Nelson Sanders is the Karl Lagerfeld of Detroit.
Founder of The Seen and Head Clothier at 1701 Bespoke, Nelson knows style.
Sanders is using style to bridge the gap between the new Detroit and the old Detroit by staging photoshoots in neighborhoods UNFAMILIAR to most. alongside his collective of 100+ creatives, nelson is determined to put detroit's fashion scene on the map.
Resident videographer, J. Mills, films the crew while photographer, Brad Ziegler, takes the pictures.
J'adore's leading lady, Candice Simons, joined The Seen in the most recent shoot and can't wait for more.
After, we talked to him about The Seen and the next chapter of fashion in Detroit.
ON the phone with Nelson Sanders
J'adore: What is The Seen?
Nelson: "Ah man. Pretty much- short version- The Seen is a collective of individuals from Detroit who are passionate about the city and want to see it growing. These people have in common- passion regarding style. I always wanted to do something in the city regarding fashion, I procrastinated for a few years. I was thinking about ways to accomplish that without needing money or resources.
One day I was in bed scrolling through Facebook and a video caught my eye. It was a guy from North Carolina, New Stereotype- the visuals caught my attention; it was a group of really cool guys walking through Grand Central Station, all African American men. They started to talk throughout the video, they were talking about what they do to combat negative stereotypes against black men. I reached out and asked if he could do a Detroit version, it turns out someone else from Detroit contacted him too, he told me we should link up. We never did it, but looking back it was all inspiration to get to where I am now.
The Seen is focused on style first. Style doesn't have a color or face, if I have seen you around town and your style has touched me I want you to be a part of it. The name is a spin off of a Detroit game show in the late 70s called The Scene. i’ve been in Detroit my whole life and it can feel segregated. If you grew up in a certain area that’s all you saw. There’s a lot more to Detroit than I was used to seeing.
Granted there's a lot of things but I’m focusing on the style part. Like if you know someone online and then you see them in a restaurant and you wouldn't say hi because you don’t really know them. I want to bring all of those people together. We have a photoshoot once a month, in different neighborhoods. Now there are business aspects coming into play. I Don’t want to call it any one thing and put it in a box. Right now we have like 100 creatives that do various things."
J'adore: What fashion trends are you noticing in Detroit right now?
Nelson: "I think Detroiters are very resourceful when it comes to style. If you go to New York you’ll see a lot of stylish people. Half of them have very manufactured looks- this guy or girl was on hypebeast, or bought an outfit off of the mannequin. Here, people have one or two items they bought online or at the mall and mix it in with thrifted and handmade pieces. There are a few different looks going on; street wear, tailored refined classic, then hipster hippie. My main thing with style is that you can see and sense if a look is genuine-it’s very personal, it should be a representation of you 100 percent."
J'adore: What would you call Detroit’s aesthetic?
Nelson: "Raw, uncut, bold. Everyone I know with really cool style in Detroit is fearless and bold."
J'adore: What do you think influences fashion in Detroit?
Nelson: "Community and culture and everything that’s going on in Detroit. We’ve always been the underdogs in a way, it sounds typical but it’s true. If you asked people in LA what Detroit’s style is they would have mixed answers - that makes me go harder. People from around the world don’t know it exists, it’s up to us to create it."
J'adore: Since Detroit has become more popular, have you noticed a change in how the city dresses, as a whole?
Nelson: "Yes, I would say overall people are becoming more conscious of style and more interested. Maybe trying new brands and experimenting with different looks- putting forward more effort. Detroit is becoming a city, it’s not just people walking around in Tigers hats and jerseys, people are stepping it up a bit."
J'adore: What do you think is ahead for fashion in Detroit? Do you think there’s potential for a Detroit Fashion Week?
Nelson: "Hopefully I can play apart in Detroit Fashion Week, I have my own plans to do something like that for sure. There’s shops coming here every month now Bonobos on Woodward will be open pretty soon- the fire has been lit under a good amount of people’s butts."
J'adore: Who do you draw inspiration from?
Nelson: "My dad, he would tell me certain things a man should have in his closet, you know a nice watch, a good hat. He taught me how to shine my shoes. As I got older those things started to come into play. I’m into any brand with a classic aesthetic. My favorite clothing brand is Ralph Lauren I also shop at Brooks Brothers, and J. Crew. I’m influenced by my surroundings and the people I hang around with. I’m knowledgeable in men’s tailored clothing but not an expert in street style, but some of my friends are."
J'adore: Where are some of your favorite places for a photoshoot.
Nelson: "I don't think I have a favorite. I operate off of the vibes. I try to do things that are not typical. For me, to have a really cool group of people go in front of the Detroit fist, that doesn't cut it. I try to do things that aren’t expected. Our shoots started in the hip pockets, like Midtown, as the city grows there’s so much more of Detroit I want to show people and bridge the gaps between the cool hip pockets and the rest of Detroit. Everyone needs to be included."
J'adore: Where do you shop in the area?
Nelson: "Where I work, 1701 Bespoke, we make custom clothing. It’s on Woodward and Willis in a loft above Zef’s. We’ve been in there a little over a year. Outside of that, Detroit is the New Black, Detroit Denim, Detroit Clothing Circle, Thrift on the Ave, I try to support all of the businesses that are doing cool things. Occasionally I’ll shoot out to Somerset if i need something that isn’t accessible in the city. I just got a pair of glasses from Warby Parker, I have a Shinola watch, and Carhartt."
With visionaries like Nelson and his team of creatives leading the city's fashion scene, we have a stylish future to look forward to.