My experience with the Michigan Fashion Week team and business as a whole has left me confused. This is what I experienced from start to finish. When I signed up as a designer I was sent a 'Designer Agreement' which was full of grammatical and spelling errors. I edited it and sent it back to be updated. It was updated and sent back to me with a new page added with the exact same issue. Spelling and grammar errors. I signed it and sent it back without asking to fix the errors. It was this point I should have known but I put my trust in their team to get the job done.
Full disclosure I paid $412 to Michigan Fashion Week for my Street Wear Collection to be presented at Eastern Market at 8pm on June 15. That is just to participate. This does not include the gas it took for me to get to fittings, the fabrics, the inks, the TIME it took to create this whole collection. I had three photographers come to this event for me, each paying $25 to take photos as press. Every person in my family & friends who attended paid between $35-$45 to attend. I am saying all of this because I think it is the right thing to do. I feel like the treatment of my collection and the models by their team does not reflect the values of my brand and that I was misrepresented in this fashion show by participating.
Back to the beginning - I was sent an email from a person named Todd who told me fitting & rehearsal dates which were required. I attended them all, on time, every time. The space where these fittings/rehearsals were hosted was too small, not air conditioned, no chairs. I did not flinch, I brought my own chairs and all my clothing with a rack. On the first day of rehearsal we cast models for the show. I noticed the model director was screaming at the models about their walks, calling them hangers, belittling them for not listening, who were not able to fit into the tiny room they were using. How could they hear you over the music and not physically being able to fit into the room? I shrugged it off. 'That is not my job', I thought.
The last fitting/rehearsal on June 11, a few short days before all the events, SO MANY designers who had not been to any previous fitting/rehearsal were there, making this already small space feel even smaller. One of these designers had cast about 1/3 of the models I was using and on the show date presented just before my show. My show, which was supposed to go on at 8pm on Thursday June 15.
The first day of fashion week was a press preview and networking event Tuesday June 13, two days before the street wear show. I was emailed weeks prior to let them know if I wanted to participate and that ONLY 5 designers would be allowed to be featured. I NEVER heard back but two days before this first event I was notified that I was able to participate and to ask models. It was hard to find people who were available with such short notice but I did find a few and went. It was okay. I was not feeling well that day. I didn't know if I should even go to this press event. That Tuesday morning it was like all the grieving from the loss of my friend and the stress of getting everything done on time hit me all at once. I just let it all out and did my best. I made it to the event and had three models wearing clothing.
The day of the show designers were asked to be at the location at 3pm. I arrived at 2:30. Fully prepared. Around 6pm I was part of a panel were some of the other designers were with me being asked questions and answering for the crowd. It was great until after this point. I felt great and very prepared. I was a little nervous that so many of my models would need a quick change but trusted that the team putting this show on would have my back and give me enough time to dress the models for my show.
NOT AT ALL. I was still dressing models when I turned around only to find out my show was some how... already Over? My mouth dropped open. I looked at my phone for the time. It was only 7:30 how is this even POSSIBLE? From this point on I am not exactly sure what was going on. I was hurt from the betrayal of my show first of all being bumped up time without even being told but that my show went out 25% finished without my knowledge. My heart was shattered. Was that it? Was that how it all goes? Is it over? So many things were running through my head.
All day the music was too loud. When I say too loud, I don't mean the volume was up, I mean tinnitus level loud. I told my family who was coming to support my collection to bring ear plugs it was so bad. I could not think, let alone speak to people. SO many were complaining about the volume but nothing was done about it. The model coordinator, mentioned before, was in front of me, we were yelling at each other. I was just ANGRY. Furious tat they would let my collection go out onto the runway in SHAMBLES without all my models being able to dress. I knew that I needed to keep my cool but I was just dumb founded that this would happen. Still grieving the loss of my friend Kali. I tried to see the bigger picture and calmed down but I was deeply hurt by what happened.
Over the ear bursting music I was told that they would redo my show at the end. I apologized for yelling and being belligerent but I was still angry. I honestly did not believe him or the other staff member who tried to talk to me. I could not HEAR THEM OVER THE MUSIC! The models had other shows to do and my collection was in shambles, thrown everywhere. Pieces were missing. I felt dead.
After a while, with the help of the amazing models, everything was returned to me and we reorganized my collection. Finally the show was at its end and we dressed the models, they went out a second time in completion. I was still just in shock. I looked at my phone again to check the time. This show was over a hour early for some reason. I was even more confused. What happened? Why was staff in such a rush? Was I the only one who felt this way? Did anyone else have their show ruined by this rushed event?
Let me be clear that I am grateful that I was able to show my collection in completion a second time but this event did not have to be rushed like it was. The speed was inhuman. The pace they were going at felt impossible. I sent graphics & music to the team weeks prior but it was not featured. It was like they never planned to show these things in the first place.
I was over heating from the hot shed we were in all day. There was no air conditioning. No one was allowed to leave the building as instructed by staff and enforced by security. No water was provided for the models or designers. No snacks. Nothing. We were locked in that space for hours with no way out. The way the model coordinator spoke to the models every time we were together was scary, abusive and wrong. The space where models were changing had NO privacy. There were windows everywhere.
I was never formally introduced to the Michigan Fashion Week Staff. I met one person face to face at the press event who introduced himself to me but I do not recall his name. I met the owner of this business at the press event but she did not introduce herself to me. It was like everyone was expected to know who they were. I am still just so confused about what happened. I sent them a message about all my concerns, how I feel, and my review. I do not know if it will be read, if they care, or what will happen moving forward.
I spoke to several models who felt like they were being degraded and disrespected by the coordinator. They felt that the fashion week staff could have provided water at the bare minimum. I agree. Some people asked if they were allowed to go to the bathroom and were degraded for asking. I too, asked if we were able to go beyond the curtain to use the bathroom. It makes me feel sick that this was my experience. That the models who were not paid in any small way, not even with a free ticket or two, not even with water, were treated this way. It makes me even more sad that a lot of them expect to be treated like this by event staff. There is something wrong with this.
As the daughter of some one who works to fight human trafficking this sounds like abuse. As a person who has been abused, this sounds like abuse. A couple models spoke up about their experience publicly and they were blocked. I too was blocked for bringing this to their attention. Models who said NOTHING to them about this were blocked. WTH? A model asked staff on the second day for water and was kicked out of the event. What does that sound like to you? Does this sound like a space where reasonable people can ask for reasonable things?
To me, this is normalizing abusive behavior and putting people at risk to be exploited further and ready to be taken advantage of in other situations. I am SICK of being treated like I AM NOTHING and seeing OTHERS treated like they are nothing. It is sad that staff from this event did not see the potential of their very talented designers and models. It is disturbing that they did not utilize their value eor even know who all their designers were. Of course I call them out on their bullshit. I am SICK of talented people being exploited, abused, manipulated and taken advantage of for other people to prosper. This is wrong. They know it is wrong but do not wish to hear the feedback and I will not let this be swept under the rug. People deserve respect at the very minimum. When a model went public on social media, I shared her post. I also commented explaining my experience and SO many professional models and designers felt the same, had a similar experience, or said they won't work with MIFW because of this behavior. This was supposedly their 11th year of this event, you'd think their professional skills would be on point!!! At the very minimum that they'd be able to put on a well produced and executed fashion show. Boy was I WRONG!!!
I do not know how to feel after the show. I certainly expected a bit of chaos on the show day but I did not expect to feel like I witnessed the degradation of a very talented group of models & designers or that I do not fit in with the group of people I just promoted for months and worked my ass off to present for. I feel annoyed about it all. I went back and forth in ym head about what the right thing to do is. Of course I don't want to cancel or ruin anyone, I expected a totally different experience with Michigan Fashion Week. ESPECIALLY when they go on television telling people not to go to NYFW or Paris, or any where else for a fashion experience. I'd argue that you should get the HELL out of MICHIGAN if you want to do a fashion show or be part of a real professional industry. I participated in Chicago Fashion Week and NYFW as a model and was NOT treated with such disrespect. I feel accomplished. I feel hurt. I feel like something has to be done but nothing will be. If nothing else I had to share my story, my experience.
The fashion industry is so fucked up. Between dehumanizing models, unrealistic expectations for garment creation, fast fashion, fake personalities, beauty standards that are destroying humanity, and over all shallow values, I am fed up with how the industry behaves. Even in these smaller cities the fashion industry is fake, shallow, and filled with people who lack talent but are in their positions because of popularity. If you have advise, please reach out. If you know some one who would pick up this story and speak UP about the abuse of models, please reach out. I am looking for another fashion show to take part of. Onward and upward. Do not be silent if you felt bad. Do not be silent if you needed something that day but felt too afraid to ask or like you did not matter.
About the Author & Artist
Megan LaCroix also known as Citrine is the daughter of a Navy Veteran. She’s lived all over the US but has roots in Michigan where her family is from. Spending summers in Northern Michigan exploring nature inspired her to create art work starting with jewelry and photography. She’d spend hours looking for rocks and creating assorted beaded jewelry with her sisters. In 2014 She graduated from University of Michigan School of Art & Design with a BFA then moved to Detroit where she is currently living and working. She is a multi-media artist with ever expanding skills but is best known for her jewelry, screen printing, photography, and paintings. Detroit Graffiti has a significant influence on her painting and drawing style. She’s participated in ArtPrize 2015 & 2021 and currently has a studio in the Village Arts Factory of Canton, MI.