Listen up, style mavens! Kansas City Fashion Week 2019 is less than a week away. To get you geared up for the metro’s fashion extravaganza, we’re introducing you to one of the designers you’ll see unveiled on the runway. Meet Duane Topping—a retired veteran who found peace in the creative process of haute couture. He’ll debut his stunning Topping Designs collection on Thursday, March 28th.
1) Give me a little backstory on you. How did you end up in fashion?
DW: “That’s a long story, really. The simple version is that I retired from the military in 2012. I had some dark years trying to readjust to the civilian life. I needed some way to refocus that negativity into something positive. I’ve always loved fashion—so I reached back to when I was a young artist. Even while deployed I would seek out fashion magazines and pour over them. In late 2016, I came home and told my wife I was going to teach myself to sew. She asked, “When do you plan on doing that?” I held my new [sewing] machine and said, ‘Now.’ I sat down that night—set the machine on a TV tray—and made a purse. The rest is history.”
2) What do you want people to know about your looks/designs?
“I think primarily my goal is always to have the women see themselves in my clothes. I tell my own story in each line and a bit of that journey is each piece. They’re really about shedding of standard options of self. Breaking away from labels. I’m labeled a biker, but I’m so much more. I would like the people who wear my clothes to see their own depth and use the garments as extension of themselves. It’s really a fashion label for those who don’t want to be labeled.”
3) ‘Fess up—what’s going on in your mind? Are you excited/nervous/anxious/giddy about showing off your collection?
DW: “I love the runway! We’ve done shows now across the country from San Diego to New York, and each one has been a marvelous experience. From the models, designers, HMUA to production, we’ve had the honor of meeting some amazing people. I think the runway is where our message comes through. It’s an opportunity to challenge perspectives and show that beauty truly is diverse. We are certainly excited to see the fashion scene in Kansas City—I just hope they’re ready for me!”
4) When your models stomp the runway, what looks are you bringing to the table? What sets you apart?
DW: “Well, the obvious distinction is me. Most people assume that this old biker is the door man. And then the contrast in the femininity of my clothes is always startling. This season is all about pairing the structure of the clothes with a bit of fluidity and flow. The details are key to this line. It tells my story more literally than usual. It encompasses my path from feeling trapped in my head dealing with mental illness, to the freedom and peace I discovered in fashion.”
5) Describe your upcoming collection. What should we anticipate?
DW: “Anticipate a lot on energy! I always tell my models before we hit the runway, that no matter what came before or what comes afterward, we will be the ones they remember. Not because of me, but because of them—and their ability to bring the clothes to life. After all, it’s just dead fabric on the hanger. I only make wrapping. They are the true gift. By end of our segment, we’ll get the crowd on their feet. Well, at least I hope so!”