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Today we’d like to introduce you to Deb Henriksen.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Deb. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Growing up, I was very into art and always into fashion. I took a lot of art and sewing classes in Jr. High and High School for my love of drawing and sewing. I also worked retail in high school and after college, from Talbots to Board shops. Another passion was ignited in High School after a science teacher stalked me in the hall she monitored outside the Art Room, begging me to take her Biology Class. I ended up taking college chemistry Senior year in High School and graduated college as an Environmental Health Major in the School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University in 1995. During college and after graduation, I was also an avid Skateboarder and Snowboarder. I moved up to Breckenridge, completed my internship in Georgetown, and boarded every day for a few seasons before life pressures were felt to do more with my education, my life.
Eventually, I came down the mountain and found a career in Hazardous Waste Management for six years. With my heart in pollution prevention and waste minimization, I began to exit that work in 2002 in pursuit of doing more with consumer education regarding conscious consumption through Equillibrium. The birth of my brand in 2000 started out in the skateboarding Industry, as a brand like no other in that lifestyle market. As I saw most of skateboarding go overseas with cheap price points in mass production and heavy carbon footprints, Equillibrium became more artisan and boutique focussed to stay true to our ethical brand messaging.
Since the recession in 2006-2011 Equillibrium’s focus has been with direct sales on our web site, in our Denver Show Room, and at pop-ups along with speaking engagements to educate consumers on sustainable fashion and environmental activism- especially for our wolves. There is so much power that has cascading effects in the choices we make with consumerism, even the small ones… they all add up, everything is everything all the time. Education to bring awareness/ consciousness is the only engagement that will drive a change in behavior. 95% of change is from a change in behavior. We must do better when it comes to building our wardrobes. “Quality over quantity” and “less is more” are golden rules to apply in life. What is good for the planet is good for people. That is the offering Equillibrium gives in fashion from its CORE and has since day one 19 years ago.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has been very challenging over the years. Being a sustainable fashion brand long before consumers even heard of it has certainly not been easy from sourcing to competition in the market place. Holding a higher price point and not going for cheaper, unsustainable textiles and practices has been hard when watching fast fashion have its rise and people racing to the register to buy in mutliples. The Fashion Industry is one of the World’s top 3 polluters. Other 2 are Fossil Fuels and Agricutlure. Sustainable Fashion is the ONLY fashion I have interest in being a part of. I have found strength and confidence in the relevant niche offering Equillibrium has. No one else can be me and bring what I bring to the table through Equillibrium. That peace of mind is what keeps me going.
A huge challenge brought to attention in recent years is dealing with infringement on my Trademarks on a mass scale. When I started, no one used the word in fashion except me. In fact, people had a hard time pronouncing it for some reason. Today I am dealing with the likes of Gucci and being corporate bullied by them because they will not stop using my intellectual property. Not what I built my brand for from nothing almost 20 years ago. The challenges are real and ever changing at a rapid pace in today’s world. Consumers need to be aware, educated, and activated to feed the brands that feed them back.
Another challenge is staying front of mind in a noisy market place online and in our home City. With growth happening in Colorado, especially Denver, at such a rapid pace and large scale, I am always working hard to stay relevant. It is nice when people get it with little explanation or introduction. However, these days that is usually not the case. I will say consumers are more engaged and educated than they used to be. I actually experience them tuning in more to the sustainability message with my brand than tuning out like the old days. It used to matter more how kool it was coming from skate culture, now that is just an underground plus. I really appreciate that.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
Well, Equillibirum is a Trademarked sustainable street brand that started back in 2000. I specialize in streetwear, both ready to wear and custom pieces made in small batch. I do make dresses and even made my wedding dress and coat. I love making accessories and handbags – also made small batch. I design with zero waste protocols and incorporate life cycle analysis into the design process and materials selection. My Company operated on the Triple Bottom Line philosophy of People, Planet and Profit. Equillibrium donate 10% of direct sales toward sustainability. I am known for being a sustainable fashion designer who is a skate punk for life, professional, good at what I do, reliable, and no B.S. As a Company I am most proud of walking the walk and being a part of the solution with challenges we face in sustainable fashion and conscious consumption. It is an honor to create, curate, and operate a brand with so much to give. As our following grows with new opportunities, I am excited to see what the future has in store. Equillibrium is authentically the real deal with more potential to tap into.
What were you like growing up?
Growing up as a kid, I was a lot of who you see today. Creative, passionate, direct, loyal, determined, and a perfectionist. My interests were clothes, art/ drawing, animals, playing with my siblings and neighbors outside. In Jr. High and High School I became more interested in boys, skiing/ Colorado, Motocross, and Outlaw Country. By sophomore year in H.S., I became obsessed with moving to Colorado for College and only applied to CU Boulder and CSU in Fort Collins. Fort Collins in the early ’90s is where skateboarding became my lifestyle, my skis were traded in for a snowboard, and my first Husky stole my heart. Breckenridge soon became my second home.
I have always been encouraged to listen to and follow my heart by my parents. I am grateful for that. It has led me to know and be true to myself, which has served me well to walk tall through this life.
Address: 1131A West Custer Place
Denver, CO 80223
- Website: www.equillibrium.com
- Phone: 303.623.2388
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/equillibriumofficial/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EquillibriumOfficial1/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/equillibrium_13
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/equillibrium-denver
- Other: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMAmqdqKadZOwasT87naHWQ
"Tequila Sunrise"Collection at Denver Westword's premier Whiteout 2016 Fashion ShowPhotography by Robin Fulton
Models Wilhelmina Denver
FASHION AT ARTOPIA 2015'S WHITEOUT: MEET DEB HENRIKSEN, FOUNDER OF EQUILLIBRIUM
Westword: How did you get into fashion/design?
Deb Henriksen: Fashion has always stoked me out. My home economics class in middle school showed me how to run a sewing machine. Then modeling as a teen and working in fashion retail during high school expanded my experience in the industry. I worked retail off and on as a young adult at local skateboard and snowboard shops. I even worked at a Betsey Johnson boutique. Now I only work retail at pop-up shops for Equillibrium and run Equillibrium's showroom boutique in our shop.
Photo by: Westword: Equillibrium in Whiteout at Artopia 2015
How do you describe your style/work?
I'd say my style is Equillibrium's style, which is timeless, cool, balanced, conscious and focused on, quality not quantity. I don't skimp on detail or proper finishes for selected fabrics. [My designs are] well-constructed, sustainable, authentic, consistent, functional and bitchin'!
What should people know about what you'll be showing at Artopia?
There will be some new silhouettes I haven't made before and a new skull graphic will be debuting! We will hit the runway hard to rock you -- as always.
What's your favorite thing about the Denver art/fashion/design scene?
A good sense of community is important in any "scene." Even this lone wolf appreciates that infrastructure, and Denver has it. I've lived in Colorado for over 24 years and I'm not going anywhere! I make it work, and try not to allow any "scene" to frustrate me.
[Fashion] is a tough Industry everywhere, and not getting any easier. I am appreciative for all the support I get from Denver and Westword.
What's the one thing that could most improve the Denver art/fashion/design scene?
If there were more synergy working together in efforts to advance or mature the community. There are always people new to the community who think they'll put it on the map, which usually is counter-productive to moving things forward. The effects are more like a holding pattern. One simple example of working together is with scheduling events staggered rather than at the same time or on same night. An example of this was last year, with 303's Denver Fashion Week and the City of Denver's Arts Week competing for the fashion crowd the same weekend. Everyone has their own agenda, and I wish they worked together more to realize opportunities for greater strides and bigger impacts forward.
Anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
Equillibrium is a sustainable-street wear brand, specializing in men's and women's apparel, handbags and accessories, established in 2000 in Denver, Colorado.
WESTWORD WHITEOUT: DEB HENRIKSEN, DESIGNER AND OWNER OF EQUILLIBRIUM
Deb Henriksen and Oslo.
Photo by Robin Johnson
On January 30, the second annual Westword Whiteout will kick off Denver's 2014 fashion season at the McNichols Building. The evening -- which raises funds for the American Transplant Association -- will include live music, specialty vendors, classic cocktails and some of the city's top designers in a signature runway event. Over the past few weeks, we've been profiling some of the creative people who are contributing to Whiteout, including Deb Henriksen, designer and owner of Equillibrium. Henriksen sets the standard for designers when it comes to the production of sustainable fashion; she recently took time out to answer a few of our questions about fashion, sustainability and Whiteout.
See also: Whiteout Fashion Show 2014
Westword: Tell us about yourself: Where are you from, and how you did you get into fashion?
Deb Henriksen: I was born and raised in Chicago. I moved out to Colorado in 1990 to attend Colorado State University (1990-1994), lived up in Breck (1995-1996), and then Denver (1997). There was more opportunity for skateboarding and environmental work around Denver back then.
I feel fashion is something that has grabbed me since childhood. I always got emotion from clothes and had a desire to make my own. I stuck only with art and sewing until Mrs. Kent (a biology teacher) got me so sign up for her class sophomore year...I was taking college chemistry by senior year and officially started using that left side of my brain with the right.
I actually graduated CSU with a B.S. in Environmental Health from the School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences and I am a current Accredited Professional with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design in Building Design and Construction (LEED AP BD+C) with the U.S. Green Building Council... so I continue my education in science and sustainability to this day while making art.
What was the first thing you every designed/made?
The patchwork pillow project in seventh-grade home economics class...
Photo: WestWord; Equillibrium in Whiteout 2014.
What inspires you?
Nature -‐ every bit of her!! Music, natural textiles: organics, silks, hemps, linens, cotton. Brilliant designers, advocating for the little guy and science, walking the line: standing upright, speaking truth, being fair... .It is all about hitting the right emotion through apparel to inspire me. Then figuring out the how to do it kicks in...
What is your take on the fashion scene in Denver. What is good, what's bad, what needs work?
It has come a long way since I've been a part of it. In 2004, I got on the map through Equillibrium. I have noticed it grow over the years. As new people move into town wanting a relevant part of Denver's success, there have been times when ego worked against a desired direction and momentum. Some dust has certainly settled, so we'll see what is to come. My focus is, and will remain, on my brand, Equillibrium, that will always be Colorado-based.
Why are you looking forward to participating in Westword's Whiteout?
I like and need deadlines. A well-produced runway show is my favorite kind of deadline. The timing works well with the industry timeline's, too -- consumers in the audience will actually see some Equillibrium pieces inspired for 2015 that I'll be showing. There are only two consumer fashion shows a year I like and will do. Whiteout is one of them. Thanks for inviting Equillibrium back again!!
What can we expect to see from you on the runway?
Smart, well-made, sustainable street fashions that will make you feel empowered, beautiful and happy through the Equillibrium blend of hard meets soft with a lowbrow twist and high fashion flair!
*No animals are ever harmed for Equillibrium products. We use natural and organic textiles, vintage and close-out fashion textiles, vintage and upcycled (diverted from landfill) non-exotic hides: cow and goat mainly (some with fur).
*All Equillibrium ready-‐to-wear goods are printed, labeled, designed and branded in Denver, Colorado.
*All Equillibrium Kustoms are handmade treasures made in Denver.
EQUILLIBRIUM: From the CORE, for the CORE! LIVE IT, LOVE IT, WEAR IT!"
EQUILLIBRIUM CLOTHING REPRESENTS SUSTAINABILTY AT DFW 2013
Equillibrium Shield Logo
Henriksen's philosophy of creating ethically fabricated designs "gives my customers a product that is from the core," she says. With a degree from Colorado State University in Environmental Health, Earth Mother Deb embraced sustainability long before the concept entered the mainstream. One of the co-creators of Red Drinks, a style night for networking in the Fashion Industry in Denver; inspired from Green Drinks, a sustainability night for networking in the Green Building industry. Deb, also a member of the class of 2006 class of MasterMinds invited us into her creative space to catch up.
Westword: The concept of Equillibrium began to take shape in 1998 and you are an original champion of sustainability. How are things working with sustainable fashions?
Deb Henriksen: There has been a lot of movement over the past few years, but there is still a lot of educating that needs to be done on the topic. I was able to find something I was passionate about; Equillibrium is where my kind of lifestyle, art, activism, music, and fashion collide. There are still folks who are not mindful of their footprint. You have to take responsibility of what you put out there.
How have you grown with the sustainability movement?
I'm big on up-cycling materials (aka landfill diversion), pollution prevention and waste minimization. Equilllibirum will continue to focus on quality, not quantity and consumer education. The brand is growing; we have a sales rep now, and as it does we will our philosophy of producing on a smaller scale. With regards to sustainability trends in fashion, we always continue our education on the latest in sustainability and research advancements on sustainable textile manufactured regularly.
Photo: 303 Magazine; F/W DFW 2013 Equillibrium.
Deb, this is a question we try to ask all of our designers: What do think of the fashion community in Denver?
We should all be on the same team. There are too many ringleaders under the big top; there needs to be more cooperation, especially around events and shows. We have a lot of talent in Denver but there are some who don't realize the way we can make an impact is by unified numbers. We need to have industry standards. You should conduct yourself in a professional manner and if you are conducting business, you have to be able to deliver at that level. There will always be people who are trying too hard, polishing a turd; where everything is overdone, and the result doesn't look professional. Equillibrium is not one of those brands I think out every detail from the design I create to tag lines repeatedly used over the years. Consistency and progression as a brand is crucial to survival.
Accessories from Equillibrium.
Fashions from Equillibirum
What can we expect from Equillibrium at DFW?
They'll look bad ass!
Denver Fashion Weekend runs November 9-10 at City Hall Amphitheater, 1144 Broadway. Tickets are available at 303Magazine.com.