The CEO of Shops on Tops Talks Style and Fashion

Learning to flex one’s fashion muscle can take time, but Shops on Top CEO Deron Washington had developed a standout sense of style by elementary school. As early as age 8, he was asking to be sent to school in dress shirts and ties, and in high school, the outfits he’d put together with clothes culled from thrift shops would win him “Best Dressed” in the student mock elections.

In 1989, he opened his first retail space, a 100-square-foot tie and accessories shop in Franklin. That was the start of a decades-long career in fashion retail that has included multiple shops, including ones in Northland Center and Trappers Alley — two relics of Detroit’s fashion history. Washington was also co-owner of Julian Scott Inc., the nation’s first Black-owned department store, which opened in downtown Detroit in 2003.

He says, “I’m not a bragger. I’m a very humble person, but you’re talking to the guy that started the rebirth of retail in downtown Detroit.”

More recently, in fall 2017, he and his wife, Tina, opened Shops on Top, a small shopping center overlooking Eastern Market that features three clothing stores, a leather gallery, and a coffee shop — each owned and operated by the husband- and-wife team.

“We are dedicated to our craft, no matter what,” Washington says.

Inside the space are Modele Dress, offering sophisticated yet edgy women’s clothing and accessories; a haberdashery of sorts called High Street; and a T-shirt brand dubbed Y Not Detroit. Washington says the tees, and Shops on Top as a whole, purposely raise the question: Why not live, work, play, shop, and serve in Detroit?

Among a sea of athleisure, you’re likely to find Washington dressed in a slickly tailored suit and a peaked cap. Here, the retailer shares his style influences and how he sees the future of fashion in Detroit.

My biggest style inspiration is …

My mother. When I was coming up — I know it sounds kind of corny, but she was a classy dresser, dressed to the nines. She’s wearing two-piece suits and some of the cleanest shoes that you ever want to find. Matching purse with the matching bag. She was always classy, nice blouses —- just neat, super neat. When I saw her, I said, “Man, my mom is sharp.”

That’s where I got my swag from. My dad wasn’t living with us when I was coming up, but he was also a sharp person. They both came from the South.

Three staples that should be in every man’s wardrobe are …

No. 1, a navy blue suit. They should also have at least one tie. These days, it’s kind of hard to find men wearing ties, but at least one tie. And a nice Cognac dress shoe or casual shoe.

When I get dressed in the morning and head out, I want to feel …

Clean, real clean: crisp white shirt, nice pair of slacks, clean shoes. … Nice shave, clean face, smelling good, refreshed. I feel good when I do that. And there’s something about a crisp white shirt, too, that just looks good.

One trend I’d like to see come back around is …

People getting dressed up more.

What most excites me about the future of fashion in Detroit is …

That the city is growing. … You have more people coming [in]. All the retailers get a chance to make more money, a chance to survive, live longer, and build a business. If you have people in your city, you will get all walks of life to look at and try different fashions. … It’s all about people. Fashion is everything, everybody. Fashion is everyone.

This story is from the August 2023 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition. Check out even more fashion tips from stylish metro Detroiters at

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