When it comes to fashion, not many people place Detroit among the cities where the design industry thrives. Detroiters may know it here, but one Detroit-based fashion brand, Deviate Fashion, started with the goal to put Detroit on the map as a fashion city around the world.

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“Detroit is a fashion city. We have elite creatives, designers, and entrepreneurs. Our goal is to add another dimension to this truth through the artful design elements and expert tailoring that we bring to every piece,” Deviate Fashion’s website states. Founded by sisters Cassidy and Kelsey Tucker, Deviate is on a mission to help develop and bolster Detroit’s reputation as a respected fashion city.

Deviate Fashion show

Detroit-based Deviate Fashion Co-Founders Cassidy (right) and Kelsey (left) Tucker walk down the runway at the end of one of their fashion shows.

One Detroit Associate Producer and Future of Work Host Will Glover sat down with the Deviate Fashion co-founders at their talent incubator in a metro Detroit Boys & Girls Club to talk about the business of fashion in Detroit, the infrastructure investments and resources the City and its creatives will need to develop Detroit as a design hub, and the different challenges Detroit currently faces to make it on the list of fashion capitals like Los Angeles or New York City. 

Full Transcript:

Will Glover, One Detroit: The word was fashion, you said it has a bad connotation. Why is that, what frustrates you about it, and what is being missed when people have that perspective on it?  

Cassidy Tucker, Co-Founder, Deviate Fashion: Yeah, I think in some settings it has a negative connotation where there isn’t a level of seriousness that comes with the industry. It’s a giant industry and design, there’s so many different avenues. There’s manufacturing, product design, retail, there’s the creative direction that goes into it. I mean, there’s just so many opportunities. It’s a giant industry. And I think when people think of fashion, they, you know, they think of the sensationalized portions that maybe don’t necessarily scream business, but fashion is a giant business.  

I think it would really benefit the city to take it seriously. In terms of being the future of the city. Where an industry can really develop and flourish and where we can push boundaries in the national, global industry. Detroit can be a major player. It should be a major player. We have the infrastructure here for manufacturing. We have a skilled workforce. We have super creative talent. We need to bring it all together and really take it seriously as a fashion industry hub.  

Will Glover: How is business going? Are you doing well? Is there anything that you guys currently need that could help you expand? Is it a tough environment because you’re here in Michigan? What is this outlook? What kind of things are you navigating?  

Cassidy Tucker: The fashion industry, specifically, is an antiquated industry. There’s a lot of notorious characteristics in terms of exclusivity and not really being an industry that, you know, the majority of the population can participate in. Whether it’s, you know, unaffordable prices or gatekeepers or whatever it may be. It’s an industry that is not easy to participate in. And, so, I think being based in Detroit, Michigan, is our greatest strength and our greatest weakness at the same time.  

 So, I think it’s interesting that we’re able to participate in it from a city that a lot of people don’t, in the external industry, don’t necessarily see Detroit as a fashion city, even though we know here, it’s been here. We’re a creative community, we’re a hyper-creative city. But that perspective isn’t necessarily shared outside of Michigan. And so, when we’re able to say we’re a Detroit-based brand, that gets people’s attention and they wonder, you know, how are you operating there? How is it different than the rest of the industry?  

And that helps us a lot, I think, because it’s, you know, an immediate icebreaker. It actually gets us a lot of conversations. We’ll cold DM people on Instagram and they’re interested because we’re different in that way. Because we deviate in that way. But I think it’s also really difficult too. It for sure comes with its challenges. We’re obviously removed from a lot of the larger industry, you know, hub like New York or L.A.. 

Will Glover: What about New York, Los Angeles makes these places able to be a fashion hub that we don’t have here?  

Kelsey Tucker, Co-Founder, Deviate Fashion: I think that, just the way that the mindset is, of like you leave Detroit and you go to New York to like build your business. Like, that’s kind of what people think already is like, “Oh, I can get educated here or I’ll go to school in New York, but I’m going to stay there after and like build my network there and then one day come back and have a family here.” 

But if we had the resources and all these things that we’ve been talking about in this conversation. Like there are so many people, creatives who are entrepreneurs. Like they are grinding and living off of not enough money to live their dream. But it’s like without those resources and stuff here, like, we can all keep working towards these things, but it’s like without the glue to, like, connect everyone, the resources, the pipeline, then it’s like people are going to leave and they’re going to go think that they need to do that in New York and then come back here eventually. Whereas if we had that infrastructure, they could do it here and stay here.  

Will Glover: Do you see your cohort coming here? What would get them on board?  

Cassidy Tucker: Yeah, we actually say this to everyone we meet in New York. We’re always like, “You’ve got to come visit us, come to Detroit, come to Michigan.” And actually, a lot of people are interested by it, or they’ll say, “Oh, I’ve been there, I haven’t been there in a while, I heard that there’s a lot going on.”   

But we actually are bringing people here and showing them around. And I think that’s another big thing that we should probably invest more time and effort in. You know, really, if the fashion industry is something we want to take seriously, I think, you know, we should. But if that is decided, I think we seriously need to think about the gatekeepers or those in the larger industry that can, you know, help the city get to the next level and plug in. And bring them here and show them all these things that are going on.  

You know, show them the Industry Club, fashion design industry club, working with youth, helping them get internships at Carhartt and product design collaborations with Fortune 500 brands. And let’s show them the brands that are here making it and showcasing their work in New York Fashion Week. Let’s show them the schools that are here, the workforce that’s here, all the infrastructure that’s here, and just ultimately the opportunity. 

Fashion’s looking to be, you know, more inclusive. Fashion’s looking to grow and be pushed to new boundaries, just given the climate and everything that’s happened over the last couple of years. So let’s be that solution. Let’s do it. But we need to take us seriously, make a deliberate decision to do so and then bring those people here. Show off what we’re doing in a really meaningful way.  

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