The Fashion Factory is Bringing Back Old-School Skills
BY REBECCA CALAPPI
LBN Community Series
When Toni Davison’s daughter was little, she was a fashionista. As a 4-year-old, the little girl would draw dresses and design fashion. As she got older, Davison taught her to hand-stitch, and then make doll clothes. But it wasn’t enough.
“She said, ‘No I want to sew something for me,’” recalled Davison.
OWNER, THE FASHION FACTORY
The pair looked around for sewing classes, but those offered at big-box stores frequently got canceled, and those in smaller venues didn’t take the lessons far enough. As the daughter of a seamstress and a professional behind the sewing machine in her own right, Davison decided to do something about the deficit.
She had been working as a paraprofessional first in the Macomb Intermediate School District, then with L’Anse Cruise Schools, but after the death of her mother, going back to her job just didn’t feel right.
With the encouragement of her husband, Darrell Davison, she launched her business, The Fashion Factory.
“We started at our house with four sewing machines,” said Davison. “Literally at the beginning, it was her [daughter’s] friends. We kept getting more and more kids. We’re now at 20 sewing machines.”
Going into business for herself wasn’t an easy decision.
“At first I was super afraid,” she recalled. “I’m going to take our family money and purchase these sewing machines and I’m not really sure it’s going to work out. To me, that was a big ask.”
Davison grew her business by taking sewing machines to scouting groups and after-school programs. Soon, she was looking for commercial space and settled in downtown Mt. Clemens on Cherry Street.
“I like the downtown area, I wanted a quirky space. It’s very unique down here,” she said.
It is. Snuggled on a pedestrian-only stretch, The Fashion Factory is a crafty diva’s dream. Because the store hosts summer camps, semester-long classes and workshops, the entry looks more like a living room. A big couch, a large crafting table and wire palm trees add the “quirk” Davison wanted. Further through, there’s a long room dedicated to sewing and fashion shows.
“Primarily, students learn to sew here. During the school year, we teach traditional sewing. We also teach about fashion illustration,” said Davison. “I like to find unique ways for them to stretch themselves.”
Classes are available beginning at age 7, according to Davison. “I like to tell people 7-107,” she said.
She’s also expanded The Fashion Factory offerings to include online classes. Schedules are so busy, it might be hard to fit sewing lessons in. Now, students receive a box full of the supplies they need for their projects and when they sign on to the lesson, they’re greeted by a live instructor, so if there are any questions, they can be addressed.
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“I’m hoping this is helpful,” said Davison. “What we hear from parents all the time is the daughter has a sewing machine but hasn’t taken it out of the box. We offer the online learning platform as a way to get those sewing machines out of the box and start using them.”
Rachel Rice’s daughter, Hudson Rice, has been a student at The Fashion Factory for two years. Rice discovered Davison’s business when a friend tagged her in a social media post.
“She started with a poncho at this four-hour class, and she wore the poncho every day for probably six months,” said Rice.
Hudson was hooked.
Since then, she’s been to camps, workshops and more at The Fashion Factory, and even went on a fashion tour in New York City this summer with Davison.
“Sewing helps her to get her creativity out and make something to feel proud of. And I think Miss Toni makes something relatable, even if they are not simple,” said Rice. “She really likes them to push the envelope and work to their full potential and that’s been wonderful as a parent to watch somebody do that.”