Fashion Gala Highlights Emerging Industry in Detroit

There was substantial buzz about creating a fashion district in the city, and it seems like most are setting their sights on Eastern Market.

Saturday night was Design Define Detroit’s fashion gala at 5E gallery in the Southwest neighborhood of the city, and the group’s focus was on the sustainability of Detroit’s fashion industry.

Design Define Detroit: stylist showcase by Benny Lumpkins, Jr.

The evening began with a discussion panel on just that. Brian Heath, founder of Detroit Fashion Week, insists “this space can’t just be virtual. We need a physical one with cheap rent for design space.” As the district becomes a live/work space for designers, photographers, and models, Heath believes the Detroit fashion community would become stronger and more sustainable.

He and other entrepreneurs are currently looking at Toronto’s fashion incubators for inspiration, while simultaneously keeping in mind the fact Detroit is not (and won’t be) Toronto, New York, Chicago, or anything other than itself.

Before all of this comes to fruition, however, there are several key issues to traverse and a definite need to realistically access available resources. “The biggest thing” Heath says, “is city and state support.” They are looking at different grants, loan options, and tax incentives that might spur along this emerging industry.

Design Define Detroit: stylist showcase by Fanciee

There was concern brought up about the amount of money available, but U.S. Rep. John Conyers, who works closely with Mayor Bing, seems enthusiastic about business coming out of the creative class. “There is money,” he affirms, suggesting different corporate start-ups, including (most surprisingly) Tech Town. Although the resources tend toward more technological/research based companies, Conyers said that it isn’t unheard of that creative businesses (including fashion design) might find themselves eligible as well.

Fashion takes people in new directions

Sarah Lapinski, a designer and owner of Wound Menswear and Motor City Sewing (and contributing panelist for Design Define) is in fact one of those people who happened to find themselves in the trade. She originally graduated college with a degree in urban and movement studies. Shortly after, she was given a sewing machine, which has since become her source of creative inspiration and income. The best thing about working in Detroit, she says, “is the cheap space and great community. New York is dying because it’s so expensive.” For those interested in pursing some kind of career in the fashion/design world, she recommends this blog by Kathleen Fasanella.

For more information on Design Define Detroit, visit their website,

If you’re looking to see more of Design Define Detroit artists’ fabulous work, be sure to check out our flickr.

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3 comments on “Fashion Gala Highlights Emerging Industry in Detroit

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