College for Creative Studies students team up with Carhartt to create sustainable fashion

Four teams of Detroit students designed durable workwear using reclaimed Carhartt garments and materials.

tan and black oxford-style shoes

Tough Toe Oxford shoes designed by Clay Berkholtz.

During their 2022 Fall/Winter semester, students at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit had the opportunity to team up with Dearborn-based workwear company, Carhartt. Fashion Design and Color and Materials Design students were tasked with creating a story of sustainability using returned and damaged Carhartt garments.

a person with shoulder-length hair poses in an oversized green outfit with the Carhartt patch during golden hour
Face Mask Slip On shoe, designed and modeled by Shannon Berr.

Aki Choklat is the Linda Dresner Endowed Chair in Fashion Design at CCS. He says Detroit has a thriving fashion community on the rise.

“We have many companies that have already come to us,” Choklat tells CultureShift. “When Bottega Veneta came to do their show, we were all kind of freaking out. It really brought a lot of attention to Detroit.”

The course split the class into four groups, each having its own unique prompt to work with. Most of the students in the course are native to Detroit and metro Detroit and were inspired by their own communities to create clothing for people in everyday working situations.

a person with their hair pulled back sits in a workshop wearing a canvas apron with several layered pockets
Deconstructed Work Apron, designed by Nassim Haghighi, Mikayla Hoak, Mary Elizabeth James and Sofia Proen.

Choklat says this course, like so many other classes at CCS, are created to give students a real-world view of their industries.

“Anthropological field study is really important. We sent the students out there to observe… They went out there and they connected with the people in the neighborhood. So that’s a really important part of the research.”

One of the four personas the students created designs for were the urban farmers here in Detroit. They designed a pair of pants and two pairs of shoes using materials like puffer jacket samples, face masks and scrap leather.

Choklat says designers need to have a wide variety of skills to keep up with a changing fashion industry.

“They need to have very good digital skills nowadays. Of course, creative thinking, ability to translate original ideas into a product… It’s all part of the education.”

The CCS student designs will be shown at a major international trade show in Italy this June. The course will be offered again this fall to a new set of students.

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  • Tia Graham
    Tia Graham is a reporter and Weekend Edition Host for 101.9 WDET. She graduated from Michigan State University where she had the unique privilege of covering former President Barack Obama and his trip to Lansing in 2014.