The Style Note: Fighting Detroit’s Fashion Stereotypes

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Published: December 7, 2012.

If a fashion designer wants to create a collection that will resonate with others, and stand the test of time, it is crucial that they are able to find inspiration in something that is strong. Luckily for designers, whether it be nature, art or even the memories they hold, inspiration can be found just about anywhere. Fashion designers are specifically infamous for finding inspiration in their city. With a designer’s city being a place that can be full of interesting architecture, people and history, there’s no denying that it is a great source of inspiration.

Since the city where a designer lives is as influential as it is, designers are able to reflect the characteristics and goals of it in their creations. For example, Milan fashion has always been representative of it’s vibrant city in the fact that it is sexy, romantic, and while it contains a rich history, it is still innovative. New York fashio, too, is often inspired by it’s busy city life with sleek designs, a strong color palette, and collections that contain a wide variety of pieces that are easily able to be worn for day or night.

 Nobody would ever confuse Versace, Chanel, or Michael Kors, for being from anywhere other than where they’re from, because they are extremely distinct to their individual cities. So, in the midst of all of these strong fashion cities, where does Detroit fall?

While not every Detroit fashion designer designs with an urban client in mind, many do. Consequently, the fashion community in Detroit has gained a stereotype for only being able to design urban clothing. Sneakers, embellished tees, and baggy jeans, have become a staple of Detroit fashion. Many write off Detroit fashion completely because they believe they already know what to expect. However, those who are natives to Detroit know that this urban wear is only representative of some individuals, and not reflective of every day dress for most Detroiters. This is why it is important that Detroit fashion designers, who use the city as inspiration, reach beyond the obvious and show different aspects of Detroit.

Other Detroit designers like to look to the history of Detroit by incorporating elements of automotive design or Motown classics. Fashion designers, Denise Illitch and Joe Faris, the co-creators of Fashion In Detroit, demonstrated this in their 2012 finale by showing a runway with models walking to the best of Motown while wearing blingy Detroit sports team tees. While this approach to fashion is often well executed, fun, and certainly distinct to the city of Detroit, it’s questionable whether it may be helping further the city’s goal to become a more widely known fashion hot spot for the Midwest.

Unlike fashion capitals such as New York, London, Paris, and Milan, Detroit seems to be stuck in time. Detroit is known as the city that was once extremely successful in it’s automotive technology and music. Although these are still strong aspects of the city, they aren’t quite as relevant today. If Detroit fashion designers plan to be successful and put Detroit on the map as a fashionable city, it is crucial that they remember to also look towards what the future of the city holds.

Detroit is a city that is still finding it’s voice and Detroit designers can play a large part in helping it do so. With the amount of talent and passion that Detroit fashion designers have, there’s no reason that the Detroit fashion community shouldn’t be able to overcome any of the obstacles it faces and one day fall in the ranks of the highest fashion capitols.