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Fashion

Garment district

Three designers stand out by staying true to form

AUDIO

WDET interviews Rebecca Mazzei about the cover story. (MP3)
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Published 4/23/2008

Photographer Cybelle Codish has this incredible 10,000-square-foot studio in this warehouse over on Holden Street. One day recently, after a meeting about Metro Times' fashion issue, we decided to scope out what goes on in the rest of the place.

Talk about multi-use. Besides her studio, the building houses Recy-clean, the city's main recycling facility, which picks up all the trash at construction sites. It's also the distribution center for Michigan Green Safe disposable products and the base of operations for Recycle Here, a grass-roots program for neighborhood drop-off. And, since 1998, Holden Street has been like a second home for several dozen Detroit bands practicing in Metronome Studios. All businesses are run by the same young guy, Matt Naimi.

Not to be confused with other 300,000-square-foot warehouses in Detroit, this warehouse is very much alive. It's where garbage goes to get reborn. The interior has incredible formal visual power, and it opened my eyes to possibilities when considering context, or, how to frame the eclectic styles of a few Detroit fashion designers, at different stages in their careers. (We didn't even realize until afterward that it also happens to be Earth Week.)

"I love him," Codish said admiringly as Geoff LaRue, shoes untied, mugged for her camera. New to this game, the 19-year-old freshman hand-prints and dyes his women's garments (which he learned from his professor, textile artist Urban Jupena). His designs are walking paintings reminiscent of West Coast Cholo-style graffiti, which is why we captured him in front of rehearsal space, by painter Rick Butynski's wall work.

Adam Vitick wishes he were more "charming" — that's what he told us in his interview — yet his sense for the understated is precisely what makes his designs appealing. (That, and they are meticulously sewn). Spinning ironically off prim New England style, Vitick's clothing for men and women is a coastal palette of sea and stone, so we shot him near the loading dock.

Emilia Valentina has created bold, provocative clothing for a decade. She's now in conversation with Macy's about carrying her line, Anelé. A self-described "auto brat," she grew up in Italy influenced by the set that walks to school in stilettos. Valentina has her own potent brand of magnetism, and her style transformed a pile of old city light posts and used televisions into what Codish calls a "Vanity Fair cover."

What drew us to these three talents in particular? Their clothes are not merely hip or interesting; they reflect each designer's personality. That impression was so strong we pressured them into modeling their own clothes (when possible). They didn't do so bad.

Makeup and hair by Tammy Pore.
Consulting by Azra Hajdarevic.
Shoes from Sole Sisters (87 E. Canfield, Detroit; 313-831-9013).

Geoffrey LaRue
by Metro Times arts staff

Age 19. Wayne State fashion design student.

Adam Vitick
by Metro Times arts staff

Age 23. Recent Wayne State graduate, freelance designer.

Emilia Valentina
by Metro Times arts staff

Age 30. Designer of Anelé.

Holding Court
by Rebecca Mazzei
A party for Detroit's 'post-punks, disco funks and radical pro-consumers'

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