Having served multiple tours in the U.S. Army, Duane Topping returned home from duty in 2012 and faced a new battle: PTSD. Determined to find an outlet that would help to release him from the confines of the condition, Duane picked up a sewing machine and decided to try something he never had done before – making clothes.
Duane always had an interest in fashion, though he isn’t what you might envision as your typical women’s fashion designer. Rocking his leather jacket and multiple tattoos, Duane is an avid motorcyclist and a military veteran. But stereotypes wouldn’t stop Duane and he set out to create a fashion design company that would serve to do the same for women. His company, Topping Designs, is a tangible, inclusive fashion brand meant to encourage a change in perspectives and help free women from labels.
About a year after he started sewing, Duane hit the runway and in March 2017, Topping Designs was a part of Denver Fashion Week (DFW). From that, his brand gained great popularity. “After DFW we exploded [but] we’re just now starting to build the foundation of this business,” Duane explained. Ready to build that foundation, he went to Bank of America to try to obtain funding to help with his branding and marketing.
“I went to Bank of America and they said, ‘You’re not making money,’ and I said, ‘That’s why I’m here!’. Then, they referred me to Colorado Enterprise Fund,” Duane recalls about his struggle to obtain financing from the bank.
Now, with funding from a CEF loan, he has an updated logo, website, and a refined marketing strategy, and Duane is ready to take his company even further. “We were able to reduce our retail costs and now we’re testing out a capsule collection, keeping retail at $60-70 per piece,” said Duane. With a focus on expanding his social media and web presence, he’s already had his best season yet and he doesn’t expect it to stop there. “With the help from CEF we have more precision in our goals. It’s one thing to know what you need to do and another to have the means to do it.”