I grew-up in Mexico City in a family with sparse resources – some call it poor. My two sisters and I shared the workload within the household. I was cooking by the time I was 10. My parents, who worked very hard for little pay, encouraged us to make our own toys and games and find our own entertainment.
As the 3rd and youngest I also learned how to make the best of the hand-me-downs that came my way. In fact, my creative gift was rescuing what my sisters saw as old throw-away clothes and reviving them into something I enjoyed wearing. By the time I was 13, I was making my own clothes and soon after that I began designing for others.
Sometimes I resented my childhood but now that I’m older I see it prodded me to be resourceful. My parents’ love was always there but I realized if I wanted something done for myself, I needed to do it on my own.
Between those childhood memories and today, I have leaned heavily on those early habits I developed. I saw my self-reliance kick-in when I was 17 – as a new mother moving to the states – Los Angeles – with my daughter’s father. Four months later we had a horrible break-up. I spoke no English, had no family there except for my infant daughter – and we were homeless.
I landed work as a nanny but on my weekends I would go to L.A.’s fashion district. Little by little, I started making friends and began merging into the industry. I fell in love with all of its resources: fabrics, trims, services and the other creative minds to share ideas with. As it happened, I also fell in love with a Michigander and we all moved to Detroit. However, I made regular trips back to L.A. to consult for large companies in the fashion industry.
About this time Michigan was hit by the economic crisis. I knew first hand what a huge impact this was going to have on the many businesses that are a structural part of the industry – designers, pattern makers, sewers, manufacturing management, logistics and the list goes on. I didn’t want to be part of the problem so I decided to bring what I knew to “the table“ of my community. I set off to share my vision of what a Michigan Fashion Industry could be.
This is how the Detroit Fashion Collective was born. It will be a place where training, resources, development, production and distribution come together with one objective in mind – grow the independent labels into successful businesses!
I travel to the fashion Meccas often so after looking at the pollution, over priced housing and not many genuine or meaningful interactions among people, I decided Detroit is the place. We have great creative minds here … super talented individuals with good values, positive attitudes and a strong sense of community.
I’ve spent the last two years working to create the infrastructure for the Detroit Fashion Collective. But I see the building as just a shell to house what’s happening there. At the end of the day the fashion industry is about ideas, about passion, about the things you can bring to the table. It’s about its people.
Maybe that’s why I do love it. We can start without a whole lot – With a yard of fabric you can create a dress and a product that other people would look at and say, “I want to order it.” You now are producing something, have a beautiful dress to show, and you’re profiting from it!
The Detroit Fashion Collective has symposiums where you can bring your talent, skills and aspirations. The events are open to the public and provide information on how to get started and structure a business within the fashion industry, how to move forward to manufacturing, distribution and advertising.
I’ve been working to create a good infrastructure so even if you don’t have a lot of money we’ll have a team of angel investors. If you prove yourself with consistent ideas that are salable, there are people willing to help. I’m proud of myself for putting this together but the credit extends to those fashion professionals who are stepping-up to make it happen.
By the way, about eight years ago I got a divorce – another heartrending episode in my life that made me start over yet again. I still shed tears that I put my daughter, who’s now 18, through that period of turbulence and homelessness. However, she has emerged strong and vibrant. I am proud of her.
For me, this is one of the reasons it is very important to open this collective. I think a lot of people find themselves in the same situation that I was – that sense of displacement with losing their work and homes. And kids coming out of school without the direction or opportunities they need.
My vision is for us to make the Fashion Collective happen. Detroit, you have the talent, space, and will power. Let’s use our self-reliance and community spirit to make it happen here!