Resilient Neighborhoods: Corktown nonprofit to highlight local designers with Detroit Day of Fashion

Emanuel Moreno ended up in the fashion world in an unconventional way. The Southwest Detroiter used to be into the graffiti scene when he was younger, but he had too many friends land in trouble with their art, so he decided to channel his creativity in another way. 

"I wanted to continue to do something and not get in trouble," says Moreno. "And I found a way where I can still have my own style, so I transitioned it to clothing andEmanuel Moreno apparel. (Supplied photo/ Emanuel Moreno) fashion."

He connected with Natalie Rivera from the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation (DHDC), who taught him about graphic design and screen and vinyl printing. That led to him designing his own custom t-shirts and eventually launching his own brand, Fresh51 Clothing.

In addition to screen-printed t-shirts, Moreno also makes higher-end pieces.

 "I'm working on a couple of button-ups, where you replace some of the collars and the pockets with bandana material, give it the real urban style look," he says. "I've bought off-white belts. I've cut them up, added them to jackets. I tend to make my own style out of other pieces."

Detroit Day of Fashion

Later this month, Moreno will be one of a dozen local designers participating in a special fashion show organized by DHDC called Detroit Day of Fashion. It will be taking place Friday, March 10 from 6 to 11 p.m. at DHDC's headquarters, which is located at 1211 Trumbull Ave. in Detroit.

"This is a really grassroots Detroit fashion show," says Anita Zavala, DHDC's Social Enterprise and Wealth-Building Manager. "It's a lot of women of color and men of color designers. We're very excited to give them the space to showcase their work in a real professional runway show." 

The event will be indoors at DHDC's youth center space. It will have a runwayRose Marie Lewis (Supplied photo/ Rose Marie Lewis) featuring local models and fashion-based vendor booths. Each of the designers will be showing nine higher-end fashion looks a piece. Music will be provided by DJ Shacoi. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the show itself will run from around 7 to 9:30 p.m. 

Detroit Day of Fashion is connected to Fantazma Market & Cafe, a market created two years ago by DHDC to open up entrepreneurial pathways for Detroiters and local small businesses, especially those owned by people of color. While it typically runs from April to December, the fashion show is timed in coordination with Paris Fashion Week.

"We really want to focus with our Fantasma Market to give space to all the different types of art in Detroit," says Zavala. "We have gallery shows and comedy shows and music showcases and dance-oriented shows, so we definitely wanted to make sure we included fashion."

DHDC hosted a previous fashion show at the market this past September.

Rose Marie Lewis is a local designer who releases her apparel through the Yubehandmade brand, which is known for its designer crocheted swimwear and resort wear. She participated in the September show and will also be part of this month's Detroit Day of Fashion. 

"The first one we had so much fun. I like shows like that," she says. "It was soFall 2023 DHDC fashion show(Supplied photo Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation) smooth and we were able to do the vendor tables."

While Lewis participates in shows out of state, she enjoys the opportunity to share her clothing with customers closer to home.

"I'm really trying to get my brand out there a little more to the people in Detroit," she says. "A lot of my customers aren't from here. So [I'm interested] in getting my name out to more of the young people [around here]."

Zavala is hopeful that the event will help boost the Detroit fashion scene, which she feels is one-of-a-kind.

"Detroit Fashion is unique," she says. "We have grit. We pull ourselves up from our bootstraps. And that is definitely reflected in the design and the fashion of our city. Detroit dresses up and a lot of other places I visit around the country are not that way." 

Upcoming market events

Fantazma Market and Cafe runs this year from April 14 to Dec. 15, and will feature a variety of different themed events.

"Our first show is slated to be a comedy show," says Zavala. "So we'll have a whole slate of local Detroit comedians coming out to perform and then about 20 different small business vendors."

On April 21, the market will feature a label show, which will focus on streetwear. An open mic event will be held there on April 28, followed by a tequila tasting event on Cinco de Mayo. Another fashion show is scheduled to take place at the market in September.

While the design lineup is now closed for the Detroit Day of Fashion. Designers can still reach out to DHDC for the upcoming label show and September fashion show.

Resilient Neighborhoods is a reporting and engagement series that examines how Detroit residents and community development organizations are working together to strengthen local neighborhoods. It's made possible with funding from the Kresge Foundation.
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Read more articles by David Sands.

David Sands is a Detroit-based freelance writer. He's covered the news for Huffington Post Detroit as an assistant editor and worked as a staff writer for the transportation news site Mode Shift. Follow him on Twitter @dsandsdetroit.