Fashion is beginning to make its mark in the city of Detroit. Known for Cartier Buffs and alligator shoes, Detroit’s fashion is starting to elevate. New brands continue to emerge in a city known for its grit.
Officially launching in June 2018, K. Walker Collective was born in 2012. Founder and Head Designer Ken Walker revealsthe dream began when he was in high school.
“It started early on for me. It started as a teenager always being engulfed in the arts,” Walker says. “At 14, I knew I wanted a brand. I knew I wanted a namesake.”
With a background in advertising, Walker took what he learned in college and his first job to build the body of the collection.
“I went to Michigan State for advertising and it woke something up in my entrepreneurial spirit,” Walker shares. “Working in my first advertising job, I was able to see how to build a brand. It was divine order.”
An urban streetwear brand featuring elevated men’s fashion, K. Walker Collective looks to redefine menswear in Detroit.
“I asked myself what was missing in clothing right now. There was a lack of representation of men who looked like me. I felt like all the clothing stores I shopped at had what I wanted, but not all in one store,” Walker explains.
Having been featured in New York Fashion Week, Walker notes the Collective’s first fashion show was a pivotal moment in the brand’s history.
“It’s the first fashion show for me. It still gives me a high when I think about it. I had my hand in everything; the music played, I hand-picked the models, the drinks, the seating, everything,” Walker says.
Walker looks to expand his brand to include womenswear for all shapes and sizes. With plans to release plus size and womenswear, K. Walker Collective is looking to create pieces that are reflective of the city and the Black community.
“I want to be inclusive for plus size. I have women who buy items for themselves or for the men in their lives. I’m just a brand that wants to embody what young Black professionals are,” Walker explains.
Looking to expand its reach, Walker shares limitations and challenges he has faced in growing and developing the streetwear brand.
“It’s the (lack of) opportunity for Black designers as a whole. We don’t get a lot of exposure. We don’t have a lot of resources,” Walker says. “Detroit is and will always be a fashion capital.”
As Detroit continues to gain notoriety for fashion and grow its reach, a sneaker brand is looking to make its mark on the city. Located on the Avenue of Fashion on Livernois, Fahrenheit 313is an innovative sneaker experience for gym shoe lovers.
Owner Frederick Paul II began as a college student looking to earn extra money. Attending Western Michigan University, Paul began selling his vintage gym shoes for extra money.
“I started Fahrenheit 313 as a senior at Western Michigan. One day I had an idea while cleaning my shoes and wanted to sell them,” Paul explains.
Using eBay as the source, Paul began to sell his gently used sneakers online. Before long, his personal inventory had sold out.
Originally known as The Heat Factory, Paul wanted the name to reflect a mix of fashion and old Detroit.
“Heat is synonymous with having a hot pair of sneakers. I also wanted the feel of an old Detroit factory,” Paul explains.
Paul rebranded in 2016 and gave the exchange a new name. Known as “Detroit’s hottest sneaker exchange,” Fahrenheit 313 allows sneakerheads to buy, sell and trade their vintage or hard to find gym shoes. The brick and mortar store opened in 2020.
“We opened the storefront on Detroit Day, March 13, 2020,”Paul says. “What we specialize in is selling those hard to find sneakers at an affordable price.”
To verify authenticity, Fahrenheit 313 uses a personalized process.
“People come into the store and we authenticate them. It’s about a 10-minute process. We then see what the market price is for them,” Paul shares.
Once the shoes have been authenticated, appraisals to determine the shoe’s value take place.
“Appraisals are based on the condition on the shoe. We check for any creases, if the soles are turning yellow, the year the sneaker was released and how hard they are to find,” Paul explains.
Opening during COVID-19, Fahrenheit 313 had to shift its business to accommodate stay-at-home orders.
“We had to shift our business model. We didn’t feel right pushing product during a health crisis,” Paul says.
As a result, Fahrenheit 313 began doing curbside pickups, but moved to exclusively selling online.
“Online sales started to pick up during the shutdown. We had that rush of online sales, then it halted,” Paul expresses.
The sneaker exchange also believes in giving back to the city.
“Making Detroit a better place is really at the heart of the business. We won The Spirit of Detroit award and released alimited-edition t-shirt with the award on the front. Ten percent of proceeds went to feeding frontline workers,” Paul shares.
With its passion for making a difference in the city, the sneaker exchange continues its mission of putting Detroit on the map and positively impacting its citizens.
“We want to be seen as the premier destination for sneakerheads. Our mission is to always help revitalize Detroit,” Paul says.