College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts alumna Kelsey Tucker has made iconic Woodward Avenue her own runway. Her recently launched brand, Deviate Fashion, has landed a feature in local retail shop, Détroit is the New Black, this holiday season.
Tucker, who earned a fine arts degree in fashion design with a minor in textile design in the spring of 2019, launched her own Detroit-based brand, Deviate Fashion, while she was still a student at Wayne State. Tucker — who worked with her co-founding business partner/sister, Cassidy, on the project — describes Deviate Fashion as an edgy, feminine streetwear brand.
The downtown store recently hosted a launch party, where the Tucker sisters showcased their work. As one of three businesses selected to be part of the year-long brand accelerator program sponsored by Détroit is the New Black and Pure Michigan Business Connect, the program is designed for growing brands seeking to experiment in the brick-and-mortar-space in the Detroit retail market.
“Fashion is all about expressing yourself and being able to combine expression with the connectivity of the community, and then also the functionality of the garment,” she said. “Wayne State had a huge influence on my designs because of everything I saw on campus, the people I interacted with and especially the fashion department.”
Tucker cites the support and mentorship of Wayne State’s faculty — including assistant professor of fashion and fibers, Heather Macali, and fashion merchandising lecturer, Roslyn Johnson-Karamoko, who is also the founder and CEO of Détroit is the New Black — as instrumental to her success and inspiration.
“Heather took me under her wing and mentored me. She exposed me to the dye lab, where I learned to mix colors; Deviate dyes our own fabric.” said Tucker.
Macali said that Tucker stands out among her peers because of her vision and initiative as a student, young professional and entrepreneur.
“Kelsey appreciates experimentation and has used her knowledge of fashion and textile design to create an innovated brand in Detroit,” said Macali. “She goes above and beyond and continues her dedication to grow her business.”
The CEO extended advice and guidance to the Tucker sisters about growing a production line and solidifying their collection as they prepared to apply for the accelerator program that would eventually jumpstart the future of Deviate Fashion.
“She’s a big name in fashion and I really look up to her. She would tell me the pleated pants I designed were awesome, and she would check in on me as a designer,” Tucker said. “After meeting with her, we worked our butts off and set up a great supply chain here in Detroit.”
As a student, Tucker also benefitted from multiple internship and professional development opportunities, working with known names in the fashion industry in Los Angeles, including designer Vera Wang, stylist Taylor Jacobson, and designer Adolfo Sanchez.
While she enjoyed her time in Los Angeles, Tucker knew she wanted to grow her roots in Detroit.
“Most fashion graduates feel like they have to go to New York or LA to have a successful career. We want to show the industry that there are opportunities in fashion in Detroit,” she said.
In keeping with that mission, Tucker and her sister are determined to keep all processes and sourcing local, hoping to eventually succeed in opening up their own space in the city.
“We want our brand to speak to the individual, and the individual is not the status quo,” Tucker said. “Bridging this cool, fun streetwear with pieces that accentuate the body, while still being wearable — that’s Deviate Fashion.”
Wayne State students and staff can visit Détroit is the New Black to see Deviate’s display, and Tucker has extended a 15% discount to the WSU community.
To learn more about Deviate Fashion, visit its website.
Photographs courtesy of Maya Copeland.