By RACHEL SCHNEIDER
There are two distinct places in the country one typically thinks of when hearing the term “fashion district:” New York City and Los Angeles. Both cities are hundreds of miles from Milwaukee.
Milwaukee, like most Midwestern states, is not well-known for fashion. New York City and Los Angeles typically receive fashion trends a year before the Midwest. They are also home to many of the industry’s leading companies.
But with Milwaukee’s newly established Fashion District, Brew City might someday be just as well-known for its fashion as it is for its beer.
At the center of the district is Third Coast Style, 514 N. Water St., a boutique gallery that carries clothing, accessories and jewelry from 34 local designers. It also doubles as an art gallery, and has salon space as well.
Patrice Procopio opened Third Coast Style in September 2013. She created the boutique gallery around the idea that people in Milwaukee either do not want to listen to fashion advice from one person or cannot afford a new trend every week.
“In the East Coast usually one person rises to the top each season and tells everybody what to do, and the West Cost usually has a new fad every week,” Procopio said.
There are a growing number of people in Milwaukee who want to be involved in the industry, including students studying fashion and individuals not working in the industry who just want to stay current with trends.
“The Milwaukee Fashion district gives independent designers a starting ground to promote their work and get their name started,” said Pa Kou Vang, a junior at Mount Mary University studying apparel product development. “The concept of what Third Coast Style is doing is wonderful. All this is contributing to giving Milwaukee a distinctive style.”
Procopio explained that this area is important to Milwaukee for fashion because it used to be the home of a large and well-known fabric store, Canvas Backs, and was also the place where people did their back-to-school shopping.
Jordyn Schwartz, the manager at Luci Boutique, located at 532 N. Water St., hopes the Milwaukee Fashion District vamps up shopping and fashion in the city. “Bring that East Coast and West Coast to [Milwaukee],” Schwartz said.
Some Milwaukee fashion students know what this could mean for their future careers and are already anticipating the progress of the district.
“When I first heard about [Milwaukee Fashion District], I was pretty excited because it was something different and new; something other than downtown or the Historic Third Ward,” said Kristin Poehls, a Mount Mary senior studying apparel product development. “The area was small, but it seemed like there was plenty of room for growth and improvement.”
Procopio’s boutique, Third Coast Style, works to help grow the newly designated district by featuring talent by local designers, two of whom participated in Project Runway Season 12. The boutique has a picture and mini-biography about each designer on the wall, highlighting each designer as an individual.
“We have local designers. Why shouldn’t [their work] be purchased and showcased when we do that all the time for people out of the city?” Procopio said.
The Fashion District, along with the boutiques it encompasses, could create jobs in our city, help the local economy and put Milwaukee on the fashion map.
“It’s an industry for the city,” Procopio said.