From sturdy zipper-decked motorcycle jackets to laid-back sweats, local designer Joe Faris is dedicated to badass, Americana apparel that's combined with a love of fast cars and looking like the protagonist in a Quentin Tarantino film. You may recognize him from the fifth season of Project Runway, with his edgy motorhead designs and rock star aesthetic. Lucky for us, Faris is bringing his moto-love back to the Motor City with the fourth year of Fashion in Detroit, an upscale runway extravaganza.
From a commercial industry standpoint, the designer thinks that Michigan fashion is lacking the manufacturing infrastructure to make Detroit the next fashion capital. "I get calls all the time from designers in L.A. or New York saying, 'If I move to Detroit, can I get my products manufactured?'" says Faris, of Bloomfield Township. "As far as a garment industry to support these designers, I don't see enough being done on that level. We have Shinola and there are great stores coming in and doing their own thing, but there aren't bigger companies coming in and saying, 'We're going to make jackets or shoes here.'
In an effort to work with Detroit auto manufacturers, Faris says that he has been granted a license with Chrysler to create an Imported from Detroit line. While that clothing line is set to launch next year, his recent collaboration with Dodge will be making a grand appearance on the Fashion in Detroit stage this weekend.
Specializing in sportswear and outerwear, Faris is ready to dress Detroit in leather and denim pieces heavily inspired by the city's auto industry. "I've morphed the motorcycle jacket into what you would call the ultimate 'car coat' using automotive influences. It's all my aesthetic. Rock 'n' roll, motorcycles, and cars."
This year is the first year where all runway shows will run consecutively. Faris believes the decision to move from an all-day event to strictly one evening was a decision inspired by co-producer Vicki Howard, fashion director at the Somerset Collection, and that it will make the event more accessible and fun.
"We want to attract the buyers and industry people," he says, "but the reality is that in order to support that, we need the general public. We want to give them something that they want to come back to, so we catered it more toward being entertaining."
To prove that he's not just a luxury brand tearing through the city's ruins to take advantage of the growing marketing strategy of "Made in Detroit," Faris shares that he's been involved with the city since his beginnings and wants to work with local suppliers. "Detroit is really my DNA. I was born here."
As for the future of local fashion, the designer believes that "if you start with a pin on a map, and you look at Detroit, you have to look at it as spiraling out rather than dropping your next pin in New York or L.A. It has to start with a spiral." — mt
Fashion in Detroit takes place at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 27 at Motor City Casino; 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit; tickets range from $25-$100 and an after party will follow at 9:30 p.m. at Sound Board for those 21 and older. For more information, visit fashionindetroit.com. As a nonprofit corporation, the proceeds of Fashion in Detroit will benefit Cass Community Social Services.