By Treasure Smith
Paris is considered the fashion capital of the world and New York is the fashion capital of the United States, but there is a city coming for those titles — Detroit. Detroit is known for its music and automotive history, but the passion for fashion has grown in many of the city’s entrepreneurs, especially one named Chonte Nichol. On Saturday, May 6, Nichol presented Soar the Runway, an elegant fashion show that took place at The Julian Madison Building’s Loft at 1420.
Rolling out was able to sit down with Nichol at the fashion show so see how this vision was birth, her views on fashion and the industry.
Tell us about your fashion show today.
Watch Me Soar is my brand and Soar the Runway is the vision that I had about two years ago; it came from a place of hurt and pain. The Lord transformed it into a vision and something of beauty. I was so down in myself that I couldn’t build myself back up. God led me on how to make this happen. So it came birthed out of my pain and into a new era of my life. I’ve started my own T-shirt line and my own modeling and mentor agency along with my partner, Amber Marie, called the Nichol Marie Agency. This is the launch of things we have been working on. This is our first show and we will have this annually.
Outside of fashion, what else do you do?
I am a mother of four and I am the operations manager at the Aloft Hotel. I sing, I write backgrounds — I do some of everything.
What inspired you to get into fashion and modeling?
I’m corky! I have my own sense of fashion and I love to watch it. Everyone loves Tyra Banks. Tyra Banks is one of my inspirations. Watching her became a hobby of mine and it helped birth this.
Who’s your inspiration?
Every little girl loved Tyra Banks and I was one of those girls. For five years straight I watched all the seasons and I studied it and I studies her and I studied how she made her eyes smile. It was difficult because I would take a picture trying to make my eyes smile and I looked like I was mad and couldn’t see. Everyone has somebody and that was my somebody.
A portion of the proceeds from this fashion show will benefit a particular foundation. What is that foundation and why did you choose it?
Yes, a portion of the proceeds from today’s show will be going towards the American Diabetes Association — Project Power. We chose this association and project because it deals with African American communities and churches in that community to bring awareness to diabetes. We all like to eat, but what we don’t know is that there is a large percentage of diabetes that are affecting our Black community every day. We have no idea about it and don’t do anything about it then one day we’re passing out and we don’t know why. It’s just a prick of your finger; go get checked and let them prick your finger. Take care of your body.
What are three pieces of advice you would give to the entrepreneur who wants to be a part of the fashion world?
You need a balance, you need a focus, and you need a grind. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. There’s going to be a lot of people who despise what you are doing all because they didn’t have the momentum to do it themselves. Just keep moving forward. Stay focused on that. Don’t let anyone deter you from a possible yes you could receive in the future.
What are three pieces of advice you would give to the model who wants to be a part of the fashion world?
In the words of Kendrick Lamar, “Be humble — sit down.“ Integrity is everything. Just because you are a pretty face with a bad body, doesn’t mean I will work with you. If your integrity or character is jacked up, it makes me no difference. You have to be willing to work and you have to be able to be taught. If you don’t have the ability to be taught, then what I’m trying to do to get you to that next level, you won’t make it there. They will chew you up and spit you out and you won’t matter. If you allow yourself to be teachable, allow yourself to take the constructive criticism, and learn from that, build from that, and focus on that, you can succeed.
How is this fashion show beneficial to the African American culture in Detroit?
It’s beneficial because it’s an upscale, black-tie, charity event benefiting our people in Detroit because 90 percent of the models are from here and African American. They are aspiring models who’ve been in our commercials and promotional videos we’ve done and they’ve left here with some work. That’s the most important thing that I can ever give someone; I just want to give back.
What designers did you have here at the fashion show?
We had Kisha Sims of KiSi, Nneka J of BeFlyy Creations, Scarlett Monroe of RedFunk Collections, Christina Todd & Rae B of Thee Fashion District Custom Designs, Charles Sheppard of Sheppard and Sheppard Image Consulting, Danielle Fredrick of Haute Fashion Boutique and myself with my T-shirt line, Watch Me Soar.
How did you pick and choose designers to be in the fashion show?
All of the designers are people who gave me a chance. It wasn’t hard for me to go and tell them my vision, something big, and ask them to be a part of it. All of them had some type of influential moment in my life where I felt like I was good or they made me better. So, I just wanted to bring all the people who gave me a chance here today.
Do you plan to take the fashion show outside of Detroit?
Of course, I do. Everyone wants to do that, right? No one wants to just stay here. There’s nothing wrong with Detroit, but everyone wants to evolve or have the opportunity to evolve so given the opportunity — absolutely.
What do you want the readers to know about you?
I want them to know that I’m just somebody from the D who had a dream and decided to focus on that dream and make something come out of that dream and not something I kept dreaming about. I didn’t want to keep sleeping — I woke up. So, just wake up and go do what you want to do.
Follow Nichol and her dreams on social media at Chonte Nichol and Soar The Runway.