Reflections on the 19th Annual Fash Bash at the Detroit Institute of Arts: Echoes of Black Brilliance Resonating in Gold

The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) hosted the 19th annual Fash Bash sponsored by Neiman Marcus on Thursday, solidifying its reputation as the heartbeat of Detroit’s fashion and cultural events. The Fash Bash, birthed originally in the womb of the iconic Fox Theatre two decades ago, now calls the iconic DIA its home, a fitting venue that mirrors the rich tapestry of art and culture intrinsic to Detroit.

Upon entering the DIA, attendees were met with a captivating ambiance, featuring a vibrant photo opportunity, strolling cocktails, appetizers, and melodic music. The evening pulsed with a blend of haute couture grace and spirited fervor. Attendees, adorned in their most exquisite attire, seamlessly melded into a night dedicated to the art of fashion.

Now, as we embark on the voyage through the 2023 Fash Bash, our compass will be set firmly on the rich tapestry of the Black experience. Every shimmering fabric, every poised stride on the runway, every resonating note of music was an echo of centuries-old tales, struggles, triumphs, and dreams. This wasn’t just a celebration of fashion; it held an undertone of the profound exploration of Black heritage, creativity, and resilience. Through this lens, the event transformed from a mere showcase of couture into a living, breathing narrative, capturing the essence of Black culture’s indomitable spirit and its immeasurable contributions to the world of art, fashion, and beyond. Thursday evening’s journey was more than a spectacle; it was a soulful immersion, a dance with history, and a poignant pause that reminded us that the present is indeed a gift. 

The evening’s attire was a visual symphony of Black elegance and creativity. Men, standing tall and proud, wore suit jackets that seemed to capture the very essence of Detroit’s nights – glimmering and unpredictable. Women, queens in their own right, shimmered in evening gowns, each sparkle echoing tales of ancestors, dreams, and futures waiting to be written.

This year’s Art of Fashion runway show featured an assortment of the most distinguished Neiman Marcus brand partners like Carolina Herrera, Brunello Cucinelli, Tom Ford, Etro, Monique Lhullier, Dries Van Noten, Michael Kors, and more. The passionate vision of the Fash Bash has always been nurtured and fiercely protected by the Founders Junior Council. A collective of young professionals, they weave dreams and aspirations, connecting young souls to the sprawling embrace of the DIA, ensuring the heartbeat of Detroit’s art remains not only alive but fervently palpable.

Detroit, our beloved city, has always been the crucible of art, architecture, and fashion resonating deeply with its historic contributions and ongoing trailblazing by Black creatives. It stands as the epitome of Black contribution and excellence in the American narrative. Nationally, Black individuals have been pivotal in shaping and revolutionizing the realms of fashion and culture. From Harlem’s renaissance to Detroit’s rebirth, Black creatives have painted, sung, designed, and written tales of sorrow, joy, passion, and perseverance. On Thursday evening’s runway, Black models didn’t merely walk; they danced to the rhythm of history, their natural hair flowing like the Nile, paying homage to the strength and beauty of our roots. They exuded contemporary majesty, and their natural hairstyles – ranging from afros to French braids – highlighted the richness and versatility of Black culture, which remains an inspiration to many in the fashion world.

“All That Glitters is Gold,” the theme of the night, was a proclamation. With leaders like Dexter Mason president of the Founders Junior Council board of directors and Lane Coleman president of the DIA board of directors, both Black men, at the helm, was a reminder that our value isn’t determined by external validation but by the weight of our stories, struggles, and successes – a testament of what truly makes us golden.

Black women were also bursting out the seam as 2023 Fash Bash co-chairs Jenice and Jasmine Williams, alongside their mother, Denise Brooks-Williams, showed that leadership and legacy run deep in our veins. The echoing voices of Dr. Charles Boyd and his daughters from the previous year served as a testament that we, as a community, lift as we climb.

“Just our leadership, first and foremost are Black and my mom, myself, and my sister, we’re co-chairing together representing Black women and Black Detroiters,” said Jenice Williams. “We’re third generation Detroiters on both sides of our family, so the intentionality was very important for us. Being able to have our voices as Black women included and feeling like we really were heard and championed in this process has been a beautiful experience for me, so that has been my experience as a Black woman leading this work.”

Yet, this isn’t the inaugural moment where Black individuals have led as co-chairs for Fash Bash. In the previous year, Dr. Charles Boyd, alongside his five daughters, took the helm, paving the way for the familial leadership that the Williams embrace this year.

“The Boyd family were absolutely picture perfect last year,” Williams shared. “Dr. Charles Boyd and his five daughters co-chaired last year and that was a beautiful family experience that we were able to integrate this year – majority of our co-chairs are families, mothers and daughter duos.”

Beyond the lights, the glitter, and the music, Fash Bash served a noble cause – benefiting the DIA, a sanctuary of art. Through its corridors, you feel the pulse of Detroit, a city that has seen trials yet stands tall, shimmering in its brilliance. Fash Bash stands as a beacon of support for the DIA, facilitating personal connections to art for over 300,000 visitors each year. Since its beginning, this highly-anticipated event has garnered upwards of $4 million for the DIA.

Closing the night, DJ Donovan Glover brought the crowd to the dance floor with his vibrant beats, a musical journey echoing the rich tapestry of Black culture through line dancing including the renowned Detroit ballroom hustle to the intricate ‘pick up the money hustle,’ an ode to the true culture of Black Detroiters.

“Seeing the city come out and support an event such as this and seeing the diversity that we draw in as we celebrate fashion and creativity is such a pivotal moment for the city of Detroit,” echoed Jasmine Williams.

The 2023 Fash Bash wasn’t just an event; it was a narrative, a tale of Black beauty, resilience, and magnificence. Through its corridors and runways, we were reminded of who we are, where we come from, and where we’re headed. In the proud tapestry of Detroit and beyond, every thread, every color, every note sings of the Black experience – an unending symphony of power, passion, and promise.

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