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Style Across America: Detroit

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“I eventually caved,” Christina Chen says of her 2015 move from New York to Detroit to be with her Michigan-born (now) husband after a 10-year long-distance relationship. Having grown up in industrial Pittsburgh, she instantly felt at home in the city: “There’s an energy I can’t explain.” Despite having carved out a fashion career working at Alexander Wang and Yves Saint Laurent, Chen insists she’s a casual dresser and favors “drapey dresses and menswear-inspired looks,” frequently paired with Nikes (and sometimes a vintage YSL heel). Off duty, she takes the city’s rich music history seriously, hitting up Detroit’s oldest blues bar, Raven Lounge; the Motown Museum, formerly Hitsville U.S.A.; or buzzy farm-to-table restaurant Lady of the House.

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Clockwise: Eastern Market; Trench coat, Frame. Top, Fila x Disney. Skirt, Prada. Beret, Dior. Pumps, Isabel Marant; Bad Luck Bar

Nabile Quenum + Courtsey

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“I just loved the city and decided to stay,” says Roslyn Karamoko, a former retail consultant for Saks who, after stints in New York and Singapore, made the Motor City home in 2013. Karamoko found herself moved by the city’s sense of pride, often emblazoned on T-shirts with slogans such as “Detroit vs. Everybody” and “Detroit Hustles Harder.” When her family questioned her decision, she joked, “Detroit is totally the new black.” And so came the name for her Woodward Avenue store, which promotes local creatives through fashion shows, art installations, and poetry slams. (She added an accent on the e in Detroit, a nod to the eighteenth-century French fur trade.) “Detroit style is about not looking like you’re trying too hard,” she says, and the same can be said for Karamoko’s look: vintage furs to brave the brutal midwestern winters, the occasional print from Detroit native Tracy Reese, and architectural pieces inspired by traditional African garb from former GM engineer Muktar Onifade. When not manning her store, Karamoko heads to Eastern Market for locally made products, Parc for “irresistible” lemon cake, and Bad Luck Bar for inventive cocktails.

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Jacket, Prada. Top, Gucci. Trousers, Ellery. Platforms, Sies Marjan. Her own necklace and belt; Pewabic; Jesse Paris Smith and Patti Smith perform at Sindbads; Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island

Nabile Quenum + Courtesy

“I actually thought I would be a writer,” Jesse Paris Smith says. But for the daughter of Patti Smith and Fred “Sonic” Smith, music is in her genes. So, too, is a renegade sense of style. Though she enjoys the theatricality of dressing for the stage—she favors gowns by Ann Demeulemeester—Smith finds her everyday pieces closer to home. Detroit has “the best estate sales and vintage shopping around,” she says. And for a distinctly Motown bite, she hits up Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island, two rival hot dog stands founded by a pair of brothers. (“My parents met at Lafayette, so there’s the sentimental aspect for me, too.”) Smith encourages visitors to dive into the city’s rich history and visit the 115-year-old Pewabic pottery studio (“Their beautiful tilework graces all of the city’s most iconic buildings and homes”) for a unique souvenir, or sample local seafood and sounds at 67-year-old Sindbads Restaurant and Marina.


More great style on the streets of Detroit

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Nabile Quenum

Photographed by Nabile Quenum; Styled by Yashua Simmons; Hair and Makeup by Megan Murphy

This article originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of ELLE.

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