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Fashion & Technology: Could industry cross-breeding become Detroitís future?

Fotoula Lambros
Fotoula Lambros
by Fotoula Lambros

A new generation of design talent is emerging from Detroit, along with many different apparel-based concepts and companies. Lifestyle labels, independent designers, manufacturing facilities, and community-oriented projects have all promoted a new wave of design-driven businesses that contribute to the creative economy. 

The Detroit "brand" has been defined across the world by its history. Now, it is being redefined by its future.
One industry that has blossomed over the last decade is fashion. In this time, Detroit has seen numerous creative endeavors “start-up” and show their stuff. Some designers native to Detroit have found their current success in New York and beyond, while others insist on keeping their roots in Detroit’s soil.
Internationally, Detroit has a legacy. Ford, Olds, Buick and others collectively resourced the right technologies that eventually changed the future of Detroit’s automotive industry. They all made something, and they made it in Detroit. Their contribution to the Michigan economy created an abundance of jobs and streets full of people.  
The “Made in the USA” or even “Made in Detroit” tag has lost a bit of its glory over the last 50 years. In fashion, as in other industries, product development is heavily reliant on outsourcing.

However, many new apparel professionals are laying the foundation to diversify our region and keep production close to home. This includes apparel design and production for the many lifestyle brands in the city.
Recent efforts to create a new economy in Detroit have resulted in several corporate additions, backing of early stage technology companies, and funding toward non-profit organizations. All are necessary in the redevelopment of the downtown area and its surrounding neighborhoods.

Organizations such as the Michigan Garment Industry Council have been formed, bringing together major players in Michigan’s apparel industry. The Council is full of fiber and textile producers, manufacturing facilities, suppliers and designers.

So here's the question: While Detroit is aiming to become the “Silicon Valley of the Midwest," making more capital accessible to technology-based companies, how can we weave the apparel industry into this opportunity?
The answer lies in the relevance of fashion and its partnership with technology companies across the world. With numerous shopping sites, pin boards, and bloggers shared daily in such mass, an online presence is crucial for any fashion business to be competitive, in Detroit or around the world.
Since fashion is 90% marketing, and social media use is at a high, why aren’t apparel businesses considered to be an investment property, as potentially lucrative as technology, in the renaissance of Detroit’s creative economy?
Over the years, the Small Business Association, MEDC and STEP have enlisted different programs to support entrepreneurs, but integrating technology is not considered as important as export potential. Leaders in the new media sector should consider programs that integrate independent labels and apparel businesses with compatible companies that remain based in Detroit and at the forefront of their markets.
Connecting independent brands with technology-based businesses here in Detroit will change the game. Empowering local apparel businesses with programs designed to spread media awareness will drive sales and create commerce.

Businesses may start-up in Detroit, but without innovative programs to support them, they may never become competitive in today’s market. The online world is full of consumers waiting to find Detroit-branded goods, and our responsibility is to make it available in a cutting-edge way.

Thoughts? Join the conversation here.

Fotoula Lambros is the force behind Fotoula Lambros Design, a Detroit-based fashion company dedicated to avant garde thinking and design. Recognized by Women's Wear Daily, Styleline Magazine and StartUp Fashion, FLD is a naturally focused, sustainable, fashion forward, Ready to Wear label.

Photo of The Empowerment Plan by Marvin Shaouni Photography.

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