While most people would consider Chicago more the ‘it’ city of the Midwest, Detroit is displaying a powerful movement towards permanently snatching the fashion tiara off the Windy City’s head. For over seven years now Michigan has hosted the Detroit Fashion Week, an event geared towards enabling local designers meet international standards, freeing them from their borders and propelling them into a bigger scene and audience.
With Chicago becoming glutted and stagnant, Detroit delivers greater range of financial backing and scope for dynamic growth. Indeed, the Motor City has garnered recognition as the new fashion hub from several prestigious sources that include CNN Money and Women’s Wear Daily. It has also managed to entice more than one fashion designer to zoom on over and take advantage of the newer offerings.
Consider Chicago’s loss of independent clothier and fashion starlet Stephanie Dickey of Stef-n-Ty’s, who recently relocated to Detroit. Gifted in many areas, Stephanie launched her first endeavor at the young age of 22, a small shop eponymously named Designs by Stephanie. Her abilities and skills were obvious from the age of 10 and by the time she opened her little store she had gained considerable talent in design, sewing, crocheting, pattern making, textiles and knitting. Stephanie found herself in the company of such stars as Tracy Ross, a soap opera celebrity, and famed singer Stacy Lattisaw.
Stephanie and her husband, Tyrone, moved hand in hand to New York to begin anew in Brooklyn, where Stephanie offered her abilities to family, friends and their community. While it did not happen overnight, she gained an amount of recognition and went on to design chic and expressive garments for the likes of jazz artist Alfonso Blackwell, Noel Pointer and singer Stevie Wonder. Her inspired creations were the buzz of New Word and Essence publications, not to mention the New York Times style section.
Impressively, Stephanie never learned her skills classically, in a brick and mortar institution. Instead, she learned them traditionally from a great-grandmother named Rosalie Brown who held back no technique or piece of knowledge but gifted them to the girl who was blessed with a natural disposition towards design and fabric crafting. Stephanie excelled in her gifts and demonstrated a flair for Asian-inspired lines and bold African colors and prints. It is not a mystery why celebrities looked to Stephanie for well-constructed, eye-catching outfits: they are highly original, inspiring and with a mind for classical construction, they last for years.
The Afro-Asian fusion Stephanie produces is not one-size-fits-all. It’s designed only for people who desire a dramatic statement or a piece that is not mass produced. You will not find these clothes in a JC Penney of course, but they can be found in some fortunate shoppes and boutiques in the Midwest. With plans to open their own retail store, Stef-n-Ty are looking for the right place to base the production. That is where Detroit comes in with its skilled labor and seamstress bank, turning away from the auto industry and embracing the creativity that still runs strong in the area. With the ready availability of established buildings and warehouses, Stephanie sees opportunity in marketing and drawing a customer base of clients who specifically seek the unusual and the creative, who highly prize rarity and all it implies.
Heeding the Call
Detroit’s Fashion Week beckons the attention of the entire Midwest fashion scene and grows in popularity and scope with each year. That focus on the fashion industry, especially what it means for the local artists who may not otherwise receive the attention they need and deserve to bust out of their geographical confines, is what called Stephanie Dickey and her husband Tyrone Dickey to Detroit. It’s also what will hold them there and continue to yank the eyes off of Chicago and pull them back to the Motor City. The promotion of Detroit is the promotion of inspiration, heartfelt creativity and skilled hands. It will help Michigan families to thrive, to see financial opportunities where they may not have seen them previously. The production of clothing is not new to the state; it has businesses that produce uniforms and costumes. To expand on that is not as difficult as creating the industry from scratch and savvy designers like Stephanie Dickey understand that.
To Detroit we say, bravo! To Michigan as a whole, we extend warmest thoughts for success and revitalization. And to Stephanie and Tyrone, we demand more! Bring on the talent, Motor City, and let the world marvel at your fashion scene even as they look fabulous doing it.