“When you study fashion, you’re taught to make things that people will want to buy. I’m just making things that I want to make,” she says.
Luby’s designs with Brooks Ltd are hard to pin down to a particular style. Her career as a Denver fashion designer and occasional shop owner began in the mid-’70s. She’s been known for special-occasion and sophisticated casual wear with unexpected details that have become her signature.
She says her clientele is multi-generational. “Because I’ve been around for so long, I have an older generation now bringing their children in to have the experience of working with a designer,” Luby says. “It educates them about quality clothes and creates a bonding moment for them.”
Her latest creations focus on repurposing materials, aligning herself with the slow fashion movement, which spotlights the sustainability of high-quality clothes that are made to last. “When people come in, I show them how I use a piece of leftover fabric and piece things together to make it interesting. Then the clothing becomes a treasured item they will want to keep because there’s a story behind it,” she explains.
To fuel her new mission to reuse fabrics, she began asking people to bring her clothes and tablecloths they were going to throw out or donate. “A lot of people have tablecloths they spent a lot of money on or were handed down from people who are no longer here and they don’t use them. I make something out of it for them and it has sentimental value. I think people want to wear clothes that mean something. At least those are the people I want to attract,” Luby says.
Another technique she’s been using recently is draping and making clothes that are one-size-fits-all because they don’t conform to a specific pattern. “I let the fabric speak to me and do what it wants to do on a three-dimensional body,” she says.
For Luby, it’s another opportunity to create clothes with staying power and that are still wearable even if someone’s body changes over time. It also highlights Luby’s instincts for creating unique items that showcase the designer’s vision. “I let the fabric hang how it wants and shape it and sew it that way. It comes out interesting and can’t be repeated because there’s no pattern. It lets me cast away the rules I’ve had my whole career,” she says.
Those “rules” include designs she’s created in the past, cut from patterns she worked to perfect over the years. Luby enjoys mixing the two styles together. “I have an aesthetic that’s pretty eclectic,” she comments, adding that she feels there’s always a place for having a plain sheath dress, then dressing it up with a bold jacket.
Most recently, she’s been gearing up for a show at Fashion West on Sunday, March 27, where a collection of designers will showcase one standout design on a model and then host a pop-up store for purchase. Luby says she doesn’t do a lot of fashion shows, but she’s excited about the piece she created for this one.
Luby isn’t exactly a stranger to fashion shows. At the age of forty, she became a breast cancer survivor and was asked to be the exclusive designer for a series of fashion shows for other survivors. “Right after my surgery, the most important thing for me was to go to work,” she says. “I wanted to be thought of as the same person I was before breast cancer. When I did clothes for other survivors, I made regular clothes for them. I wanted to be respected for my knowledge as a fashion designer rather than a cancer survivor.”
Her clothes took on a special meaning for the women who walked the runway, empowering them with confidence and equal treatment. “I was lucky to dress women going through that experience,” she says. “It’s devastating when you’re going through chemo and losing your hair. Being invited to walk the runway and have your hair and makeup done makes you feel like a woman again. It’s very emotional.”
She notes that going through cancer is the type of crisis that changes people, in the same way she feels the pandemic has changed people. For Luby, the COVID-19 shutdown meant getting more creative and listening to her own voice more. “I follow my own rules now and don’t worry about other people’s rules,” she says.
Part of that means working by made-to-measure, appointment-only rules in her LoDo district atelier, and making the type of clothes she wants to. “People used to come to me to make something specific for them, but that doesn’t work for me anymore, because it stifles my creativity,” she explains. “I ask them what they like, and I sketch what I think will look good on them. I think people have to trust the designer they ask to make their clothes. It’s a deep-educated experience that I share with people.”
She adds that she doesn’t want her designs put in a box and l
abeled a certain style. “I’ve tried to put myself in one direction,” she says, “and it wasn’t a fit for me, because I have too many things I like to do.”
Luby’s clothes have always brought a little something different, whether it’s edgy or whimsical. She feels the time is right for people who want to express themselves and wear high-quality fashion.
“Because of the pandemic, people are dressing more to what they want to wear and what’s comfortable as opposed to what fashion dictates,” she says. “I’m trying to ride that wave, and I’m having a really good time doing it.”
Brooks Ltd will be at Fashion West, 5 p.m. Sunday, March 27, ReelWorks Denver, 1399 35th Street, Denver. Find tickets, $25-$240, and more information at fashionwest.org.