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Meet Duane Topping of Topping Designs

Today we’d like to introduce you to Duane Topping.

Hi Duane, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
The story of how I ended up in fashion is a long one and certainly unusual. But I’ll try and shorten it up a bit. In 2012, I retired from the US Army. During my time in the military, I spent 39 months deployed to the middle east. That experience left me struggling with PTSD. I spent many years fending off those demons. After four years of darkness, I decided I needed a change. None of the traditional treatments had been effective, and I needed something different, something out of the box. I’ve always been an artist, and as I grew older, I developed a love of fashion. In fact, while deployed, I would seek out the female care packages for the fashion magazines. In the back of my mind, I always thought I would teach myself to sew.

So, one day in late 2016, I came home and told my wife, “I’m going to learn to sew.” She asked, “when are you going to do that.” I held up my new machine and said, “Now.” I sat down at a TV tray and made a purse. It was upside down and didn’t work very well, but that was the beginning. My first runway was in the spring of 2017 and since then, I have fallen in love with the industry. I have truly found my peace in the creative process of Fashion Design.

The brand has now evolved. It still is my sanctuary, but now it’s about spreading the message of my journey. I tell people that I am More Than a Label, just like them. And I believe in that. So now, we focus on showing our customers and fans that they too can overcome any obstacle. When they look in the mirror, that person staring back has the power to change the world. You’ll never get people to not label you. But what you can do is not believe in them. Choose your own label. I hope that people can find a bit of their story in mine and be inspired. If this old biker can do it, so can they. After all, I just make wrapping. The power and beauty are in the gift wearing my creations.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Fashion is an interesting enigma. While it tries to portray inclusivity, it’s still very much an exclusive industry. Most people know of the “standard” beauty for models, but what inevitably happens is there is also a particular look for designers as well. I’m often mistaken for the janitor or doorman. One time I was given a couple of dollars outside of my own show. I suppose they assumed I was transient. Would have loved to see their faces when I came out on the runway.

At the beginning that used to bother me. But I think of it now as my secret weapon. Much of my design aesthetic is very feminine, and to see that contrast between that and this old biker; it’s jarring. And I think it’s that impact that has a way to force people to reconsider their perspective. And being more than a label is just that, changing your point of view and realizing people are all individuals with many labels.

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Topping Designs?
I think one of the most important things about the brand is our commitment to our message. We live and breathe the idea of being More Than a Label. To us, that’s the most important component. Our goal as a women’s clothing label is to spread that idea to as many people as we can through the language of fashion. Whether we want to admit it, fashion is an important part of everyone’s lives, and it carries a loud voice.

Most businesses start off with the notion that they’re going to create wealth for themselves. For me, the start of my fashion career began as a way to fight off PTSD. It was therapeutic, and it’s where I’ve found peace. It grew and evolved into something bigger than myself. Our measure of success comes with the many people we’ve been able to inspire to break out of their boxes. The young people we’ve given courage or the people who’ve been told they can’t, and when they do it anyway. That’s the footprint we’ll leave. I often say that we may never be a legacy, but we’re going to inspire legacies.

Alright, so to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Not really. I rather long-winded in other places. LOL


  • Average retail for our pieces is $175.00, making us a very affordable custom fashion house.

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Image Credits

Photographers: Jason Atherton, @scorpio67photo. Models: In order. Sangya Duvanshi Anna Villarejo Ruiz Erica Joislyn Garcia Corra Clawson

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