Summit County locals create original fashion for the outdoors


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Katie Pickens designs for active people, and her creations have been seen on trails, streams and peaks.
Katie Pickins/Courtesy Photo

From handmade jewelry to custom swimwear, Summit County locals have turned their passion for art and design into viable fashion businesses.

Kathy Pickins and Nicole Stewart are among the people in Summit County who find inspiration for their art and design from local sights.

Pickens’ experience mirrors that of many. She moved to Breckenridge in 2005 with the intention of staying only during the skiing season. After living in the area for a few months, Pickens realized she wanted to stay longer and was hired as a waitress.

Ten years later in 2015, Pickens found herself looking for something more to do. She traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and was instantly inspired by Southwestern architecture and design. Upon her return to Summit, she enrolled in a silversmith class, and her jewelry business, KP Mountain Metals, was born.

“I went and bought everything I needed on my credit card,” Pickens said. “I started making small things, and my friends wanted to buy things and asked me to make them. I was like, ‘Oh, this could actually be something I love and can make money from.’

The inspiration of Santa Fe Pickens is evident in her jewelry, which includes rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces decorated with natural stones and carefully carved silver. The designer wanted to create jewelry that would allow people to express themselves in the mountain lifestyle.

“I host a lot of … mountain women and men who are very active and don’t take off their jewelry just because they’re bartending or doing a service shift or going up a mountain or going for a bike ride or a hike,” Pickins said. “It’s so delicate and sweet that I want them to wear it without feeling like they might break it.”

Pickens said she’s had clients fly fishing, bike ride and hike while wearing the ring she made.

Because she does all the work herself, Pickens has not opened a website or physical store for KP Mountain Metals. Most of her pieces are sold at the Breckenridge Sunday market she attends.

The water and salt swimsuits are all reversible so people can get multiple looks from one swimsuit.
Nicole Stewart/Courtesy photo

Like Pickens, Stewart wanted to create a fashion product that appealed to mountain dwellers. Stewart officially opened her swimwear business, Water & Salt, in 2020 after learning how to create swimwear from another designer in Colombia.

All water and salt water swimwear are designed with traditional shapes in mind. They are also all reversible so people can get multiple looks out of one swimsuit. Stewart did that on purpose so that swimwear would become a staple in a man’s wardrobe rather than something they throw away after a year.

“I’d rather it be a well-known shape that you can take five years from now,” Stewart said. “…if you take care of your clothes, your clothes will last.

Stewart focuses on practicality in her swimwear designs. She wants people to wear it whitewater rafting, kayaking or paddleboarding. Some women wear their day clothes as a bodysuit in winter.

Beyond being sustainable and practical, Stewart hopes Water & Salt will fill a need for swimwear in Summit County. When she started creating swimwear, Stewart heard from many friends who were tired of shopping for swimwear online.

“I actually get a lot of orders from vacationers who order swimsuits, get them, hate them and mix them up,” Stewart says.

Stewart currently sells Water & Salt by word of mouth, but hopes to launch a website to handle orders soon.

Both Stewart and Pickins own one-woman businesses. Although they like the idea of ​​finding popular e-commerce sites, they worry about being able to fill all the orders on time. For Picson, her decision not to use a website also helps her goal of being innovative.

“It’s not easily accessible, and I feel like that makes it special,” Pickens said. “I’m fine with this.”

You can find KP Mountain Metals by visiting @kpmountainmetals. On Instagram. Stewart accepts orders via Water and Salt’s Instagram @waterandsaltwear.

Katie Pickens creates rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces adorned with natural stones and carefully crafted sterling silver.
Katie Pickins/Courtesy Photo

This story was previously published in the Summer 2022 issue of Breckenridge Explore and Summit County Magazine.


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