Boys and Girls Clubs Fashion Design Industry Club designers, from left, Robert Williams, Chris McKenzie and Shannon Hall answer questions during a fashion show for the sports apparel that they designed.

Boys and Girls Clubs Fashion Design Industry Club designers, from left, Robert Williams, Chris McKenzie and Shannon Hall answer questions during a fashion show for the sports apparel that they designed.

Photo provided by Antonice Strickland


Boys and Girls Club members host fashion show for clothing they designed

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published August 9, 2021

 The club hosted the event at the Eastpointe Foot Locker.

The club hosted the event at the Eastpointe Foot Locker.

Photo provided by Antonice Strickland

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EASTPOINTE — The youths of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan took to the runway and showed off their skills July 31, with a fashion show of sports apparel they designed themselves.

The teens are members of the Boys and Girls Clubs Fashion Design Industry Club. For the last several weeks, they’ve been designing and creating their own line of clothing. They got to show off the finished products and sell them at the Eastpointe Foot Locker store on Eight Mile Road.

“Today, we are releasing the 21st Century Athlete collection designed by our Boys and Girls Club Fashion Design Industry Club members,” explained Antonice Strickland, the senior director of public relations and marketing for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan. “They put the collection out to coincide with an announcement about (the Boys and Girls Clubs’) sports and entertainment club coming in the fall. It really kind of shows how the clubs will work together, because the fashion clubs will create the collection for the athletes. We’re doing a fashion show today to show off the merchandise.”

Chris McKenzie, a junior at Cass Tech High School in Detroit, said the program gave him the chance to get involved in something he’d been interested in for years.

“Before I even joined the program, I was into fashion, like clothes and shoes, so it was like seizing the opportunity to see how people make it happen, because I always wanted to create my own brand,” said McKenzie. “I would look at brands and wonder, ‘How do they do that? What does it take for them to do it?’ Now I have the knowledge and experience to do it myself.”

The event on July 31 offered a fashion show to demonstrate the new clothing, a panel with the creators and a pop-up store where the apparel was sold.

“We did T-shirts, pants, hoodies and zip-ups,” said Strickland. “The youth designed them, and they sketched them out from the beginning, and then they went on to be digitized, and then those ideas were sent to the screen printer. We then get the merchandise and sell it.”

The club members got help from fashion and creative professionals from around Detroit. This included Cassidy and Kelsey Tucker, sisters and co-founders of the Deviate brand.

“We are on a mission to put Detroit on the fashion map,” said Cassidy Tucker. “The partnership with the Boys and Girls Club is really natural and organic, because when they launched the Fashion Design Industry Club, our missions really aligned in working with talent that exists here. It also allowed us the chance to give that talent opportunities and allow them to stay in Detroit.”

The sisters helped educate the club members on different aspects of clothing design and creation.

“My sister and I taught more of the technical side of the program,” Cassidy Tucker said. “This was everything from pattern-making to technical illustration, to actual construction and working on industrial sewing machines. All of that is pretty industry standard, if you want to pursue a career in production or design in fashion. … They do work as our interns, essentially, on work for real clients.”

“Cass and Kelsey taught us how to use the sewing machine. … Every time I looked at that thing, I was thinking I was going to chop off my fingers,” joked club member and Early College of Excellence junior Robert Williams. “The jacket I made has a lot of sweat in it and a little bit of blood. I cut myself more than once making it.”

The student designers said they started from the ground up and wanted to make things that they themselves would want to wear.

“I’m an athlete, so I wanted something comfortable that you can chill in or wear into the store and represent the Boys and Girls Club,” said Shannon Hall, a senior at Cass Tech High School. “My favorite is the hoodie, which I designed and am wearing today.”

The Fashion Design Industry Club is part of an ongoing effort from the Boys and Girls Clubs to shift focus from just after-school activities to also including programs that will prepare its members for life after high school.

“The big picture of the Boys and Girls Club is changing, and we are reimagining how we serve youth, especially in after-school programs,” Strickland said. “We want to make sure they are career, startup and homeowner ready. Even if they don’t go to college, they are exposed to whatever industry they want to pursue. We want them to learn everything from the business side to the marketing side, to the production side, so they can start their own business if they want to.”

Cassidy Tucker said an important part of the program is not just teaching the club members new skills, but also giving them experience and real-world results that they can show to a future employer or school admissions official.

“It’s really cool to help them essentially build their portfolio,” she said. “These students not only have a collaboration with Foot Locker, but also with Moosejaw and Ruthie Davis and other established brands. This is something they can take into business or into college, so it’s really exciting.”

The designers in the program said they learned a lot and think it will give them a significant boost moving forward in life.

“Our goal was to design for the 21st century athlete,” said Williams. “With the experience I have now, I think I have the resources to do more things that I want to.”

“My advice is never give up, and you have to keep working toward it, because eventually you will come up with an idea, and no matter how many times they tell you to rework it, just do it,” added Hall. “Keep creating new ideas. You might like one idea or another one, or you might think of something you never thought of or be able to work with an older idea you might have thrown out before.”

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