At 33, Taylor resident Camelle Watson seems to have it all. By day, she’s a nurse at Detroit Receiving Hospital, serving as “the eyes and the ears” for perioperative patients who have undergone anesthesia. By night — and her four days off — she’s owner of W. Vintage Vibe, a clothing line for men, women, and children that draws in customers from around the nation; and 11,000 worldly followers to her corresponding Instagram page, @wvintagevibe. She’s mother to her sons Maddox, 8, and Silas, 5, and wife to her adoring husband, James, who refuses to model her brand’s quirky pocket squares, lapel pins, and tie bars. “He hates taking pictures with a passion!” Watson says with a laugh.
But she assures me that her Instagram feed, which portrays a lifestyle of constant restaurant-hopping and party-going in downtown Detroit, all while doing so in photoshoot-worthy ensembles, is not her reality. As a nurse, Watson works three days with 12-hour shifts. She starts her days at 5 a.m. to get a two-mile run in before work. Though, her exercise routine often continues at Detroit Receiving Hospital. “I’m sprinting to the time clock every morning. It’s the absolute truth,” she says. Watson’s honesty is refreshing, certainly in a time when social media purveys as tool to flaunt the good life rather than everyday life.
W. Vintage Vibe was born out of misfortune. Watson’s father, Gerard Jordan Pittman, a retired Detroit paramedic, had experienced a motorcycle accident that left him hospital-bound in October of 2013. Camelle, having only graduated from Schoolcraft’s nursing program three years prior, was aware of how dire the situation was. Then, 28 years old, she sat by her father’s bedside, praying for his recovery and crafting men’s lapel pins as he slept, manipulating vintage fabrics into button-shaped flowers on a whim. Camelle had developed a fascination with menswear prior to the tragedy, learning seasonal trends in her off-time. She posted the pins to Instagram, and shortly after, more than a few friends began asking if they could get their hands on her creations, offering to pay. “Instagram is the marketplace that started [W. Vintage Vibe] for me.” In February of 2014, Watson’s father would pass away from his injuries. “His death made me realize that time is not promised. It pushed me to follow my dreams and pursue what I have a passion for.”
Soon after, Watson started W. Vintage Vibe, offering a selection of floral print, skinny slip ties, in addition to her flower lapel pins, which were progressive for menswear at the time. Her younger male customers continue to purchase them to this day. “I love men’s fashion. If I could literally eat, breath, and sleep in menswear, I would.” Her brand came to attract an unexpected, new customer: the female friends, partners, and spouses of her male client base, that too wanted a piece of her eclectic aesthetic. The brand owner, whose personal style embraces 70s nostalgia and urban charisma, found herself at a sartorial crux that a plethora of fashion-conscious women face. “As a working full-time mother, I prioritize taking care of my family. While there are so many classic, expensive pieces of clothing that I adore, it’s not feasible for me to splurge on what I wear.”
After crafting a line of womenswear that spewed volumes of personality at an approachable price tag, Watson began traveling around the nation, hopping from Indiana, to Kentucky, St. Louis, Connecticut, Maryland, Texas, and Delaware to host W. Vintage Vibe pop-up shops — and in doing so, amassed her Instagram following. “Until recently, I had not focused on expanding my customer base in Detroit, where I’ve lived my entire life. Using Instagram as a platform to promote W. Vintage Vibe as a family brand has helped me create connections in the metro area and establish my presence.” Watson sells her brand on her website and has recently collaborated with local shop 1441 Woodward Collective to showcase her menswear products for the holiday season. She’s also occupying a vending station at this year’s Detroit Holiday Market, selling her womenswear products and children’s clothing line in Shed 6 at Cadillac Square from Nov. 27 to December 2. In the near future, Watson hopes to open a storefront on Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit. “It’s exciting to take part in Detroit’s rising fashion scene and see what the future holds for the city.”
Photography by Shanna Rein