In Detroit, collaboration isn’t a buzzword. It’s ingrained. It’s something taken so seriously it borders on the holy. It’s something that has depth and meaning.
You only have to take a look around the city and its neighborhoods this week to see this passion for doing good together at work. Two events in particular brought people together in such fantastic ways – one that is repeated annually; one that is so unique it cannot be reproduced.
The first is FashionSpeak, an annual symposium for Detroit’s growing fashion industry. What’s notable about this one-day conference is that it is not only beautiful to observe (the boots! The hair! The dresses! The style!) but it also is impressive with its substance. Speakers give the big-picture view of the resume you need to work in fashion today, but they also give advice, guidance and mentorship opportunities as well. Connection was immediate and impressive.
The second is Flower House, a three-day art installation in Hamtramck. This one-of-a-kind happening came about because floral designer Lisa Waud of Pot & Box had this crazy yet amazing dream to dress up an abandoned house with the freshest and most delicate flowers she and her enthusiastic team of florist friends could find – or even grow themselves. American Made in all the best ways, Flower House will only exist through Sunday and then, like its blooms, it will fade and then disappear as the house is deconstructed and recycled.
To create these two different yet similar events, people had to work together for months and even years. They had to discover a common passion. They had to share a collective vision. They had to sign on with heart and head. Without a team behind them, there is no way Karen Buscemi and the Detroit Garment Group could pull off FashionSpeak. And without her friends and associates, there is no way Waud could cover a huge two-story house in flowers by herself. It took people coming together in a caring, unselfish fashion to do what’s right for the city, for the region and for its people. Inspiring, no?
A little more about FashionSpeak, the premier event for anyone who is interested in being a designer, a buyer, a planner or a fashion marketer. There is nothing else like this experience – a sizable conference room at One Woodard in downtown Detroit filled with men and women who love fashion, clothing, accessories and the people who wear them. These are visual artists, mixing patterns, colors and shapes to create something both pleasing and interesting.
These fashion mavens also are Detroit boosters. Roslyn Karamoko of Detroit is the New Black (a store and a brand) put it well when she said that Detroiters not only want to look good in a brand, they also want to feel good in it. They want to have an emotional connection to the people and the things they choose to wear. They desire an understanding of the designer, his or her intentions and the way they work. The people who wear Detroit is the New Black label clothing seem to exude the vibe Karamoko is after even without her having to explain it, she said. There is a soul to the city and its image represents that in real ways.
Keynote speaker Kevan Hall also said that Detroit is the kind of place that seeps into your design soul. The longtime clothing designer has gained national attention for his high-end dresses and active wear – there are pictures of gorgeous actresses in his gowns spinning on the red carpet with a kind of joy that shows how wonderful they feel in his clothing. Hall said that Detroit influenced those garments – the cool of Diana Ross, the style of the Temptations, the polish of all Motown. He grew up in Detroit in the 1970s, and that sleek elegance of the city and its residence reside in his mind and his pencil, Hall said. He admires the city’s resurgence, and he feels its rebirth in his soul.
FashionSpeak 2015 (the event is now in its third year) comes at a very exciting time for Detroit. That’s because Buscemi is working like a dervish to share the news about how much Detroit impacts the fashion world and how important it is that more eyes focus their attention here. Detroit has always had fashion, but somehow the word wasn’t communicated effectively or at all. Buscemi and her board at the Detroit Garment Group are changing that with an industrial sewing program, a Tech Town incubator and more planned in the future.
Just as Buscemi is making the fashion industry bloom, Waud is seeing her vision explode through Flower House. Their missions may be different, but I think if you got these two boss ladies in a room together, the conversation not only would be electric but their connection would be immediate. They are dreamers AND doers. They are visionaries and MAKERS. They are creative and collaborative. They are essential Detroiters, telling the city’s story with their art.
And it was art. It was art that inspired a floral designer to create a flower head out of leaves and more on the ceiling of a hall closet. It was divine inspiration that put a bed made of vines, wood and flower in an upstairs bedroom. It was something wholly magical that found a way to create a floral tornado in one room, an overflowing vegetable kitchen installation and a dining room full of moss, flowers, wood and water. Words fail to explain how flowers took over this house and transformed it. Every room deserved study, and there were many moments of awe. Pure awe.
I spoke with one of the floral designers who worked at Flower House. I asked her about how she created her room, which featured a heavy floral archway that seems architecturally impossible to me…yet there it was, in all of its lush beauty and elegance. She said she had a basic idea of what she wanted to do and then she riffed off of that when she got into the house. More important than the installation, she said, was the months of communication that came before it. She said the talking, emailing, calling and texting gave her the greatest satisfaction – that she was part of something and it was something big and important and special. Inspiring, yes? That’s collaboration.
Whether you wear your art or attach it to a wall of a house, you are creating something that brings not only joy to your heart but to those of others. I adored the world FashionSpeak created Thursday, and I applaud the hours of work and devotion that went into Flower House this weekend. What a grand time to live and work in Detroit, where creativity is blossoming into amazing moments that impact so many so positively.