DETROIT IS THE NEW BLACK

ROSLYN KARAMOKO

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Roslyn Karamoko moved to Detroit in 2013 with a long résumé of jobs in the fashion industry and the desire to launch her own label. She started with a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Détroit is the New Black” that she gave to friends, and it quickly turned into a full clothing line.

She moved the brand’s headquarters to Ponyride in 2016 and recently opened the Détroit is the New Black store downtown, where she curates a collection from her favorite local labels, including other Ponyride tenants.

On the image that’s stuck with her since her first visit to Ponyride:
The most impressive visual in here, and I would probably say business as well, is the Empowerment Plan. To see something like that really explode in the way that it has, and the team she’s built and the training piece of the business that she has implemented -- it’s really incredible.

When I toured the space, seeing all of these sewing machines, and real production -- that inspired me, because that made me feel like, if she can build it for social entrepreneurship, I can build a for-profit business, and I can create jobs and do the same thing.

On collaboration and competition among tenants:
We’re almost bartering resources. It’s not like having to pay another person to do this, it’s, “You can use our machine if you make our screens [for screenprinting shirts].” That sort of sharing of resources has been super helpful as a small business.

Being in here, it’s like, “Well, they can show up everyday, and they’re here from nine until whenever, so I can do that too.” So there’s that inspiration that you get from them. But it almost can be intimidating. It can feel competitive -- you can see companies growing around you or doing things that you feel you should be doing. But I think that’s also healthy, to keep you motivated.

Why she wants her business to open doors for others:  
I’ve never done anything on this scale before, but I think it’s what Detroit needs, and I’m happy tofacilitate it. I wanted to focus on manufacturing here in Detroit, creating jobs and this platform for young creatives to stay in the city and not have to go to New York or Chicago or wherever to work in the field.

Growing up in Seattle, there was nothing like that. I wish there was a brand like this then, a place where people like me could go and learn the trade. That keeps me going, knowing there are kids who can’t get to New York, but still want to taste it and experience it.

To bring that here -- that will make me cry, because I remember being that girl and going to New York with no job and no experience. To provide a place for people to start, not just students, but creative adults who want to get into it -- that keeps me going through those moments when I want to quit.