According to Stacy London, Detroit Will Be “Cooler” Than Chicago

Published October 2017,

The Fashion Speak keynote speaker shares her thoughts about the Midwest, Meijer fashion, and the fashion industry’s political responsibility

Last week, Stacy London, stylist, author, and former co-host of TLC’s What Not to Wear, headlined Fashion Speak, Detroit Garment Group’s annual, one-day conference geared toward local fashion industry professionals and students. Since the makeover show went off the air in 2013, London has been busy working on a slew of fashion projects, including collaborating with Grand Rapids-based Meijer on their women’s clothing line Massini. Prior to her keynote presentation in downtown Detroit with DGG founder and president, Karen Buscemi, London spoke with Hour Detroit about the city, Meijer’s approach to fashion, and trends from camouflage details to politically charged runways.

Being a native New Yorker, what’s your interpretation of Detroit so far?

We never shot in Detroit for What Not to Wear, and it really makes me sad because I think this is an incredible city, and it’s also pretty incredible to see it rising from the ashes. I have only been here a few times, but I think the first time I was here was in the ‘90s and it was such a different city. I didn’t want to sleep in my hotel room. I don’t even remember where we were staying, but it was so gross and sticky that I just spent all night at a strip club with my crew, and I’ve got to say you’ve got the best strippers. I’ve never seen more fit, athletic women who knew what the Hell they were doing…So, that was my first fond memory of Detroit.

More than anything I love the architecture, and I love what’s starting to happen. A close friend just started Detroit Blows. I love to see the reinvention and regeneration of what’s happening in this city. What Shinola is doing to the city is remarkable. What the Foundation Hotel is doing is remarkable. I think the city is going to be cooler than Chicago — shh, don’t tell. I think you could have a food and fashion scene here that would be just as kind of full and rich, if not more.

As part of your work with the Meijer fashion line Massini, you had the opportunity to collaborate with some bloggers from the Midwest. What did you pick up from them about Midwest style?

The two bloggers that I worked with were so lovely and could not have been more different. One was plus-size, one was petite. Nicole [Echelberger, from Ohio] and Grace [Liang, from Michigan], I found them delightful. Nicole was younger, and Grace was closer to my age. I think that the Midwest is not the Midwest that people [think of]. Michigan in particular is one of my favorite states of all time. I’ve spent time in Traverse City, time outside Traverse City, love the north. I love the people. …I don’t think I was surprised by anything they had to tell me. I think for the most part I have felt like Detroit is up on what’s going on. Nobody is asleep, nobody is behind. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to work with Meijer because I felt like they have the same belief system that I do.

What specifically about Meijer attracted you to working with the company, and how has the Massini line changed since you’ve come onboard?

[Meijer] started putting plus-size on the same rack as what we call “normalized sizing,” which is just such a horrible way to describe it. They started putting them on the same rack and charging the same price. For me, what Meijer is doing is creating a sense of community that women who are of a certain size could not share in when they went out with their friends or went shopping somewhere where they were always banished to the back of the store or a different floor.

What I’ve also found is that the line that I’m kind of consulting for, Massini, that needed an overhaul. It needed to be a little more cognizant of what’s going on in all markets. One thing that I think is getting more and more blurred is this sense of juniors and missy [sizing geared toward what is often considered the “average” woman]. Juniors is where you see a lot of trends, they’re just not necessarily translated the correct way for missy, right? And I don’t like that division. You may not want to wear the trend the way that it’s cut for junior, but you still want to participate in trends, you want to be relevant. That’s what I saw sort of lacking in Massini that we [worked] on together.

Are there any trends you plan to incorporate in the line in upcoming seasons?

We’re trying to determine the things that you can keep in your closet for a long time, but that also play into the trends. So, we did an army jacket, but it has a sequin camouflage pocket. [Giving] just that slight elevation [to] something that was sort of plain [makes it] feel a little more relevant without you having to worry about the size or the cut. I don’t think if you are missy size and you are over 40 that you necessarily want to look like somebody who’s in their teens or 20s, but you want to look like you’re not dead, you’re breathing and you see what’s going on around you. Being relevant has always been a key phrase for me.

Aside from what you’re working on, are there any trends or movements in the fashion industry that you find to be particularly timely right now?

We are at a stage in the world right now where you are going to be judged for what side of history you’re on, and I think brands need to pay much more attention to that. I feel very strongly about designers politicizing their collections, I just don’t want them to do it as a fad…This should be the start of artistic revolution, if you will. It shouldn’t be, “This is what a feminist looks like,” on a t-shirt for one season and then it goes away. …There is this new desire and need for transparency; we need it in government and we need it in our factories and we need it in the way fashion is made. That need is going to be the driving force going forward.

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