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Duane Topping

ONE MAN'S INSPIRATIONAL JOURNEY INTO BECOMING A WOMEN'S FASHION DESIGNER 

Article by Mindy Hargesheimer

Photography by Mindy Hargesheimer, KCFW, Duane Topping

"This is What a Feminist Looks Like." "Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover." "Feminist AF." "More Than a Label, Like You."

This…is what Fashion Designer Duane Topping stands for, looks like, shouts from the runways, and has built a fashionable foundation on. And, ALL of this (and MORE) are reasons to fall in love with this unforgettable, impressionable, and inspirational human being we call one of #KCFW’s best!

From the first season I was introduced to Duane’s persona at Kansas City Fashion Week showing his F/W ’19 collection, he was an individual with character I KNEW I wanted and needed to follow to add more joy and light into my creative life.

Artist and Designer aside, Duane is a mental health advocate. Transparent about his PTSD from serving in the Army, one search on the web will take you to Duane’s appearances in Tedx Talks, NPR, and more, sharing how his path to creating his Ready to Wear and Custom pieces are a result of his desire to find peace and stability, because “standard” medical practice was a ‘one size may fit most’ approach that didn’t serve him.

And, believe me when I say, you would NEVER know the depth of his pain by the way he presents himself on the KC Fashion Week stage.

Topping is one of THE MOST jazzed up, animated, engaging, and entertaining leaders of the runway, thanks to his authentic love for what he does and where he is now. He is a force to be reckoned with and a creative spirit and maker to support and love! He’s breaking barriers of stereotypes, he cherishes diversity and individualism, and he quotes everyone from Shakespeare to Chanel.

“You don’t have to dwell on labels and forget your true self…find your switch and turn your light on.”

I asked several KCFW Designers a list of questions to get to know them better and thoroughly enjoyed getting inside Duane’s brain! Alexander McQueen? Joining you on that, Duane! KC full of rich history and diversity? I could not AGREE more! Lucky for me, I got to watch Duane virtually from his favorite place in KC; The Fontaine Hotel!

Thank you, Duane, for gracing Kansas City with your presence season after season!!

  1. Where are you originally from: Denver, CO
  2. Where do you now call home: Denver, CO
  3. In one word, describe YOU: Eclectic
  4. In one word, describe your DESIGNS: Inspirational
  5. All-time favorite Fashion Designer, dead or alive: Alexander McQueen
  6. Most under-the-radar Fashion Designer: Myself. LOL
  7. Vote for most fashionable city: This is a tough one, each city has its own style and nuances. I like KC for the sophistication, but I also like Phoenix for its light approach.
  8. Favorite boutique 1) in your city 2) in the US: My favorite boutique in Denver sadly had to close during the pandemic. In the US, I like Hot Petunia’s in Scottsdale, AZ; they have a wonderful nonprofit organization that supports local women.
  9. Favorite person who has worn your label to-date: Keisha Marie
  10. Person that excites you the most to dress: Women who are experiencing 'Designer' for the first time.
  11. Your current muse: Every woman
  12. What you want your legacy to be: I hope to inspire people to reach for their dreams and believe that they have value.
  13. If people could own JUST ONE thing designed by you, what would it be: Any custom piece, I only do them once. LOL
  14. If you weren't a Fashion Designer, what would you be: Bored and in a very dark place.
  15. What’s a fashion statement you wish would come back OR wish never returns: “Athleisure” should stay away.
  16. Where does your design inspiration come from: It comes from the world around. Almost anywhere really.
  17. What do you listen to while in the creative mode: Audio books, mostly nonfiction, academic books or University lectures.
  18. You can take 3 single items to a deserted island, not including a person: My tobacco, pipe and coffee. LOL.
  19. What you love about Kansas City Fashion Week: I love the energy, everyone from production, models, designers and the audience are always so excited. Lord knows I love energetic crowds! LOL
  20. How would you describe Kansas City: It’s surprising, there’s so much rich history and diversity.  Unexpected for an outsider.  
  21. Favorite places in Kansas City: The Fontaine Hotel
  22. Favorite restaurant in Kansas City: It's funny, I haven’t eaten out in KC yet, as many times as we’ve been, I’ve always been focused on business. Any suggestions? LOL
  23. Favorite shop in Kansas City: I’m making the rounds and working on it. LOL
  24. Life motto/words to live by: Be More Than a Label.
  25. Favorite Instagrammable spot for Fashionistas in Kansas City: The honest truth is backstage at KCFW.  You know you’ve done something right when others are taking selfies in your pieces.


F/W '20:

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