Three local designers are on the verge of breaking through on a national level. One's aesthetic is young and urban, another designs for children, and a third focuses on high-end fabrics to craft staples that will last a lifetime. While each crafts a vastly different product, they're all contributing to the burgeoning fashion scene that's happening in and around Detroit.
We caught up with each designer and they told us a little bit about their background and their brand.
Jashawn Lewis describes his line as, "if masculinity and sequins had a baby." Lazerus Sky employs leather, jersey, and those round, sparkly notions to craft a collection Lewis says appeals to a young, hip, and urban demographic. Of our round up, he's certainly got the most street cred, if you will.
"I like someone who wants to beat their own drum. I don't feel like everyone should fit the mold of what's considered fashionable or ladylike or vice versa," says Lewis. "More so you like what you like and someone who is very opinionated and strong and doesn't care what people think as far as dress."
With a fulltime day job, Lewis doesn't have a whole lot of time to craft his line. Lazerus Sky is a one-man show, but he's making it work.
"My Singer sings all night," says Lewis. "I have literally sewed from the time I got off work until 4 a.m. Then I just repeat it."
While some of Lewis' creations are certainly a little more outrageous than you might wear to class or the office, others are demure in cut and shape, with attention-grabbing prints. Others employ everyday fabrics, like what you might expect from your favorite sweatshirt, but their silhouettes are racy and revealing.
Inspired by designers like Philipp Schuller, Alexander Lang, and Mark Jacobs, Lewis has grand plans for his line.
"In 10 years I see myself with multiple boutiques and a large web base," he says. "I see myself being a prominent name in fashion."
Cecylia and Rosey
Molly Riddle is the mother of a 14-year-old son; she works at a local boutique and an upscale eatery in Birmingham. And, as if that wasn't enough, she's also the single human entity behind the local children's line, Cecylia and Rosey.
Inspired by clothes she'd like to see in her own closet, Riddle says she chose children's clothing because it was simpler to make than those for more grown up counterparts — there's no darting, sizing is much easier. The results often inspire more coos, oohs, and ahhs.
Riddle's line isn't the like the cutesy, cheesy clothing you'll find at some department stores. Instead, it's like a scaled down version of the wardrobe worn on the first few seasons of Gossip Girl. There's lots of hounds tooth, ruffles, pearls, and bows.
"My line is more sophisticated and I have a feeling I'm going to end up with a really select market," Riddle says. "I like the idea of looking at a kid's garment and thinking, 'Oh I would wear that!' That's kind of where my line is going. I don't like the really cutesy stuff for girls. I do more fashion forward clothes, but I try to put little details in there that make it more useful. I'm trying to find that balance."
For now Riddle crafts the entire line herself, though she's on the look out for some help. She recently completed a run with Zulily, which helped her gain some traction for her line.
"That was pretty exciting because I got to track my sales and could see that people were buying my products all over the United States. Most people were on the east coast and in the southern states," says Riddle. "That was pretty cool."
For now, she's working on a catalog to ship to local boutiques for Fall 2015 and Spring 2016, when she'll start working on selling her line locally. She says he goal is to offer 12 pieces for each season, six of which she's already completed.
Having already experienced some national success, it would seem Riddle shouldn't have a problem winning over Michiganders.
Shelley Van Ripper left a job in corporate America to pursue her dream of becoming a fashion designer. She borrowed money from her husband (which, she adds, she's returning to him in monthly payments) and got her business off the ground by traveling to and from New York on a weekly or monthly basis.
It wasn't an easy fete, according to Van Ripper. She needed to find a pattern maker, materials, a manufacturer, models, and a photographer. It's clear from even a short conversation with her that she's meticulous. Every detail of her line has been relentlessly researched, thought through, and painstakingly actualized.
Van Ripper's collection consists mostly of blazers and T-shirts, two pieces that could potentially live in one's closet for a lifetime. Though her price points are admittedly high (a blazer runs about $900, while a T-shirt is $150), she says she's not willing to compromise the quality of her garments or the craftsmanship that goes into them. Some of her materials are sourced from as far away as Italy because those fabrics last and wear longer than any others she's found stateside. She employs workers for fair pay. She's always on the lookout for Made in the USA materials that she can use in her line, and she's hoping the future will see more of her line being produced in Michigan, but the state's fashion industry just isn't there yet.
For now, Van Ripper sells in a some boutiques in Ann Arbor, West Bloomfield, Plymouth, Birmingham, and Grosse Pointe Woods, but eventually she's hoping to get her line into a department store like Saks Fifth Avenue or Nordstrom.