Detroit continues to earn its mark as a fashion hub that the country — and world — is paying attention to. Now, another industry leader and Michigan native is creating a space for Black designers — and bringing along notable and emerging Detroit-bred creatives for the ride.
Maison Black is a new curated online retail shop for accessible luxury fashion by Black designers. According to a press release, Maison Black aims to help designers increase their brand awareness and customer base while providing consumers a source for Black talent and design. The marketplace was founded by Tori Nichel, a Michigan-born, New York-based designer who has worked for brands like Kenneth Cole and Tibi and is now a design director for Kohl’s.
In anticipation of Maison Black’s online launch later this fall, the company will present Manhattan to Motown, an invite-only runway presentation on Oct. 20 in Detroit. It will showcase the work of six fashion designers from the Motor City who went on to make waves in New York: Kevan Hall, Isaiah Hemmingway, Aaron Potts of A.Potts, Nicole King of N’Gai, Shawna McGee of S. McGee Collection, and Sharryl Cross of Truth.
Ahead of the show, we spoke with Cross, who launched her contemporary women’s apparel and accessory brand earlier this year after moving back home to Michigan in 2020, to learn more about her work. She will present Truth’s fall 2021 collection and a preview of the spring/summer 2022 collection at the Manhattan to Motown show.
Hour Detroit: Can you tell us about your time in New York?
Sharryl Cross: In 2008, I moved to New York and I started off as an assistant working for Macy’s. I basically made a plan to become a senior designer within five years — which is actually what happened. I worked really hard and I kept getting promoted every year and I ended up as the dress designer for [Macy’s private label] INC. I got promoted several times within that brand. I was able to design for different categories as the denim designer, bottoms designers, skirts, and then I ended up being a dress designer. Within that time it was really cool because I would see my dresses in Macy’s home store in Herald Square. Also, I had some looks in InStyle magazine and Vogue. Working for that first company — I was there for about seven and a half years — that kind of set the tone for my career. And then after that, I went on to work for companies like Kohl’s, Elizabeth & James by the Olsen twins, Juicy Couture, J.Crew, and it was pretty exciting.
How does your experience in fashion influence how you design for Truth?
I was a mass-market designer [in New York]. There are all kinds of designers, but most of the time when you say, “fashion design,” people automatically think of like the luxury brands, like, “Oh, did you work for Donna Karan or Gucci?” I actually chose not to go that route. I chose to become a mass-market designer — which is stores like Kohl’s, J.Crew, and Macy’s —and the benefit of that is you learn what the masses want, and you kind of learn how to take your concepts and these crazy ideas but make it wearable. So, that does have a lot of influence on the way that I design. I don’t just want to come up with some crazy design that is super expensive that nobody’s going to wear. I want my customer to love it and want to wear it over and over again. But it’s still not something you get from a Zara or H&M — it’s a contemporary price point for a contemporary customer. When she looks at the garment, she understands what she’s getting in quality, in the fabric, and in the aspect of the garment.
What influences the vibrant colors and patterns that you work with?
Everyday life, honestly. I literally could be influenced by anything I see; it could be carpet, it could be interior, it could be a car, it could be a piece of art. Personally, I just love, love, love color. Thinking back to my time in the industry, the compliments that I was given, they would always say, “Wow, you have a really good eye for color and pattern.” I really don’t know where that part comes from, but I am so drawn to things in nature, even something like a butterfly. I just see the world in vivid, bright colors and that’s how I tend to design my prints and color palettes.
What can you tell us about your fall 2021 and spring/summer 2022 collections you’re presenting for Manhattan to Motown?
In the fall collection, I will have about eight different styles. In the spring, I am looking to do, eight to 10 pieces. So, I was able to grow it a little bit more. Along the lines of sustainability, I’m trying my best to use natural fabrics. So, my line is based on using a lot of cotton — cotton poplins and cotton voiles or lightweight, beautiful cottons— and the challenge is getting it to drape nicely and still communicate a very feminine flow. This time around, I will have some recycled poly options and then for the summer, I’ll have a silk blend, which is also natural. But if I do use synthetics, it’ll be like a recycled synthetic, so it’s less harmful to the environment. Speaking to the prints for fall —I’m really into animal; I think it’s very edgy. So, you’ll see some leopard prints and some really feminine silhouettes, but it’ll create a very edgy look. And then also what people will see is, I took one of my paintings and I made it into a print. So, I’m using one of those paintings as a print and it’s going to be used in the maxi dress. I think it’s going to be a big hit, hopefully.
How does it feel to be a part of the Maison Black launch?
It’s a historic moment because it’s an online marketplace for Black designers. Instead of us waiting for the gatekeeper to open the door for us — we’re tired of that — we have taken the opportunity to create our own door. …We are all from Michigan and we’re all a part of this launch. So, we think it’s going to be really successful and really great.
All the collections presented at the runway show will all be available to purchase at the public Manhattan to Motown pop-up shop at Shinola’s 441 Canfield St. location. The pop-up will be open from 2-6 p.m. on Oct. 21 and noon to 6 p.m. on Oct. 22 and 23. In addition to Maison Black’s pop-up at Shinola, Cross’ fall collection will be available on her brand’s website, truthbeboldbetruebeyou.com, starting Oct. 21.
For more information on Maison Black, visit maisonblack.shop.