What started as a hobby blossomed into a fashion statement that echoes the revitalization and regrowth of the rebounding Detroit city.
Détroit is the New Black (DITNB) represents the entrepreneurial past and industrious future of downtown retail, locally sourcing material and vendors that all contribute to the idea of community and conversation.
We had a moment to hang out with Roslyn Karamoko, the Founder & CEO of Détroit is the New Black, and talk about the origins of her business. “I think this store is important for Detroit,” said Karamoko.
We have the inside look on the hottest new retail trend on Woodward Ave., along with the location, hours, and an interview that you won’t want to miss.
Something for Everyone
“I started the brand a little over two years ago and it just started with the logo tee shirt,” began Karamoko. “I had just moved to Detroit and I found it to be a cool place to be. It was totally the new hip and the new cool. There were also so many facets of the city that people weren’t talking about and there were conversations I thought that needed to be had.”
The concept of DITNB is to function as a conversation piece with the city of Detroit as the subject.
“I thought about the French history of the city, and Détroit came to mind. It totally lent itself to fashion: the new black, the new hip, the new cool,” she explains.
The logo tees come in two styles: the Woodward Crewneck and V Neck Tee.
They bear the original logo, “Detroit is the New Black,” or the French interpretation, “Détroit est le Nouveau Noir.” Colors include black, grey, and white and range from $29.00 – $34.00.
“I started with the logo tee shirts,” the founder continued. “I gave them to friends as a Christmas gift. One year, people started to ask, ‘Where did you buy it,’ so I started selling online. I started vending at places like Eastern Market and all around the city and community. I wanted to get feedback on how people felt about it and the response it created.
I started expanding to other things like hoodies, varsity jackets and sweaters, using different logo ideas and really turning it into more of a brand as opposed to just a logo tee shirt.”
The hoodies and sweatshirts can have everything from the DITNB logo, to the newest embroidered design, “D.” Prices range from $54.00 – $64.00.
“I opened a store in Midtown in early 2015 and I was there for about a year and a half. We were hosting other designer pop ups, rotating things in the space, and we also had art for purchase,” she continued.
“Artist Leon Dickey, who had done the visuals in the Midtown store, is an artist in the area and I just love his work,” admits Karamoko. “It really worked out that we had this space so he could create on a bigger level.”
The design of the store is an art piece in itself.
The black, charcoaled art pieces, seen in various locations around the store, harken to the great Detroit fire of the 1800s. Even if you don’t know the story, you’ve seen Detroit today: we rose from the ashes, an idea that represents the city’s goal of revitalization.
“We were there for a year and a half in Midtown and then we moved to Corktown to open up the production piece of the business,” explained Karamoko. “We bought some printing equipment and started screening our own stuff. We started expanding to mesh layering pieces that we think elevates the graphic business. It also allows you to dress up with a tee shirt. I really want to get into the supply chain piece of it and start producing fashion here in Detroit.
The real idea for the brand is inclusivity,” she continued, “representing the positive side of what Detroit has to offer. That’s what really translates in the store.
We have other local businesses and local designers that we think are great. It’s almost like a retail co-op or a retail incubator. We have the lip bar, which is a local vegan cosmetic company; super affordable. Lip-glosses start at $11.90. We have Tracey Reese’s pre fall collection. She’s also a Detroit native and she’s a pretty big name in the industry. We have a local leather company, Douglas & Co.: they do great bags, wallets and candles. We’ve expanded our private label and created a Flint tee shirt, which we’re donating a percent of the proceeds to the Chamber of Commerce to aid in the water crisis.
The idea is that you can come in here and buy something for $10 to a $30,000 art piece. There’s something for everybody. It’s about bringing all of the brands in house to this aggregate shop located in the city that people can access. To be affordable, local: pretty much Eastern Market for fashion!
All of the art is numbered and can be purchased. The back of the place doubles as a rotating gallery. Right now, we have Leon Dickey who has done the work in the front. We have some of his larger sculpture pieces. We will also use this space for community events, like poetry, lectures, and yoga. We want the diversity of our customers to translate into our social events. That’s how you get people to talk about their feelings and where they want to see the city go. I think this store is important for Detroit. I feel like Detroit is so community focused.
I just wanted to create awareness with the brand. We have a following so we want to know the issues we should all be talking about. I think we have to think about retail differently. It’s experiential: it’s not just a flat going in, buying something, and leaving. You want to have a real moment and take something away from every moment you experience. That’s what we hope to create.”
You can visit DITNB Monday – Saturday from 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. and Sunday 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. The store is located at 1426 Woodward Ave.