Clothing is an essential part of the human experience; you need to wear apparel to be acceptable in society, to stay warm and, if you think about it from a branding perspective, to tell other people about who you are and what you stand for as an individual.
That is why FashionSpeak, an annual symposium for Detroit’s growing fashion industry, is such an important event. 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.
The Detroit Garment Group, Taubman, Meijer, Opportunity Detroit, Buddy’s Pizza and many other sponsors come together to create this event, aimed at all stages of fashion professionals. The Thursday get-together included everyone from Central Michigan University students to store owners to fashion designers of national note. Everyone came out to learn something and to share something of themselves in hopes of growing a larger, stronger fashion community here and beyond.
FashionSpeak is an educational conference at heart, but it also shows how much collaboration is happening around Detroit. To create this event, 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 her, there is no way Karen Buscemi and the Detroit Garment Group could pull off FashionSpeak. But they do with grace and charm, and it is an annual event not to miss as a result.
Bottom line: 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.
“I love it. I’m so excited about it,” said Hall, who joins noted designers including Tracy Reese and Daniel Vosovic of Project Runway fame in serving as the “inspiration” for the day, showing everyone in the audience that you can be from Detroit and take over the fashion world.
His advice to everyone? “Make an effort.” Enjoy dressing up and dressing well. He believes that you should highlight your assets and forget your flaws. Work to create a look and then strut it out. Tailor what you own to what makes you look and feel good. It’s a good reminder to anyone who cares about their images, and, to be honest, we all should care about our image.
FashionSpeak 2015 (the event is now in its third year) is the topper for 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 Guild are changing that with an industrial sewing program, a Tech Town incubator and more planned in the future. The future growth is going has the potential to be phenomenal.