Black History Month means to her, her response tied into her work with ASEL classics and how the brand came to be.
“I see Black History as Asmeret showing up as Asmeret every day and in every space. The fabric of me shows up in my culture, my descendants, my history and my interests. And through my fabric is my creation of ASEL. Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate and understand more about our achievements and our contributions from Africa to America,” she said.
Rachel Marie Hurst
As the owner, CEO and designer of her own fashion brand, Rachel Marie Hurst is a force to reckon with. She owns a studio space where she meets with her clients. Her company is a small team consisting of her sister, Jamee, serving as her business partner, and Hurst herself. Hurst’s business has been around for over 10 years now.
Hurst’s brand started when she was in college. She had been studying to eventually attend medical school.
After experiencing some difficulties in her life at that point, Hurst “had a mental breakdown and a good friend of mine at the time asked me to start a Fashion group on campus,” she said. They created the first Fashion Design Student Association at CU Boulder. After the first runway show, Hurst didn’t know what she was going to do but felt so alive that she knew she had to figure out how to do this in real life since she enjoyed it so much.
“I actually transferred into the theater program and went to the professors there and asked them to teach me everything they knew about fashion and the rest was history,” she said.
Hurst now has a ready-to-wear fashion line as well as an array of custom pieces for clientele looking for anything from prom dresses to bridal gowns to special pieces for an occasion.
“I create clothing for all sizes and shapes,” said Hurst, making her company a very inclusive brand. She creates pieces for people that are empowered by their femininity and that love dressing up. “I want everyone that wears my clothing to find strength in dressing for themselves,” Hurst said.
Her company empowers self-love and acceptance, which is a very important factor in the fashion industry. “Custom clothing is like a love song to yourself. It is an investment in you. No two pieces are the same, just like no two humans are the same. It is a very intimate process and very self-involved, in a good way,” Hurst said.
Hurst is passionate about celebrating and remembering Black greatness during this time while reflecting on how to beneficially impact the next generation.
“Black History Month is a time to celebrate and remember the pioneers that helped to pave the path I am following and we are all following, but also a time to reflect on how we can pave a path and make/create an impact on the next generation,” she said.
Check out Hurst’s creations on her Instagram.
The Next Step For All Occasions
Barbara Coble is a wedding ambassador and an event planner for The Next Step for All Occasions (NSFAO), LLC. NSFAO is contracted with Shorter AME Church as well as RedLine Contemporary Art Center. In addition to owning her own business, Coble is currently the Events Manager at RedLine. Her responsibilities include hiring contractors and vendors for each event that the gallery holds.
NSFAO has been around for 10 years. Coble started in the bridal industry as an Independent Beauty Consultant. During this time, brides were requesting that she enhance their beauty for their special day.
“One bride, in particular, did not have a wedding planner, so I offered my services and realized this is what I have dreamed of doing ever since I was a little girl,” Coble said. She then decided to research different academic programs to further educate herself on the industry. From there, she immersed herself in learning about weddings and wedding planning.
NSFAO guides couples each step of the way with planning the beginning of their new life’s journey and also presenting a unique way of hosting such a special event. Coble strives to establish a personal relationship with amazing vendors across Colorado. This allows NSFAO to grow and succeed.
Therefore, the business brings “concept to completion, managing your event to excellence,” Coble said.
In addressing Black History Month, Coble reflects on her childhood and the impact that her family has had on the person and entrepreneur that she is today.
“For me, Black History is every month and every day of the year, but having a Black-owned business during Black History Month takes on a whole new outlook. It brings memories of my grandfather who also owned his own mechanic business with our family name. He would be so proud of his oldest granddaughter [for] stepping out to follow in his footsteps by bringing my own pizzazz and knowledge to today’s events,” Coble said.
NSFAO provides a professional service for the Black Community that Coble feels individuals would not get otherwise. NSFAO’s exquisite service to everyone establishes a foundation for the work that Coble does.
“There are many times the Black community gets looked over simply by being Black. We show each and everyone that same excellence,” she said.
Color of Fashion
The founders of Color of Fashion are Alicia Myers and Samantha Joseph. Their company began as a non-profit corporation in March of 2021 and has been growing ever since.
“Our business was founded on the basis of highlighting diversity and promoting inclusivity. We have experienced hurtful discrimination as black models/creatives in this industry and we are determined to create a safe space for creatives of all colors to flourish,” said Myers and Joseph.
Color of Fashion is about “practicing equality and providing an opportunity for togetherness without the hindrance of racism, favoritism or discrimination,” said Myers and Joseph. They are continuing to bring awareness to the inequalities that plague the fashion industry, while also changing the future.
Myers and Joseph touched on the importance of celebrating Black History every day – not just during the month of February. As a result, celebrating Black culture influences their roles in the fashion industry and beyond.
“Black History Month means spreading cultural awareness and celebrating our victories,” they said. “Black culture exists all year long; not just in February. So being a Black female-owned organization means standing up for what we believe in, representing our peers and pushing through the walls society continuously builds. It means looking adversity in the face and conquering everything we put our minds to. Above all, we do this for TOGETHERNESS.”
Color Of Fashion is here to stay and they guarantee their footprint will be very impactful. Their mission continues to inspire other creatives and elevates the Denver fashion scene in the process.
These local Black-owned businesses are bridging fashion and community. In February and beyond, Denver is lucky to have such inspiring individuals as the backbone of our fashion scene.
While this collection of business owners are revolutionizing Denver fashion, it only scratches the surface. Share any Black-owned businesses that inspire you in the comments as a means for our community to continue to support in February and beyond.
Below are Redline’s final “Afrofuturism + Beyond” exhibitions in 2022:
Floyd D. Tunson: ASCENT
June 10-July 31, 2022
On display in the main Exhibition Space
A major survey exhibition will feature works from the past five decades by artist Floyd D. Tunson. Two major arts centers in the Denver metro area – the Arvada Center for the Arts & Humanities and Redline Contemporary Art Center – will present the exhibition simultaneously, collaboratively curated by Wylene Carol, Daisy McGowan and Collin Parson. Additional programming will take place at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, featuring works from the museum’s collection.
The Black Power Tarot
June 10-July 31, 2022
On display in the Project Space
This exhibition includes 22 maximal scale fabric printed tarot cards that comprise The Black Power Tarot, created by King Khan & Michael Eaton under the supervision of Alejandro Jodorowsky.
Arish Ahmad Khan, known by his stage name of “King Khan,” is a Canadian-born, Berlin-based multi-faceted musician, producer, writer and artist. Khan divined the idea to create his own tarot deck through a series of dreams and visions he had while working on the film score for the Invaders – a documentary about a Memphis Black Power group whom Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. began working within his Poor People’s Campaign.
Photo Shoot Credits
All Photography by Adrienne Thomas
Videography by Joy Weinberg
Fashion Intern Kate Lieberman
Makeup by Kate Tulia
Hair by Ashley Norris
Location RedLine Denver