Haute child in the city

Aug 12, 2009 at 12:00 am

Meet Emily Thornhill and Foutula Lambros, a couple of head-turning fashionistas taking a rather vogue approach to Detroit enterprise. The two women sport a fetish for pattern and fabric and, for the last two years, have put their designer mind-sets and needle-pricked hands to work creating couture under the moniker Femilia Couture. 

A little history: Thornhill and Lambros were attending the International Academy of Design and Technology in Troy and found themselves sitting next to each other in classes. 

"We're both friendly and outgoing, so it was natural. Our personalities clicked and we got to work," Lambros says of those early days. It wasn't long before goals were set, materials purchased and a name decided upon. 

The pair soon found a Ferndale house in which to live and work, and christened themselves Femilia Street Couture. The DIY upstart attempted to target ready-to-wear women's garb, premiering in 2007 with a show at the Hotel St. Regis. Its line for the season featured jumpsuits and exuberant, Stephen Sprouse-like colors just this side of neon. The look had a youthful bent, sure, but those early designs promised something more sophisticated. 

Then they walked away from the "street" to focus on swank. A bold move, to be sure, and one not usually made in Detroit, a city whose local fashion universe tends to revolve around Detroit-branded T-shirts (Made In Detroit, Detroit Shirt Co., Pure Detroit), menswear (Wound), reworked vintage garb (Adrienne Goloda, Katie Jean Payne) and, of course, Bethany Shorb's Cyberoptix ties, which can go from street to chic effortlessly.

For Detroit Fashion Week 2008, Femilia Couture wanted to achieve a more refined and genteel aesthetic. In what was described in Detroit Fashion Pages as a "Charlie's Angels feel," the show focused on accessories, such as bows and belts, and Femilia's draped outfits went further with classic looks from decades past ('40s to '70s) by utilizing old-school color schemes in orange and burgundy. The attention to detail and forward-thinking didn't go unnoticed. 

Since that show, Femilia has styled for Bravo!Bravo!, Detroit by Design, and the grand opening of the Detroit Public Library's H.Y.P.E. Center, where America's Next Top Model winner and Detroit native Naimia Mora walked the runway, donned in Femilia Couture.

In Detroit-area high fashion, Femilia's only competition is Katerina Bocci, to whom the girls themselves admit they can't truly compete. Not yet anyway. 

But that could change soon. As the aging Heidi Klum says during each Project Runway episode, "One day you're in, the next you're out." 

Femilia will soon preview its Spring 2010 collection at Ferndale's Loving Touch, which will see a full transformation from a hipster pool hall to a red-carpeted, velvet-roped, burlesque-styled carnival extravaganza. 

The duo says they'll continue to pull from decades past, inspired mainly from Depression-era and World War II fashion trends, such as accented shoulder lines and desaturated colors, but they want to further their couture work by traveling eco-friendly paths. In utilizing materials such as bamboo, hemp and natural dye, they're looking to evolve into Femilia Organic Couture. They're looking to launch a lot of things, actually. 

But they share a passion for Detroit; they want to help the fashion industry here. They'd like to see, and partake in, the construction of a local fashion district where they — along with such designer names as McBride, Lapiniski, Shorb and maybe even Bocci — would operate from. So, yeah, there's work to be done. 

The end goal sees national expansion — Lambros in Los Angeles and Thornhill in New York. "But there's only one way to do it," Lambros says, "and that's one stitch at a time."

They're also keen to earn an international rep, and can see themselves on big stages in big cities alongside big names, like Sienna Miller, that notorious and fearlessly dressed celeb whom Lambros and Thornhill say they'd love to dress. Thornhill puts it best: "People who wear whatever the fuck they want to wear are the most stylish." 

Travis R. Wright is arts and culture editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]