Detroit-Themed Fashion Being Offered Worldwide

Photo from AP
Associated Press

A growing number of high-profile people are trying to capitalize on the Motor City’s rising reputation for being cool by offering Detroit-themed fashion nationwide and internationally.

Denise Ilitch is the latest Detroit-area designer to embrace the Made in Michigan theme, preparing to launch more jewelry and apparel next month from her Birmingham-based Denise Ilitch Designs.

And Joe Faris of "Project Runway" cable television fame plans to bring his own line of "industrial couture" clothing to stores Aug. 1, joining Detroit-area musician Kid Rock in the ranks of pro-Detroit marketers.

Though Detroit has made international news with its economic, political and pro football woes, the fashion resurgence shows "no place is just its headlines," said Birmingham-based brand consultant Mark Lantz.

"This new surge in Detroit spirit — particularly as it reaches beyond the hometown audience — is a way of putting the other side of the story out there," he said.

"When you buy a new Mac or iPad or iPod or whatever," Lantz said, "somewhere on the packaging when you first open it is the same five word sentence: ’Designed by Apple in California.’ Not just ’Designed by Apple,’ but ’Designed by Apple in California.’ That’s the kind of attitude we need more of in Detroit."

Detroit is home to Ilitch, whose family owns Little Caesars Pizza, MotorCity Casino Hotel as well as the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers. Denise Ilitch Designs sells $25 graffiti-splashed Detroit logo T-shirts alongside $1,150 drusy and mother of pearl sterling silver bracelets — both designed by Ilitch herself — in the front of the office where she co-publishes Ambassador magazine.

DID has gained attention from the Detroit area’s fashion-forward since launching in 2005, but the company is trying to grow nationally, reaching out to Detroit expatriates in cities from New York to Los Angeles to market the MotorCity-themed clothing line.

The company has focused on word-of-mouth marketing and is featured in fashion spreads in Ilitch’s Ambassador magazine.

But "there is always potential for an international market," she said. "With the growth of social media and the Internet, the world becomes much smaller."

Ilitch is expanding her line of clothing and jewelry next month with the arrival of Detroit-themed charms, including the Olde English Detroit Tigers "D” and the Red Wings’ octopus mascot. There also will be a collection of 20 scarves, ranging from a $35 gauze shawl to a $400 hand-beaded gold lam�© wrap.

One lesson Ilitch learned at Ambassador is that "positive news sells," she said. "It is incredibly fulfilling to feature our community in a positive way."

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