From Police Officer to Fashion Writer

Raised in Denver, Colorado in a family dedicated to public service, it seemed natural for Tracie Keesee to join the Denver Police Department when she finished college. Though she had a passion for fashion, her father told her “it’s all well and fine, but being a fashion designer doesn’t pay your bills.”

Twenty-five years later Keesee is retiring from law enforcement an accomplished veteran and pursuing her childhood dream in fashion at Academy of Art University.

“I didn’t want to do a traditional classroom setting again,” said Keesee, who also has a Ph.D. in communications from University of Denver. “But being older, I was suspect about online education. I reached out to several schools and found AAU. I was very impressed so I enrolled.”

Keesee will be the first to admit that cops are “notoriously bad dressers.”

“You can’t spice up a uniform,” she said. “It is what it is.” Yet she has never been afraid to think outside the box on plain-clothes days.



Tracie Keesee. Courtesy of Tracie Keesee.

Keesee connected right away with her advisor Paul Wilner, the School of Fashion’s journalism coordinator, and together they created a master’s in fashion journalism that she could complete online from Denver while finishing her last few years on the police force.

“I liked the way AAU incorporates online students with activities,” said Keesee, who has been out to San Francisco many times for fashion events, including the fashion week programs. “It was a great way to meet my online classmates as well as other classmates.

Originally the plan was to do fashion merchandising, but with a communications background she and her mentors, Wilner and Senior Director of Fashion Merchandising Keanan Duffty, agreed that the switch to journalism made the most sense.

“I’ve had a wonderful time. Time flew,” said Keesee, who graduated in Fall 2014 and felt that earning her degree online was more rigorous than a traditional classroom setting because her time was consolidated.

“I think she’s a poster child for the Academy of Art’s online educational program,” Duffty said. “Her energy is fantastic. She’s extremely curious; very passionate about what she’s doing. Taking all the life lessons from her previous career and continuing with that level of energy with real vigor.”

Duffty, an award-winning British fashion designer, musician and author, had met Keesee at New York Fashion Week in the past and is doing everything he can to introduce her to as many “fashion insiders” as possible. Keesee just moved this month to New York to start her next career as a freelance fashion writer.

“She is kind of one of those rare people that you meet that has been able to have a successful career in one world and step into something entirely different with the same level of success,” said Duffty.

“Keanan’s relationships in the fashion world go way back and are so relevant,” said Keesee. “He has been so gracious in helping me get my feet wet and transitioning into the community. I’ve had the opportunity to attend certain events and stay engaged. The connections there are incredibly breathtaking.”

Keesee’s Academy mentors have always been there for her. All she had to do was drop an email and she says the response was always immediate. “It was just incredible. I still don’t think they realize the impact that they have on students,” she said.

Keesee’s writing focus is to highlight the up-and-coming designers that people might not have heard of yet. She wants to be a voice for those that don’t get the exposure.

“Once someone goes mainstream, hurrah, but until then, that’s where it’s at, you want to be on that cutting edge of who’s next,” Keesee said. “The other part is the local talent. There are thousands of local designers that sustain business alone on the local level. My passion is those local designers on the ground.”

Keesee’s final thesis was about the local designers in Colorado that she got to know through her internship at Westward Magazine.

“I was one of the reviewers of her final thesis and it was one of those rare moments when you get choked up when you’re seeing someone present because it’s so real,” said Duffty. “Her commitment is so real. I really wish her all the success.”