Colorado Springs-based fashion designer makes bridal gowns and masks meant to stand out | Arts & Entertainment

For much of her life, people have given Naka Alexander the look.

They see the way she dresses, often a mix of bright colors and prints and sparkles, and then comes the look, as if to say, “You don’t look like everybody else.”

She got the look as a young Jamaican girl who entered beauty pageants in her home country and became the “breakout star.” Even back then, she says, her fashion sense was out of the box for the Caribbean. It happened when she moved to the United States for the last two years of high school. She didn’t look like all the other Florida girls. And again when Alexander, who doesn’t exactly feel at home in a uniform, decided to enlist in the Air Force after graduation.

It happens a lot, too, now that Alexander lives in Colorado Springs.

“In Colorado, people dress more laid back and super casual. They don’t do a lot of colors,” Alexander said. “I love all the colors and prints. I stick out like a sore thumb.”

Alexander doesn’t mind sticking out, as goes one of her favorite phrases: “I wasn’t born to fit in. I was born to stand out.”

She’s made sure her life has followed suit.

After serving four years as an active duty logistician, Alexander was ready for something new. She thought she’d go for “the safe choice” and attend nursing school.

The man she was dating, who is now her husband, had something else in mind.

“Why not fashion?” he asked at the time. “You do fashion so effortlessly. Why travel a path that people created for you?”

She calls the conversation from over 15 years ago her “a-ha moment.”

“Growing up, we’re encouraged to travel a certain path,” Alexander said. “You’re supposed to become a lawyer or doctor. I never thought about doing fashion as a career.”

Then she did.

Alexander went to fashion school in Las Vegas and soon started a career as an avant garde designer and stylist.

For her clothing lines, she’s been inspired by everything from the wind blowing through the trees to the book she’s reading. Once, when her then-1-year-old daughter went through a phase of saying, “Not yours” about every material item around the house, Alexander built a fashion line around the toddler’s stubborn refrain. Called “Not yours,” she incorporated knots into each clothing item.

“I go with whatever energy I’m feeling at the moment,” Alexander says. “It could be anything. I don’t have a set thing that inspires me.”

Her personality style is just as varied. People ask her all the time to define it. But she can’t with just a few words.

“I’m a lover of style, so I can’t stick to one style,” she said. “Today it might be vintage and tomorrow might be a grunge day for me, depending on the mood that day.”

Whatever day it is, she strives to make a statement.

“I’m the walking billboard for my business,” she said. “So I always show off my style.”

Alexander is a source of inspiration, too, particularly for her group of friends. They look to her for everyday what-to-wear questions as well as for help selecting color palettes and dress styles for their weddings.

“I realized it was a need, an actual need, in the bridal industry,” she said. “Brides get so flustered in wedding planning. They need help with the whole journey.”

That’s what led Alexander to her latest venture. She owns Gohagan-Alexander Design Den, which she describes as a “one-stop shop for brides to be.” The name is a blend of her maiden last name and her married name.

From her small studio in town, Alexander designs custom wedding dresses and eclectic veils. Along the way, she hopes to eliminate stress from brides.

“I’ve been married for 15 years, so I’m a wife myself,” she said. “I firmly believe that wedding planning should be enjoyable. It should be stress free.”

Recently, she’s been helping with another, and necessary, part of that: masks.

In April and May, Alexander made hundreds of cotton masks for friends and family members. Then she got the idea to make bridal masks for her clients who were going ahead with smaller ceremonies.

These aren’t your everyday masks. They’re bright white, adorned with pearls or sparkles and made with elegant fabrics. They’re made to match a wedding gown.

With most of her clients’ weddings on hold, it’s given Alexander time to chase new dreams within her business.

“Without a doubt, I know I made the right decision choosing fashion,” she said. “It gives me joy to think about how we keep growing and it keeps me excited about what is next.”

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