The fashion industry is growing and a new generation of designers want to put their unique stamp on it. Two local organizations have teamed up to help young people in the metro Detroit area do just that.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan collaborated with Tori Nichel, the founder of Black-owned fashion brand Maison Black, to create the Black Men in Fashion Mentorship Program in 2020. The program connects young Black men with industry professionals to teach them about all things fashion, from sewing to textiles to navigating race-based barriers.
“It’s been life-changing.” — Langston Howard, designer
This February, the five young men in the program get the unique opportunity to show off their designs at New York Fashion Week 2023. One of these young men is Langston Howard, a 13-year-old student at Detroit Country Day Middle School.
“My outfit is designed off of primarily African American themes and things that have happened in the past,” Howard says. “Being with another African American designer was amazing, and just the whole experience has just been awesome. It’s been life-changing.”
Howard is already selling his clothing online. His brand is called The Top Athletics, featuring stylish hoodies and t-shirts with Detroit-inspired designs. He says his success is happening more quickly than he could have imagined.
“I started about a year ago and over the last year I’ve been able to sell to a couple of celebrities, made it onto a couple of networks and news channels and I’m just continuing to grow.”
Shawn Wilson is the president and CEO of the BGCSM. He says this opportunity is opening doors for young men who didn’t know they could be in fashion in any way.
“They actually come in as artists, and they don’t even recognize that they can transform their art into fashion,” Wilson says. “I think that’s been another big ‘aha’ that I’ve seen. The program has so many talented artists who now are learning how to monetize their art in various ways.”
For many of these young Detroiters, it’s the first time they’re leaving the city. BGCSM is raising funds for a seamless experience. Donations directly support the costs of the fashion show in NYC on February 7, including travel and hotel costs, and the development of garments for the fashion show. These funds open possibilities for youth residing in communities or attending schools with limited artistic outlets or resources.