Samantha Joseph and Alicia Myers met at an audition in Denver in 2018. Soon after, the models began noticing microaggressions aimed at their hair. The stylists at one show, for example, didn’t know how to handle their tresses, so they ignored Joseph and Myers completely. “Normally, a hairstylist will just grab you or you’re assigned someone,” Myers says. “None of those things happened.” Myers endured repeated bleachings, which eventually caused her hair to fall out.

Joseph shaved her head so she wouldn’t have to deal with the emotional toll. “But after a while,” she says, “me and other Black models were doing our own makeup in the bathroom. I realized it just wasn’t OK to be treated that way.” So, in March 2021, Joseph and Myers founded Color of Fashion (COF), a Denver-based nonprofit whose mission is to diversify high fashion.

Initially intended to serve as a connector for companies searching for talent across the industry, COF produced an independent fashion show in September 2021 that showcased the work of 15 hairstylists, 20 makeup artists, 15 photographers, 75 models, and 11 designers from across the country. People of many races participated, and the event proved to be an immediate success. COF’s clients now include British footwear brand Embassy London, Cherry Creek’s Clayton Members Club & Hotel, and the uber-chic Highland cocktail bar Room for Milly. “We’re a one-stop shop for diversity in fashion,” Myers says.

COF has also landed backing from some of fashion’s biggest names, such as Neiman Marcus, Aveda, and Macy’s—financial support that allowed the nonprofit to expand its mission to include helping designers sell their creations directly to consumers. This past April, Joseph and Myers held their first auction at Mirus Gallery and Art Bar Denver. The event featured seven designers, five of whom were people of color, including brothers Vince and Saul Jimenez, who run the local avant-garde fashion house Menez to Society.

The Jimenezes will also appear at COF’s second annual fashion show, which will be held on September 23 and 24 at History Colorado Center. Like last year, the hope is to continue pushing for greater representation in fashion—even if Joseph knows the realization of that dream is still far away. “The industry and Denver have been very slow to change,” Joseph says. “But we’re making sure nobody has to deal with the same kind of struggles as we did.”

Founders Alicia Myers and Samantha Joseph. Photo courtesy of Corey Myers.

On The Catwalk

Three ateliers set to star in Color of Fashion’s 2022 show.

Art of Hannah Jane

Owner Hannah Jane gives new life to old denim in Denver by combining multiple fabrics to produce hand-painted, one-of-a-kind pieces, such as her Elephant Jacket ($750).

No Sesso

Italian for “no sex” or “no gender,” LA-based No Sesso weaves gender-bending elements into urbanwear, including a lace-corseted trucker jacket ($515) that can be worn as outerwear or a dress.

Alejandro Gaeta

Reminiscent of 1950s Christian Dior, Alejandro Gaeta’s hallmark is structural eveningwear, such as the local maker’s piece No. 6 ($1,200)—a classically silhouetted all-black frock that gets a 2022 turn via its asymmetrical one-shoulder half-sleeve.