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Detroit Looks to Revive Itself Through Fashion

[Insert runway here.]

We may think New York Fashion Week leads into London Fashion Week, but we're overlooking something: Detroit Fashion Week, which just wrapped up its fourth consecutive year on Saturday. As the auto industry clings for life and businesses and jobs leave the city, Detroit insiders are looking to "redeploy" the city's creative force toward fashion:

They may seem like wildly different industries, but cars and clothes have elements in common, Detroit fashion insiders say. The city's industrial history gives it a unique design sensibility, and its manufacturing capabilities play well to a growing demand for garments that are made in America.


Joe Faris, a former Project Runway contestant who lives in metro Detroit, says that because car designers are designers, they are aware of fashion — design principles can be translated across industries. "Creative people are just creative — it can be applied both ways," he says. And a manufacturing workforce is a manufacturing workforce, whether they're manufacturing carburetors or brocades. The River Rouge is just a hop, skip, and jump from the garment district!

From the New York perspective, this might seem like a long shot, but if you're interested in fashion (and not necessarily interested in living here, or in any city where the beers cost $6), it's not crazy. Detroit has extremely low overhead costs — not too long ago, you could buy a home there for $1,000, and you can rent both a home and retail space in trendier metro neighborhoods for a fraction of what you'd pay in New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago. "Michigan is more approachable for a designer who wants to be able to afford housing and also run a business and make a profit," says Brian Heath, founder and producer of Detroit Fashion Week. Also: People in Michigan still need to wear clothes and are still going to buy them, and they don't uniformly think elastic-waisted pants are the way to go. For stylish individuals outside of cosmopolitan cities, there should be life beyond GO International.

In their efforts to make sure Detroit is known for more than just being an automotive town, the fashion community has planned a second sort of Fashion Week: Fashion in Detroit, "a high-end runway show," will drop in less than two weeks. Unlike Detroit Fashion Week's $350 entrance fee, Fashion in Detroit's fee is $2,500, and both Kid Rock (who has a Made in Detroit clothing line) and Betsey Johnson will be showing. It would seem Detroit's catching on quickly, then: The pricier the velvet rope, the better the show.

Detroit Swap: Auto Plants for Fashion Showrooms [CNN Money]

Photo: Getty Images

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Copyright © 2013, New York Media LLC.
All Rights Reserved.

Copyright © 2013, New York Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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