Special Issues » Made in Michigan

Local fashion makers find inspiration in the Motor City

Designed in Detroit

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With a scrappy, up-and-coming fashion industry, metro Detroit is home to some truly talented artists. Whether they're using the backdrop of the nitty gritty Motor City or a more refined inspiration, these local fabricators are churning out ambitious lines and bespoke designs.

Laura Collier

A professional by day, Laura Collier is a lot like most Detroiters with a dream — cautious yet determined to pursue her passion. She's just 26 years old and she works 9-to-5 as a senior valuation analyst, but in her spare time she's sketching and sewing, the results of which have produced a brand-new two-piece ready-to-wear line.

Collier says the small line is the antithesis of fast fashion, a burn-and-turn trend that churns out cheaply made garments for bottom dollar. Instead, she creates unique pieces that are gorgeously and strongly constructed. Though she's just getting started, Collier says she intends to keep her fashion pursuits small — using an industrial sewing company or clothing manufacturer to help her turn pieces out faster isn't in the plan. So while garments in her line are expensive, they are also very special.

The line, which she's named Ekatrina Collier, consists of a drapey bolero and a crop top, both constructed with 100 percent silk. Presented in a baby pink ("rose gold"), the bolero shows Collier has keyed into current fashion trends without leaning too heavily on them. The crop top, an intricate piece, is a complement to the bolero and the pieces can be worn together or separately. Going for $289 and $199 respectively, they will be available exclusively online via ekatrinacollier.com when the line officially launches July 10.

Cynthia LaMaide

Rochester-based designer Cynthia LaMaide is inspired by romance and femininity, and the one-of-a-kind pieces she constructs from fibrous textiles can easily be called art. LaMaide, originally from Florida, began her career as a stylist for fashion catalogues before transitioning into the role of designer. When she moved to Michigan to be with her husband, she found she had a much harder time designing pieces for mass production due to a limited proximity to industrial sewers and manufacturing. Instinctively, she moved toward creating unique pieces, focusing on asymmetrical frocks with mixed textures and muted colors.

The results of LaMaide's efforts are soft, flowy dresses that reflect a certain earthiness and free-spirited femininity. She employs a loom to weave patches of material that are then stitched with other elements like felted wool or hand-painted silks. In less able hands, the final product could be a patchwork mess, but LaMaide's designs are finespun.

Though willowy and lithesome, LaMaide's pieces have an unequivocal elegance. While she does sell pieces to a few local stores, the designer also accepts commissions from folks who are looking to add something distinct and different to their wardrobes. You can find out more about her designs at lamaide.com.

Jennifer Forsyth

Detroit might be known for its grit and grime, but menswear designer Jennifer Forsyth knows scrappy young professionals need more in their closets than just black T-shirts with catchy phrases. A young professional herself, she was inspired by the time she spent creating birdhouses in her grandfather's barn and applies the same building principles to her made-to-measure line.

217 Lincoln, as Forsyth has named the line, is a strictly online menswear business. It's a unique format for a bespoke suit maker in that they must acquire their customers' measurements in order to fashion a truly tailored look. Forsyth says customers who live in proximity to 217 Lincoln's studio can make an appointment to have their measurements drawn, others can visit a local tailor who will accurately record their dimensions.

Suits from this made-to-measure line don't come cheap. An Aurelius Super 150's suit will run customers a little more than $3,000. Upgrade to their Super 220 and you're looking at $4,125. And while those prices might seem staggering, they're nearly half the cost of similar suits from more established lines, making them a bit of a bargain for bespoke suit shoppers.

Billing her brand as the epitome of luxury, Forsyth says she created this line to help others embrace a little opulence as a means to celebrate their hard-earned success.

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