Can Detroit become the next fashion city?

“I think our host was like, ‘What are you guys doing? ,” said Cassidy Tucker, while sitting with her sister Kelsey on a Zoom call from their Detroit studio last week. Surrounding them is a pile of 50 original works of art, with some of the 8-foot by 4-foot mural-like sculptures meant to approximate the pages of a giant storybook. The artwork was squeezed into the 26-foot truck they hired to transport the bulk from Detroit to New York City for an exhibit called “Don’t Sleep in Detroit.”

Cassidy, 27, and Kelsey, 25, are the founders of Deviate, a playful, unisex work and streetwear line introduced in late 2018 and made entirely in Detroit. The sisters so love and believe in the creative energy in their homeland that their entire business model is built on nurturing and sharing it.

They recruited more than 50 local artists – fashion and textile designers, muralists, painters, graphic artists and illustrators – to contribute work to the “Don’t” presentation. Sleep on Detroit,” will also serve as Deviate’s fall 2022 fashion show.

The idea behind the exhibition, which will be held in New York on February 2 and February 3 as a press and industry event, is a fundamental presumption of Mohammed/mountain: Bringing the Creative World of Detroit to the major leagues. The show will return to Detroit and open to the public later this year.

Detroit has long been in fashion. Influential retailer Linda Dresner, credited with bringing the likes of Jil Sander, Martin Margiela and Comme des Garçons to the United States, has operated stores in New York and Birmingham, Mich – a block from Detroit. about half an hour’s drive – for decades. Tracy Reese, one of the few Black designers to become a mainstay in New York, returned to Detroit in 2019 to start her enduring collection, Hope for Flowers. Carhartt, the officewear brand increasingly associated with streetwear and fashion hype, was founded in Detroit in 1889.

Over the last year or so, interest in Detroit has been rekindled by global players: Gucci introduced a partnership with hometown label Detroit Vs. Everybody, founded by Tommey Walker Jr., for a capsule t-shirt collection and announced the opening of a new store in downtown Detroit; Hermès opened a store in the city; and in October, Bottega Veneta hosted creative director Daniel Lee’s final fashion show for the home in Detroit.

In March, Michigan’s first historic Black college, the former Lewis College of Business, will reopen as Pensole Lewis College of Business & Design, focusing on design.

“When people think about Detroit, they don’t think much of the positivity that the city has to offer,” says Cassidy Tucker. “It is often overshadowed with some of the more sensational components of its history – struggle, victory, struggle.”

The New York show was set up like a storybook written by Kesley Tucker, Deviate’s creative director, titled “A Bird Trusts Its Wings.” A metaphor for a non-traditional creative career, the story follows the protagonist, who, mired in self-doubt, wakes up in an animated world where all her ideas were damned to live out the rest of their days.

As she revisited and interacted with them, she realized that she wanted to share them with the world. If the story provides a dreamlike backdrop for the showcase, its underlying theme is DIY persistence.

“There’s always a lot of pressure, like: ‘You should be here. You should do this,” says Ms. Tucker about her decision to go on the trail to fashion capitals like New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris. “The real show is where we put our feet down and were like, ‘We can do this from Detroit and bring it to you. ”

Ms. Tucker studied fashion design at Wayne State University in downtown Detroit. After an internship at Vera Wang in Los Angeles, she realized she was not interested in the work of a big brand. She said: “What I learned the most is that fashion is a passion. “Whatever you do in life is tough, but you have to choose your path.”

Hers went home and teamed up with her sister, who after graduating from Princeton joined a ride-sharing start-up called Splt and wanted to get into the social business.

“We’re on a mission to put Detroit on the fashion map,” Cassidy said.

How to do that? They do not know.

They started by reaching out to people in the community, engaging mentors including Ms. Reese. Also included are Christina Chen, public relations manager for Deviate and fashion experience at Saint Laurent, Alexander Wang, Shinola and StockX, and Ben Ewy, vice president of design, research and development at Carhartt .

“People here create their own scenes and have a long run, whether it’s the auto industry, Detroit tech or workwear,” Mr. Ewy said. “People here think differently and create unique products.”

Environmental awareness is built into the Deviate ethos – the Tuckers make nearly everything locally and use scrap to tailor their clothes when they can – but the social impact component bigger. Kelsey refers to the Antwerp Six, Motown, and the Wu-Tang clan as collectives that start from overlooked places and amplify their talents through the power of numbers.

Deviate has also partnered with Men’s and Women’s Club Industry in Southeast Michigan to offer paid internship programs. And last year, the company launched the Lost Artists Collective: a series of house parties that required artists to bring in a piece of their work (they could leave with someone else) that became Community resource and the starting point for “Don’t Sleep in Detroit. “

Marlo Broughton, 34, an artist and illustrator who helped introduce Detroit Vs. Everyone, along with their cousin Walker, first heard from Kelsey and Cassidy via direct message, invited him to one of the artists’ collective house parties and then joined the showcase. “They showed me everything and had the entire blueprint,” he said.

The sisters have also reached out to 42-year-old Sydney James, a muralist and fine artist, who contributed a picture of her 8,000-square-foot mural, “The Girl with the Earrings.” D”, a reinterpretation of Vermeer’s painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” featuring a black woman wearing Detroit’s signature Old English D. dangling earring.

“I don’t necessarily understand what it is, but I like the ‘why,’ Ms James said of having access to the rollout. “It’s like, ‘We’re going to make them look at us.” Can Detroit become the next fashion city?

Fry Electronics Team

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