Want to be among Detroit’s fashion elite? You can hire someone to pick the perfect outfits, style your hair and fix your makeup. Want to start a boutique, salon or spa? Well, that’s a little more challenging.
That’s where Thursday’s FashionSpeak event comes in. Michigan’s first conference for the state’s fashion industry hopes to give the local creative community a shortened version of a business degree—or, at least the basic tools they need to become a success in the fashion industry.
Granted, the conference takes place in Detroit, and there will be many local luminaries there. But this issue – jobs, job creation, business incubation, state-support systems – is larger than one city. And, to be honest, Michigan needs a reputation for more than cars, tech and other science-related fields. We need to be fierce on many levels, and I’ll take fashion (defined through all of its mediums) as a start.
Everybody wants creative types in Michigan. But how do you teach someone whose life centers around art, music, literature or fashion how to run payroll, balance the books and develop a well-rounded marketing plan? It’s a tall order. But without events like FashionSpeak, talented artists are likely to flee Michigan in hopes of finding support elsewhere. This is not a fashion show; we have plenty of those. This is a business conference for fashion, and it’s much needed.
Karen Buscemi and her Detroit Garment Group Guild organized Thursday’s event at the Madison Building in downtown Detroit as a way to fill the void between learning to draw, dream and design to running a full-fledged company. And it can be a huge gap, considering most fashion-related degrees typically do not include classes in accounting.
“These are very creative people. They know how to do what they do best. But they don’t necessarily known how to run a company,” said Buscemi, editor of “StyleLine” magazine and fashionable woman about town (really! Check out her Instagram if you don’t believe me).
The conference will cover six main areas, ranging from social media to fashion publicity to business building. There are well-known names, like Daniel Vosovic, a second-season “Project Runway” contestant and Michigan resident, who will talk about how he grew his brand while still staying true to his Michigan roots. D:Hive’s April Boyle will go over the potential of pop-up shops as laboratories for a concept’s long-term potential.
“Whether you’re a student or a professional, you’re going to learn. And it’s going to be things you’re not going to hear in school,” Buscemi said. Take fashion brand manager and publicist Aferdita Rakipi, who will educate attendees on how to get their work in front of the right editors – and actually get them to write about it. This is a skill that can take years to acquire, so having a cheat sheet is well worth the $40 entry fee.
Buscemi said the 250 attendees (and then some; the only tickets available now are $35 overflow seating) will range from retailers to photographers to stylists. Each workshop, which will last about an hour, aims to provide tips and tools that (obvs) not replace a business degree, but supplement the real-world work experience attendees have and expand their knowledge in a practical way.
At least, that’s the goal. This is the conference’s first year, and Buscemi said organizers are eager to learn what attendees learn – and, more importantly, what else they want to know about the industry and how to better their businesses. So feedback post-event will be key to planning future FashionSpeak conferences, something Buscemi said is already in the works.
A quick backgrounder: Buscemi and the Detroit Garment Group Guild put this event together over the winter, and announced it in May. The Guild is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that aims to guide, support, educate and promote Detroit’s fashion industry. And the whole state, by proxy.
Taubman Centers, which owns great shopping centers around Metro Detroit including Fairlane Town Center in Dearborn, The Mall at Partridge Creek in Clinton Township and Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, signed on to be the presenting sponsor. Then Bedrock Real Estate got on board and many, many more. Add six dynamic speakers, and you’ve got an event that promises to improve Michigan’s economic status a few great fascinators at a time.
“Everything we’re doing is about keeping our talent in our state,” Buscemi said. “We started (Fashion Speak) because people were getting so frustrated that people were getting out of the business altogether or getting 9-to-5 jobs and moving elsewhere. … We need them to make it here. And it’s up to us to keep them here.”
So don’t feel shy – step up, you creative people. Everyone is welcome, Buscemi said.
“It’s not so much about your particular craft. It’s about taking your craft to the next level,” she said.