The lights dimmed and a giant countdown appeared on the screens surrounding the runway. Ten minutes flashed, then 9:59, 9:58, 9:57, as it counted down, anticipation growing. Show goers took to their seats, getting out their phones and cameras to ensure they’d be prepared to photograph the exact moment when the models started walking the runway. This was Fashion In Detroit and, as I was to find out, it was going to be one Hell of a ride.
Fast forward to earlier that morning, and I had just arrived to Michigan, after a less-than comfortable Greyhound ride from Chicago. I don’t usually come home at the last minute, and I’m less than a fan of riding the bus, but the chance to attend Fashion In Detroit, produced by former project runway alum and designer behind Motor City Design, Joe Faris, and Dodge, was too appealing to turn down. The last time I had been to Fashion In Detroit was in 2012, when I first started doing fashion things (blogging and what not) on the internet. Fashion In Detroit 2012 was definitely fun and brought together a lot of great fashion people in the area, but there were a lot of kinks. Delays between designers, models who couldn’t walk, missed marketing opportunities, you get the point. The intent of the event was honorable and there were talented designers showing, but it obviously still had quite a long way to go.
So, when I went to Fashion In Detroit 2014, on September 27, I was on a mission. I wanted to compare and contrast and see what changes had been made since my last visit to the event. I wasn’t coming in with a “fresh perspective,” so to speak, and while that could have been a disadvantage I figured it would help me understand the mission of the organization even more and see the growth they could have potentially made. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised, (for the most part) on what I discovered.
Naturally, when I first arrived at Fashion in Detroit, held at the Motor City Casino’s Sound Board, I had no idea where to go. For those who haven’t been to Motor City Casino, let’s just say this place is ginormous. Like, super, super big. Covered in a shiny material, reminiscent of saran wrap, and neon lights circling its exterior, you can literally spot it from a mile away. The interior, however, is a different story. The building is like a maze. So, after going up a few escalators, and aimlessly wandering around, I was lucky enough to run into a security guard who pointed me in the right direction.
I ended up checking into the event about an hour and a half before the fashion shows actually started, which gave me the perfect opportunity to check out Market Detroit, the portion of Fashion In Detroit which is home to apparel, accessories and art work for sale from local designers. Market Detroit isn’t new to Fashion In Detroit, but it’s definitely improved. Compared to previous years, this Market in Detroit was much, much larger. There was even a performance by Lewis Hensley, which was pretty cool despite him not really having an audience.
It was at Market Detroit where bloggers congregated in the social media lounge, hosted by Style Shack, who was kind enough to give The Style Note a press pass to the event (thank you!), models paraded across the floor carrying signs with the name of the designer look they were sporting and show goers perused table after table of merchandise, most with a heavy Detroit theme (like the bag and shirts above). After making the rounds and hanging out on one of the many white fur couches scattered across the venue, I made my way to the Sound Board room, where the fashion shows were set to start in just mere minutes.
The show started late. Which, given the track record of other fashion events I’ve been to, I shouldn’t have been surprised by. Luckily, I was seated in the middle of Chelsea, of Wear Is Chelsea, and Bruna, of Style Mile. We got a conversation going on Detroit fashion and stylish Instagrammers to follow, and it reminded me of one of the main things I appreciate about Fashion In Detroit: networking. Fashion events aren’t nearly as frequent in Detroit as they are in say, New York, Paris, London, you know, “fashion cities.” However, Detroit does have a fashion scene, and although it may be smaller, it is extremely dedicated. Going to Fashion In Detroit gives me, and well everyone else who is there, the chance to connect with other like-minded fashion people, which is a pretty powerful thing for the Detroit fashion scene.
Anyway, after about ten minutes past its scheduled start time, the show began. The first set of designers were all local and operating on a smaller scale. The fashion was fun, but with an abundance of sparkly embellishments, ill-fighting halter tops and side slits and strange fabrics, was definitely questionable at times.
However, JoMaWoo was a stand out designer among the pack. With face paint, bold colors and graphic line prints, the clothing had a very strong African influence and was extremely cohesive. While the outfits displayed were not necessarily wearable on a daily basis, mixing some of the separates with more basic items could yield interesting style choices. As the models walked down the runway they danced as a rapper performed behind them and stood with a sense of power, which ended up being the most refreshing aspect of the whole collection and the first half of the evening.
There was a roughly half-hour intermission after the first set of designers. However, the wait was well worth it, as the second round of collections to take the stage were stunning. After a reveal of two Dodge cars on either side of the stage, (because it’s not a Detroit event without a car physically being there), the Sommerset Collection hit the runway. They showed a plethora of looks from Kate Spade, Eileen Fisher, Max Mara, Halston Heritage, Gucci and, if you can believe it, more. The looks were meticulously styled, and spot on with the biggest trends of this season, obviously. These extremely established designers garner National press and admiration, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that they were able to wow the crowd as much of they did. However, Intermix did manage to surprise the crowd and ended up being a highlight of the evening with a dancer twirling and leaping across the runways as their models walked.
Other designers to follow were Detroit big shots, Bricker Tunis Furs, Lyudgviga Couture and Peter Soronen,whose feminine designs were figure-flattering and classic. Another favorite of mine was a collection of mens shirts and suiting from Cafe Bleu. While all of the items in the collection were for men, female models also walked the stage wearing the button up shirts, with tousled hair, large frame glasses, and oh yeah, no pants. It was an unexpected way to display the clothing and a good reminder of how great borrowing from the guys can really be.
Naturally, Joe Faris was the last to show. His first collection that hit the runway was his collaboration with Dodge. It basically contained two types of outfits: a simple form fitting dress with a large visible zipper in the back for women, and a pair of jeans with a motorcycle jacket for men. One by one pairs of models walked out displaying each outfit in literally every color imaginable. His second collection to show, and the finale for the evening, was Motor City Design. The line was primarily full of wearable and comfortable leather jackets and denim. While both of these collections were fairly simple and basic, they were constructed well and did seem like something that people would actually want to wear. The show capped off with a bow from Joe Faris and an applause from all.
It’s been just over a week since Fashion In Detroit ended. I’ve had a lot of time to reminisce on the evening, and here’s my final verdict: Fashion In Detroit 2014 was a lot better than 2012. Like, a lot. Yes, there were still a few awkward moments. The show ran extremely long (at least 3 hours from start to finish), there were a few minor technical errors and not all of the designers were on the same playing field as far as aesthetic and skill levfel. However, from a much larger Market Detroit, great turn out and a handful of impressive shows, it’s safe to say that as a whole Fashion In Detroit has stepped it up. The vision is there, now it’s just time to execute.