Friday, March 23, 2012

Not Your Average Fashionista

When we started this website I knew that I wanted to feature one of my favorite things about Detroit. We have an ever growing fashion community with its own unique style, vibe, and swagger. I wanted to make sure to feature some of the special artists that I admire and follow. Today I introduce you to WOUND Menswear and the creator and designer, Sarah Lapinski.

Sarah is a local designer that has been featured in many magazines including Real Detroit, Metro Times, Ready Made and Twist. She has a unique style of her own and always seems to have a smile on her face.  She has done everything from attend fashion week in Istanbul, to helping a charity that teaches women in Shelters how to sew on industrial machines. She truly is an inspiring person.

Sarah has a few upcoming Fashion events that I think any Detroiter who wants to break into the local scene should attend. First, she will be be vending with Angela McBride of Peace Love Spandex, Fotoula Lambros Design, Urban Pheasant Glass and Aptemal this weekend at The Detroit Bike City's First Annual Bicycle Show and Swap Meet. This show features 100+ vendors from all over the Midwest showing, selling and swapping bicycles, parts and everything bikes. Admission is $8 and is Free for kids under 12. Detroit Bike City will be held on March 24, 2012 from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm in The Michigan Hall at COBO Center,1 Washington Blvd, Detroit, MI 48226.

The next event she will be attending, is the Michigan Fashion Symposium, an event created to bring a fashion district to Detroit. The Symposium is a 2 weekend event with a mission to centralize information, resources and network for the Michigan Fashion Industry with relevant information regardless of your specialties and skills. This is a meeting of the mind’s, a place to network, and a place to learn more about how to brand yourself and what you do. Sarah describes this event as “a real gathering of the minds”.

Read ahead to learn a little more about Sarah, where she has been, what she has done, and where she is going. I warn you , she is very inspiring and witty, so this one is a good read.

HipInDetroit -
When did you decide that you wanted to start making clothes?

Sarah -
"It was a natural progression. I wanted more of a challenge so I sought out more complicated styles and constructions. I respect the craft immensely. There is so much to learn. It's basically architecture for the body, which involves accuracy and precision."

HipInDetroit - How did you get started? It says on your website,, that you are "self taught"? Explain?

Sarah - "I received my Grandmother's vintage Singer Sewing machine upon graduating college. It was beautiful. It only sewed forward and backwards just enough to get started. To learn the basics, I began with a simple project - a stuffed animal. I made piles of those suckers. I still have my first one perched on my desk. I sewed maniacally! I couldn't wait to get home to sew, I sewed until I had to leave each day.

To be honest, I was never into fashion. I didn't grow up dreaming to be a fashion designer, not that I don't love the act and art of getting dressed up or the amazing imagery created in the name of fashion. Frankly, I think I'm just too practical. I graduated with a degree in Urban and Labor Studies, I planned to travel the world developing economies. However, I did see sewing as a language and tool for doing just that!"

HipInDetroit -
Why men's wear instead of women's clothing, being that you are a sexy women yourself?

Sarah - "Oh why thank you! Not that boobs get boring but like so many other things it happened fairly serendipitously. Pure Detroit opened a concept boutique - the Design Lab that sold the creations of local independent designers. It was there I met a community that I didn't know existed. It got my out of my attic. Thankfully, because I was going stir crazy.

Men would come into the boutique and figure out quickly that it served mainly women. While women are the top consumers of fashion, men represent an underserved market with plenty of disposable cash. So, it was a no-brainer. I rallied the director of the store, Sarah Lurtz, to join me and Wound was born. Believe me, we didn't know how to sew menswear much less pattern it! Hence the name. We began by altering, embellishing, deconstructing and reconstructing vintage clothes and screening tee's by hand using the artwork of our friends.

It's been great working with men! I think I would go crazy if I was surrounded by women all the time - balance, you know. Considering I'm not that big into fashion per se and we can talk more about the engineering of the thing." 

HipInDetroit - Your website describes your aesthetic as "wabi-sabi" from Japanese culture, what does that mean?

Sarah - "Beauty in the imperfect, unfinished and natural."

HipInDetroit -
What is WOUND Menswear's typical prospective client?

Sarah - "Design professionals, Musicians, Dandies, Wanderers, Robin Hoods and Poets. Hoteliers, Gallerists, Bicyclists."

HipInDetroit -
Where do you create, at home, in a studio, in a space?

Sarah - "In studio."

HipInDetroit -
You have quite a few collections on your website, do you also do custom orders? 

Sarah - "I have, I will."

HipInDetroit -
What is The Empowerment Plan Project? What is your involvement with it?

Sarah - "I got to live part of my dream! I trained women in the shelter system to use industrial equipment. For her college design project, Veronika Scott designed coats that transformed into sleeping bags. It included the social element of breaking the cycle of homelessness. People helping each other, people helping themselves. Her work has been featured in Good Morning America, Forbes, the New York Times and so much more!"

HipInDetroit - What is the plan for the future? Any special projects in the works?

Sarah - "I have a few things up my sleeve. For the time being, I'm enjoying more art based projects and installations. Its a nice reprieve. The last year of my life was full of tumultuous change, good and bad. As I recover and grow from that, my focus is on self-discovery so I can put my best foot forward on the next 5-10 year journey.

Fashion design is ultimately manufacturing. I devoted ten years of my life and money to learning that. No school could have taught me what I now know. I have no debt, a solid history, network of vendors and business skills. Not to dis school, you can make great, long-lasting connections in that environment, while learning the craft. I was just following my inner voice and taking it to the limit. I have run the clothing label and its sister company, Motor City Sewing, solo for the last 5 years. Serious burnout loomed. I needed to step off the train for a minute and regroup, before it crashed with me on it. Now I can refine my vision and honor my values in consideration of how I want my life to play out, how I can live my purpose using past experiences as a launching pad.

I'm dedicated to finding more Eco-sustainable methods of doing business. Specifically the legalization of industrial hemp for growing and weaving in Michigan. I can't go on enough about the benefits of hemp!!!!

Also, I've found work in the Advertising industry on this hiatus. I truly believe there are no accidents. This is a creative business with a lot of powerful tools. Simply put, it's communications. Community building and opportunity creation are things I've always just done. That may play out here while finding ways to merge the two for the gain of both." 

HipInDetroit - You recently traveled to fashion shows in Istanbul, what was that like?

Sarah - "As a member of the recently formed Michigan Garment Industry Council, the offer to attend Istanbul's Fashion Week was extended to me. MGIC, though fledgling, is an amazing collection of people all across the spectrum. I have made incredible contacts through the work of the Prima Civitas Foundation that managed to put, not only MGIC together but coordinated this exploratory trip. Aside from members of the fashion industry there are many civic players, primarily in economic development. It is a very exciting time for fashion in Detroit! It is nearing critical mass.

We were guests of the Turkish government. They courted an international delegation. French journalists, Persian boutique owners, and Hungarian photographers traveled with us. It was quite the mix! They seek to champion and market their burgeoning fashion industry. They have always been players as straight manufacturers but not until recently have they focused on the creative and ideation side.

Turkey is a beautiful, fascinating country. I was fortunate to uncover this in person after I had researched and taught it for my History of Fashion class at CCS this past fall. It's interesting how much things change and ebb and flow over time. It was the center of power for many centuries. In the past 20 years it has embarked on an aggressive strategy to regain some of its influence.

Overall the fashion presentations were solid, very professionally choreographed and full of variety. It's not to the clip of a NYC or Paris fashion week but it is well attended, managed and regarded. We were also treated to studio visits. Among my favorites were Gunseli Turkey and Studio Karpol. There was a young menswear designer that blew my mind but he was part of another studio. Side note, Jermaine Jackson walked the runway and Turkish soap opera stars had their privileged front row seats. I'd love to know who else was there." 

HipInDetroit- What do you think Is unique about the Detroit Fashion scene as opposed to the bigger markets like L.A. And N.Y.C.?

Sarah - "Like Turkey we can serve the surrounding areas first and then advance. We are on an international border, we have affordable land for industry and housing, we are under-girded by our deep industrial mass production heritage which spawned and supported many creative disciplines, not to mention the ad world. We also have talented, experienced immigrant and native populations that could be paid a living wage.

The market has changed in a way that prefers fast, regular deliveries we call these immediates. The market demands constant change and mass customization. Having proximity to your supply chain is really the best system to compete. However, there is also a trend toward authenticity, humanity and locality. Boutique sized manufacturing can be adept at this."

HipInDetroit- Are there any other local talents that you think our readers should keep an eye out for?

Sarah - "My fashion besties are Angela McBride and Fotoula Lambros. Props to Emily Thornhill :)
I really don't know who the kids coming up are! There are a handful of very fashion forward kids running around that do a lot of clothing improv."

HipInDetroit -
We always like to ask what are your favorite local bars, restaurants, bands, clubs, stores?

Sarah - "I love Atlas! It's had craft cocktails before The Sugar House and Oakland. They have a great collection of local art and a delicious always changing menu. El Barzon is always tops!
Best kept secret for Mexican food is Nuestra Famiglia. I don't like keeping these secrets because I want them to stay in business! Zen Center for raw yumminess and unique atmosphere. My fave bars I will keep secret but you can find me at the usual haunts too.
Can't wait for Rodin to open! Bands: Gardens, FlashClash, Detroit Party Marching Band, The Isles of ESP, Dark Red, Danny Brown, and Invincible."


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