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Move Over Motown: Detroit’s New Hip

In his "Lose Yourself" video, Eminem pays tribute to his hometown, the faded letters arching across his hoodie spell out "Detroit."<br><br>That video gave a boost to Made in Detroit, the clothing company that made Eminem’s famed sweatshirt, and...

In his “Lose Yourself” video, Eminem pays tribute to his hometown, the faded letters arching across his hoodie spell out “Detroit.”

This story first appeared in the April 3, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

That video gave a boost to Made in Detroit, the clothing company that made Eminem’s famed sweatshirt, and the 250 boutiques that carry the line. Several actors wore Made in Detroit T-shirts and hoodies in the movie “8 Mile,” and Kid Rock, another Detroit native, has been wearing the clothes as he promotes his latest album, “Cocky.”

Now, fans of both musicians, males and females, are stealing the look. Local garage bands like The White Stripes are adding to the buzz. Suddenly, Detroit has become a hip new center of music and fashion.

Mita Pasquale, owner of Magic Bus in Dearborn, said teens stop by her store specifically asking for the sweatshirt Eminem wore in “8 Mile.” The thick cotton hoodie with vintage-style stenciled letters wholesales for $27 and retails for about $56. It’s also sold online at Madeindetroit.com.

The Made in Detroit line appeals to young, hip customers who are looking for a rock ’n’ roll style. Logo-driven T-shirts and hoodies are staples, but the line also includes denim and leather jackets, thongs for girls and Zippo lighters with retro Detroit-themed logos.

Retailer Patrick Sheridan said the recent hype created by Detroit rock stars has been good for business.

“It has definitely put us on the map a little bit more,” said Sheridan, who is manager of Incognito, a suburban Detroit boutique that carries the Made in Detroit line, along with Miss Sixty, Diesel, Lip Service and Shrine. “We use it as a marketing tool.”

Made in Detroit founder Robert Stanzler, a former New York designer who launched his company in 1991, said the line has evolved along with the Detroit music scene.

“There have been a few waves over the past 10 years,” Stanzler said. “It started with the origins of techno music by a group of DJs from here.”

Made in Detroit cosponsors a techno music event each year. Stanzler also hosts a wild annual holiday party with his friend, Kid Rock.

“As the garage rock scene started to evolve here, we also planted seeds with a lot of young bands that made it nationally, like The White Stripes, The Dirt Bombs and The Von Bondies,” Stanzler said.

Detroit is best known as the home of Motown, but it also produced such artists as Ted Nugent, Bob Seeger, the MC-5, Iggy and the Stooges, and bluesman John Lee Hooker. When he founded his clothing company, Stanzler wanted to honor Detroit’s history — its industrial, automotive and musical roots. Ten years ago, he said, it was hard to find any clothing in Detroit except for tourist T-shirts that mocked the town, with slogans like “I survived the riots” or “Murder Capital of the World.”

Stanzler set out to create logos for his products that reflected Detroit’s heritage. The designs have a retro vibe that is both hip and understated. For example, he makes black baseball caps and T-shirts with a circular gray gear logo and an orange D in the center. The simple stencil letters that say “Detroit,” worn by Eminem, are a top seller, Stanzler said. He also made a logo with a hot rod that says “Detroit Muscle” and another that says “Detroit Cobra.”

Made in Detroit clothing also has a strong auto influence. When Stanzler opened the company, he had an opportunity to buy a factory that had been making leather auto-racing jackets, with the stripe down one side, for years. With the factory, he inherited a library of Fifties-style letters.

“We were able to pull out some of these vintage patterns for our designs,” Stanzler said.

The jackets, which sell for $42 wholesale and $88 retail, are some of the company’s most successful items.

Made in Detroit remained a little-known company until 1994, when Stanzler decided to go on the road with the Lollapalooza concert and promote his products.

“We picked up retail accounts all over the place and we got on the radar with Hot Topic and Urban Outfitters,” he said.

Since then, the company has just kept growing. First Kid Rock wore the shirts in a video, now Eminem is helping out, and since their Grammy win, The White Stripes are gaining popularity.

“We’re pushing a lot more volume,” Stanzler said.

Stanzler said the firm is on track to reach sales of $2 million to $3 million this year. Despite the growth, Stanzler said he doesn’t have any desire to leave Detroit or try anything too high fashion.

“I don’t think Detroit would support someone who is doing fashion for fashion’s sake for very long,” he said. “It gives us a sense of mission to play a minor part in changing the associations people have with Detroit for the better.”