The Detroit Garment Group has been helping the fashion community in Michigan stitch its way to success since it was founded in 2012.
Just ask Daune Smith.
After hearing about the nonprofit organization through a friend, she decided to become a member. Smith, 57, is one of the 70 individuals and companies who have joined the group.
“I needed a place to house my business in lieu of my home,” Smith says. “The rent was reasonable, and it was in TechTown.”
Karen Buscemi, founder and president of the Detroit Garment Group, started the organization in response to a need for business education among the fashion community in Michigan.
While working as the editor for StyleLine magazine, she recalls how there was a plethora of good fashion-design programs in the state. However, she didn’t see any of them teaching business classes.
“This is the thing that I want to do forever. I need to know how to make it do more than just pay bills.” – Daune Smith, Needle Artist and Fashion Designer
“If we want to grow this community, to start businesses, to create jobs, to add to the economy, we’re going to need some business education for our fashion community,” Buscemi says.
She decided DGG could help put the fashion community in Michigan on the industry’s national map. The four-year-old nonprofit with headquarters in Detroit focuses on cultivating economic development and education opportunities in the Michigan fashion community and the cut-and-sew manufacturers of all industries.
“Our goals are to retain talent, provide training in a skilled trade that pays a living wage, job creation and business attraction,” Buscemi says.
Smith works as a needle artist who creates unique and versatile styles and “one-of-a- kind” clothing for women. As a member of the organization, she participated in a diverse group of programs.
The DGG hosts major programs such as its annual FashionSpeak conference, which focuses on the business of fashion and is the state’s only conference for the fashion industry.
The organization also hosts the Fashion Incubator at Tech Town. It provides designers with machinery and workspace as well as business workshops and mentorships to help teach them how to become successful entrepreneurs.
“I’ve been in a number of programs gaining as much business knowledge as I can, like ProsperUs, which got me started on my first business plan,” Smith says. “Then, S.C.O.R.E., which helped me tighten it up for a success microloan presentation. Then, there is Lifeline, an excellent group of professionals that will help you streamline your plan and own it.”
Similar to Buscemi, Smith understands the importance of business education among the Michigan fashion community.
“For me, it is paramount,” she says. “This is the thing that I want to do forever. I need to know how to make it do more than just pay bills. There are a lot of fashion-savvy people in this city without a clue as to what direction to turn to start their beautiful journey.”
The journey of helping DGG grow from an unknown nonprofit to what it is today has taken a lot of hard work. Every minute of time and effort is absolutely worth it, Buscemi says.
The biggest reward for her has been “making a difference in people’s lives and helping to make people’s dreams come true.”
She’s astounded by the connections she’s made since joining the organization. It is a great fit for those who would like to learn more about the business side of the fashion industry, according to Smith.
“If you’re making fashion-related items, looking for a business address, access to machines and business resources, 24-hour access and a great work environment, then come and see the DGG,” she says.
About Daune R. Smith
Daune R. Smith started crocheting wearable items in 2008. While visiting The Style Gallery, a boutique in her neighborhood, one of the proprietors admired a picture of a knitted fingerless glove in a magazine and expressed a desire to know someone who could make it for her. Daune said she could, went home, made it and brought it back. That was the beginning of Visual Noise. Today, she sells her creations in local boutiques, and plans to start the Metro Detroit Chapter of The Crochet Guild.
Editor’s Note: For more information on DGG Fashion Incubator designers-in-residence, visit detroitgarmentgroup.org.