Detroit may be the birthplace of musical royalty, having produced legends like Diana Ross, Smoky Robinson, Big Sean, and others, but its greatness transcends music. One group of creatives climbing those same ranks are up-and-coming fashion designers who traveled to New York last month for New York Fashion Week. While the designers possess the same talent and ingenuity as veterans in the industry, they’re teenagers. As part of a collaboration between New York-based retailer Maison Black and Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan’s (BGCSM) Fashion Industry Club, the young men’s designs were displayed at the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) offices during the popular week. Detroit Native Tori Nichel, the founder and chief creative officer of Maison Black, hopes that this experience will continue to inspire them.
“At sixteen, someone bet on me and really taught me the ins and outs of fashion design hands-on, and I studied with her until I was a junior in college, but I had never been to New York, and I don’t think I would’ve gotten to New York had I not got accepted to the Fashion Institute of Technology. So I’m just truly humbled and honored that I could be a part of this. And truly, I hope this continues to inspire them to nurture their craft, continue to work hard at it, to get back there.”
Shawn H. Wilson, the president and chief executive officer of BGCSM, feels that this collaboration is part of an opportunity for the organization to keep reimagining itself to provide invaluable opportunities to Detroit students.
“The Fashion Industry Club represents our process to reimagine ourselves. A few years ago, we wanted to reimagine ourselves for greater community impact. And what that means is that we know that for the communities we serve, the core root of issues facing them is a lack of access to capital, financial capital, social capital, and human capital. And so that prevents our youth and our communities from really climbing that economic mobility ladder, really being able to reach the pinnacles of success. And so we designed our programs to be able to provide those different types of capital to be able to provide career and entrepreneurial opportunities to the youth that we serve. And so when you look at something like Fashion Industry Club, it provides them with all that. It provides them with the economic capital, it provides them with the social capital, the human capital through their mentors.”
For Carlos Pearson, the creative genius behind the clothing brand Elegant, one major takeaway from the experience was simply to be himself while exuding confidence, something that he struggled with before.
“I’d say just being myself and putting myself out there confidently were important lessons learned. When in social situations, when I’m around people, I get nervous sometimes, and I don’t really get my point across how I’d like. But when I was there, it felt like a brotherhood. Everyone was there for me, and I felt like they were my brothers, and I could talk to them about anything. It just made me feel like if I could do this with them and they’re this successful, I can also do this in any room I’m in, even if I don’t know anyone else.”
As for Langston Howard, whose brand The Top was featured in the showcase, the value of networking picked up during the excitement is one that he carries with him to this day.
“The most important thing I learned while in New York was that you have to use your connections to my advantage because, throughout the day, we were making so many connections. We were doing our best to make as many connections everywhere we went. And now, since I’m back home in Michigan, I need to use those connections to my advantage. I have connections with all these people who have succeeded in the industry, and I might as well use them to help me.”
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