When you think of fashion, runways, and up-and-coming designers, you probably don't think of Detroit. New York Fashion Week probably comes to mind, maybe even Paris or Milan, but not Detroit. This season Project Runway featured its first ever Detroit-based contestant (we interviewed Char Glover last week), and the narrative about fashion in Detroit is beginning to change on a national scale. Of course, right here at home, local designers have been plugging away, creating unique and intriguing designs, for as long as the city can remember. The industry might not be huge, but there are some key players hoping to grow the scene and bring it together to make a cohesive, inspiring community.
Daishawn Franklin and Crystal Bailey are two of those people. They started WALK Fashion Show five years ago and are now in the process of putting on their 10th fashion event. Their brand has grown exponentially since their inaugural show in 2009, and their plans have expanded to include a showcase during New York Fashion Week, the first of which took place this year, with another one already in the works for 2015.
Franklin and Bailey met quite some time ago and have been working together for nearly a decade. Bailey was a model and Franklin was working in marketing, and they both had a shared passion for fashion, making them something of a dream team. While Bailey is more reserved, Franklin does most of the talking and it's clear they're a hands-on team. They're careful planners who are in touch with every aspect of their event. Every detail is thought through, from the where and when to the who and what. And that involvement has helped catapult their events to the success that they experience today.
As their brand has grown, so has the fashion industry in Detroit, which is something both Bailey and Franklin are cognizant of, something that WALK has a helping hand in.
It's exciting, Franklin says, not only because it's grown in the last five years, but also because the quality has improved.
"We always say we didn't invent fashion in Detroit," he says. "A lot of these designers have been at it for five or 10 years; it's just that those jewels haven't been uncovered. They needed a platform and a showcase. The industry itself is getting more attention ... We always think it existed, the talent was always here, but now I think that light is being shed more so on the designers here, and we're getting extra respect here in Detroit, in the Michigan area, and in the fashion world."
The pair is close friends with Char Glover, which is one reason they'll be debuting the Project Runway contestant's fall fashion line at the Nov. 22 edition of WALK Fashion Show. This won't be the first time Glover has had a spot in the lineup either.
"For us, this symbolizes the growth of the WALK brand," Franklin says. "It's pretty cool that we have Char because she was with us in WALK 5. It's kind of like we've come full-circle because our brand has grown and, of course, her brand has grown and now we meet again at WALK 10."
While Glover's appearance is exciting — this will be the first time her fall line will ever be shown — plenty of other local designers will be featured, too.
"We have over 24 designers in both shows total," says Bailey. "They're all local designers, as far as the Detroit and Birmingham area. They come to us, they reach out to us on our website, and that's how we get most of our designers."
"As far as the other designers," Franklin says, "they're all independent designers from the metro Detroit area. We're showcasing their fall collections."
Aside from Glover, most of the designers to be featured in WALK fashion show haven't had much exposure, another reason the show is important to the fashion community.
"At the 8 p.m. show, we have 13 local independent designers that will showcase their fall collection, which will be highlighted by Char's collection as the finale," says Franklin. "At that show, we have emerging designers, you know, up-and-comers, college students and first-timers. Then we also have what we call WALK University, which is our children's showcase."
As much as showcasing local designers is the primary purpose of WALK Fashion Show, part of their brand identity is holding WALK fashion shows at upscale or unique venues in the city. They've hosted shows inside the Detroit Opera House, as well as the Michigan Science Center, the Roostertail, and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. You can bet they put a lot of thought into picking a venue. This time around, the 10th edition of WALK will be held inside the Garden Theater, a space the two recently fell in love with at a black-tie event.
More than just bringing fashion-lovers together with local designers, WALK is also a platform for models. The show draws as many as 500 local models to its casting calls. Bringing models together with local designers and the pair together with local fashion-lovers makes WALK an integral part of the local industry.
Walk takes place on Saturday, Nov. 22 at the Garden Theater; 3929 Woodward Ave, Detroit; walkfashionshow.com; doors open at 7 p.m.; showtime is at 8 p.m.; tickets start at $25 or $100 for VIP.