Sunday, December 26, 2010

Define.Design.Detroit (DDD) - A Tale of 2 Detroits

DDD focuses on the business of fashion ...

Since I now have a little downtime during the holidays, I thought I would tell everyone about some of the great Detroit events that I attended in November. One of the events was a fashion show and business discussion put on by Design.Define.Detroit (DDD) on Saturday, November 13th at the 5e Gallery at 2661 Michigan Ave. in the Corktown district.

Design.Define.Detroit described itself as a "fashion show and soriee dedicated to sustaining Detroit's Fashion Industry". I will be honest in saying that I have not paid that much attention to the fashion industry in Detroit until I attended this event. The event's organizer, Piper Carter, summed up the evening by stating that fashion designers in Detroit need workable solutions for growing their businesses. She stressed that the same tax breaks that were given to attract the movie industry to metro Detroit should also be applied to the fashion industry if we want it to survive and grow. And to stress this point, the evening started out not with the fashion show, but with a panel discussion that included Detroit designers, politicians, and business professionals.

Here are some of the highlights of the discussion

- Detroit City Council President Charles Pew fielded many questions about how the City of Detroit can help further the progress of the fashion industry. He indicated that TechTown (313-875-5850) has start-up capital that is available for businesses other than just tech.

- Sarah Lapinski, the owner of Motor City Sewing, is still hopeful about the Detroit fashion industry. She stressed that local designers should not compete against each other since Detroit fashion as a whole is competing against the rest of the world.

- Haj Flemmings, personal brand strategist and founder of BrandCamp University, said that the DNA of Detroit is Creativity. He stressed that the Detroit fashion industry needs to create its own distinct brand.

- Jenny Lee, the program director of Allied Media Conference, talked about the "media based economics of Detroit" where all media (fashion, arts, science, food, etc) overlap. She stressed that there is no single solution to help the Detroit fashion industry and a redesign of the Detroit economy is needed.

- Brian Heath, the organizer of Detroit Fashion Week, spoke of the great national coverage that Detroit Fashion Week received and how local designers are being showcased in major stores. When asked what would be needed to establish a fashion district in Detroit, Heath stated money, investors, government grants, and affordable rent.

A Tale of Two Detroits
The evening ended with a stylist showcase and a couture fashion showcase that included some shunning hand sewn creations. But for me, the most interesting part of DDD was during the media cocktail hour where I met two very talented young men who showed me two very competing views of the future of Detroit.

Clayton Cortez
Clayton Cortez is a 25 year old actor and model who was born and raised right here in the D.  He grew up in a family that loves the creative arts and Clayton has landed some major roles in films and stage plays. With the advent of the film industry in the Detroit area, Clayton sees a bright future for himself right here in Detroit and says "I don't have to leave Detroit. Hollywood is right here".

David Clifford
I also met 23 year old David Clifford, an up and coming fashion designer, who loves to create clothing for both men and women. He is inspired by high fashion and is in his 3rd year of design school. When I asked him about his future, he said it did not include Detroit. He sees himself really anywhere but here. When I pressed him as to whether he could find what he is seeking in Detroit, he finally relented that he could if the Detroit fashion industry could make some changes, get some respect.

How two very talented young men can have such different views of this city speaks to everything that was discussed by the panel. Fashion is a business and if Detroit wants to have a thriving fashion industry, we need to provide an environment that will allow it to grow. It all comes down to which "Tale of Detroit" we want our talented and creative youth to see in their future.


Disclosure: I received a media pass to attend this event.

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