RYE, Colo. — Navigating through the pandemic has been difficult for many small businesses, including a Dress Designer in Rye, whose creative designs have sparked a bigger conversation.

AnaKacia Shifflet named her business after her two daughters. It’s called “Averil Marie Collections,” and her designs have caught the eye of many, including the owner of Soirée Bridal Boutique in Colorado Springs.

Shifflet says the process started like any other. “I knew I wanted to make a dress from scratch. To kind of show the process, like drafting a dress, making a dress and, I was just mad that day. So, part of the way I felt like how can I cope with this? How can I deal with what is going on, and I came up with a therapy project.”

Her therapy project included something she never thought she would do to one of her designs.

“I told my husband, I think I just need to throw some paint. I’m so mad, I’m so frustrated and I think I just need to throw some paint.”

AnaKacia Shifflet

Although Shifflet expected the dress to be destroyed, she ended up falling in love with it.

“I wanted every step to have meaning, so I started throwing black paint, which was that initial hit in the gut to Covid, and then I poured gold paint to represent us trying to be strong, and then I poured blue paint, just different colors of blue, and it was a very emotional project.”

Shifflet’s project painted a bigger picture of the pandemic’s impact on her business, along with many others. The project also gained the attention of the Owner of The Colorado Wedding Magazine, who reached out to Shifflet to write a story and to also use the dress in a photoshoot.

But there was a problem though: the painted dress was stuck to the mannequin. Not to mention, Shifflet was still recovering from COVID fatigue.

“I still have days where I just have to sleep, the fatigue is just too much, the muscle weakness is too much, I just have to sleep, so I could not make dresses for this event, for the models, I just knew I couldn’t do it.”

So instead, Shifflet decided to use previous dresses she made and reconstruct them to fit the models and vision of the shoot. It allowed her to recreate the process she did in her studio and gave her the ability to share the experience with others.

To capture the experience for The Colorado Wedding Magazine, Shifflet picked Pueblo Photographer, Stephanie “Jean” Graston.

“It’s more than just a photograph, you can see the story and you can visually see how stunning the women are, the paint, the art behind it, and it really just brings it all together,” said Stephanie “Jean” Graston, Owner of Jean Graston Photography.

Today, you can see the photos in The Colorado Wedding Magazine, which signifies the impacts of COVID on small businesses and those who have been diagnosed with it.

“It’s just all of our story and we are all a part of it, and we all had different perspectives of how it went, but we all felt it,” said Shifflet.