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Making a Statement About Detroit (and Fashion)

Ever had this reaction? It's the one where you're walking through an airport and you feel buzzed because you notice another traveler is wearing “Detroit” somewhere on their person.

When it happens to Aaron Singer or Robbie Biederman, they tend to get a little crazy. The New York residents are childhood friends who grew up in West Bloomfield together. So any taste of the Motor City is much appreciated. Robbie even admits if he were a dog, his tail would start wagging at the sight.

That is one of the reasons the two 28 year olds, who describe themselves as ex-pats, started “Mighty Detroit” last year. The clothing company is a labor of love in a multitude of ways…not only does it keep them in touch with their Midwestern roots, it gives them the funding to ensure those roots are nourished. (A portion of the proceeds from Mighty Detroit togs goes toward The Greening of Detroit and other locally based charities.)

Dress your friends in cool styles, make a little dough and spread the wealth among Detroit's best non-profit organizations? Sounds like a win-win to me.

The key to that airport story is that Robbie and Aaron quickly realized that there are a lot of people in their age range – think 20somethings – who are proud to say they come from Detroit or its environs. Yes, there is plenty of other “Detroit” brands out there, but this one would have Robbie's keen eye for design behind it. (A third partner, T.J. Ferrara, takes care of the online selling stuff.)

There's the Boston Avenue shirt. It has a Vernors-inspired label as the backdrop and the front reads, “Made with Old-School Flavor.” The back reminds the world we're “Cooler than Boston.” It's mostly a play on the old Boston cooler drink (mix Vernors with ice cream and enjoy!) but it also is a statement of Detroit pride, Aaron said.

Another classic is the Army street shirt. It has the city's skyline with a small tank rolling across the front. Its chest boasts, “Arsenal of Democracy” as well as Detroit's motto of “It will rise from the ashes.” The shirt is a historian's dream – a reminder of Detroit's participation in World War II and that without our help, many of us Americans would be speaking German right about now…

New designs will be rolled out on a regular basis – including this sweet new one I just noticed on the Web site with that well-known Detroit hockey octopus (eight arms, eight games to the championship. They still throw the octo out there now and again at the Joe.)

“They're our shirts, we're connected to them. They represent Detroit,” Robbie said. They're supposed to be fashion-forward yet clever enough for a more modern generation.

Most shirts, hoodies and the like feature the brand's signature: an engine with two crossed wrenches on it. They also have the company's slogan: “Warriors of the Working Class.” That's a tribute to the more mature generation: the line workers, the designers, the engineers who created the automobiles, parts and services that put the city in the national consciousness. But it's also about Detroit workers everywhere -- those hard-core individuals who keep plowing ahead despite everyday adversity.

Hey, I'd rather have people think of me as a hard worker than ask me, “Hey, you're from Detroit…Do you carry a gun?” Yes, that happens when someone finds out you're from here. Not cool, especially in the above referenced airport location. But I digress.

When Robbie and Aaron were first friends back in West Bloomfield, they pinkie-swore they would become architects and open a firm together. Well, Robbie ended up an assistant art director for an entertainment company, and Aaron is an attorney. “We would have made a lot of bad buildings,” Aaron said.

But they make some great T-shirts.

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