Every spring, new, innovative designs hit the runway for all to see. No, not Paris or even New York City, we’re talking about Carbondale, Colorado.
For over a decade now, Carbondale Arts and the town of Carbondale have brought the community together through fashion, dance and more.
In the beginning, the unique to C-dale fashion extravaganza packed the gymnasium at the Third Street Center. It now sells out the Carbondale Recreation and Community Center every year.
Year after year the event has grown. And, with that, so has the number of people involved.
“We have everything from designers to models, we have dancers, performers and more,” Amy Kimberly, executive director of Carbondale Arts, said.
It takes approximately 120 volunteers to put on the show every year, she said.
There are 26 designers, many from the valley and the Front Range, and a few from as far away as the East Coast.
“There are many talented people in this valley, and put some of them together and magic happens,” Kimberly added.
More then 50 models, made up of community members of all ages, sizes and shapes, take part. The show also features nine dancers, three aerialists and two dance collaborators.
“It is a million moving parts, with aerialists, dancers, musician, models, projection, direction, tech, lights …,” Meagan Londy Shapiro, director of choreography said. “That’s what makes it really fun.”
The process began back in October, when Kimberly, Laura Stover, Londy Shapiro and the production team started the conceptualization process.
“It’s an incredible amount of work for just a short weekend, but I love what happens in that weekend. That energy in that room, the audience, takes it to the next level,” Londy Shapiro said.
“I just think it’s an incredible gift to the community, and I also think it is a gift to us that get to be part of it.”
Many involved with the design aspect of the show started as volunteers, including Stover, who found out about the event when she moved here eight years ago.
Stover, who is now the design and marketing director at Carbondale Arts, heard about the show and contacted Kimberly and has been involved ever since.
The first year, she helped design dancer costumes and was talked into being one of the models.
“It’s really special, one thing that’s really great about it is, if you’re new to town you can be a model. Everyone is accepted,” Stover said.
Stover said that, by helping that first year, she was inspired to begin designing and over time began making her own patterns and collection, learning through the show.
“I’ve always been interested in fashion design. As a little girl, I used to sketch different ideas, but I never made anything,” Stover added.
When she isn’t designing costumes for dancers or working on projection for the show, Stover is honing her design collection for the extravaganza.
“I pretty much do everything I can with the show. It’s fun, I can’t help it. It feels like a family when it is all over,” Stover said.
Spectators to designers
First-year designers Steve and Karen Barbee have attended the show for a few years, and finally decided it was time to throw their hat — and other garments — in the ring.
“Every time we go, we say, ‘oh, it would be fun to be a designer,’” Karen Barbee said.
After finding out they were accepted this year, the Glenwood Springs couple went to work creating their line.
“There is a lot more to it than we thought,” Steve Barbee said.
“It’s a big moving machine — a lot of parts in it. The revelation for me is that it is all volunteer. There are probably thousands of person hours involved in it.”
Steve said he didn’t realize how much time they were going to dedicate to making the fashions.
After months of work to create, design and produce their line they named it “Sticks and Stones.” It really set in for Karen when the models came over for a fitting recently.
“I felt like I was on a project runway when I was fitting them. This show is a fashion show, and yet it is so much more,” Karen added.
“I think that it stands up like it could be in New York. It brings in so much creative energy, and it’s amazing. The energy is so fun and alive and exciting.”
“It’s quite a gift that everyone involved is giving, it is amazing, and wonderful,” Steve added.
Like many other Carbondale residents, Carrie Vickers began as a volunteer, modeling the designs the first year. Over the last handful of years she has been doing aerials during the show, which are now integrated in with the dancers.
“I’ve been watching the shows for years, and it is amazing,” Vickers said.
“It’s such a fun collaboration of people. You get all these amazing locals of all different ages, all different backgrounds, all coming together, which is super fun,” she said.
Vickers said one of her favorite aspects of the show is that it’s not just a bunch of young people. Every age range is represented, she said.
“I think that makes it such a unique experience. It’s so Carbondale, and it’s so wonderful,” Vickers added.