The Rebirth of a fashion week

Powered by the Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator (DE-FI) LLC the architect of one of the most influential fashion organizations in the country. Dayton Fashion Week is calling on local, national and international designers that are transforming the industry to be a part of our all inclusive week long celebration of all things fashion!

Not only will there be (DE-FI) produced events, Dayton Fashion Week is giving you the opportunity to do fashion your way by hosting or producing your own fashion experiences that can take place in a variety of  venues across the Miami Valley from galleries, showrooms, dinner  parties, museums, cultural institutes and more...you have total creative control. This is your chance to  grow your clientele with an exploration of creative fashion, shine a  spotlight on retail development, and make Dayton, OH a fashion destination.  

Led by a volunteer team of experienced  fashion industry professionals, business owners,  and event planning specialists,  our vision is to celebrate Dayton as not only the Birthplace of  Aviation  but as the Innovation Capital of the World!  It is our mission to  provide support to Dayton's fashion industries in the form of business  resources, exposure, education, advocacy, and advancement.

Events will range in topic and size and will consist of meetups, workshops,  talks and social gatherings hosted by fashion designers, models, photographers, stylist, Hair and Makeup artist individual artists, creative companies and organizations that serve the fashion community in some way.  


Explore the role fashion plays in everyday life.


This week long  series is an important opportunity for our community to unite under a  common passion for all things design. Become a Sponsor or Partner today!

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About The Owner

Caressa 's Story

Born  and raised in Dayton, OH, to Sharon Brown, former Makeup Artist for  Fashion Fair and a State Certified CNA and James Brown, a former Drill  Sergeant for the U.S. Marine Corps. and Sergeant for the Montgomery  County Sheriff's Dept., (DE-FI)'s Owner and Director Caressa L. Brown  didn't start her career as a model because she thought that she was  beautiful or had what it took be successful; in fact it was just the  opposite. She was often teased for being tall, thin, and her parents who  were divorced could not afford to buy her the latest fashions or get  her hair done professionally; her real passion was art, drawing,  computers, architecture, and engineering.


Her  parents were divorced and her father had re-married and was always  active in her life; at the age of 11 and suffering from low self-esteem,  her mother, a former model enrolled Caressa into Bettie Massie Modeling  School  with the hopes of her gaining self-esteem.  Even though her mom  could not afford the extra expense, she took on a 3rd job to help cover  the cost.  After the very first session of modeling school, the  instructor asked Caressa and her mother to stay over for a meeting,  during this meeting the instructor shared how impressed she was with  Caressa and her belief that she had what it took to become a signed  model.  The instructor then went on to make an offer that was too good  to be true; she offered to continue to coach Caressa free of charge for  the remainder of the courses at Bettie Massie and with this news, her  mom went on to quit her 3rd job. 


However,  this offer had not been approved by Bettie, and after 6 weeks of  additional courses and no record of payment; Bettie called Caressa and  her mom in for a meeting to inquire about missing payments where they  explained to Bettie the offer that had been made by the instructor.   Upon hearing this information Bettie told them that she never approved  this offer and that in order for Caressa to continue with the program,  they would need to pay back the money for the previous courses and pay  for all of the future courses.  A decision was made to to leave the  modeling school.


Caressa  did gain the confidence that her mother had hoped she'd gain and a year  later, she was signed  to her  first modeling contract at the age of  12.  Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, her mother was diagnosed with  Multiple Sclerosis and could no longer work creating an even deeper  financial burden that  prevented her from being able to travel to her  agency  which was hours away for work and in a role reversal, Caressa  then took on the role as a caregiver for her mom. 


With  the dream of becoming a model fading quickly, Caressa continued to  focus on her education in hopes of becoming an Architectural Engineer,  however, attending a underfunded and under-served  Jefferson Twp School  district that did not offer the levels of math needed for free, she  found herself  in the 8th grade trying to learn advance math on her own  without credit from an advance math book given to her by her 8th grade  math teacher.  


In  high school she continued to excel in school with computer classes,  math, and wood shop being her favorite subjects.  She went on to receive  full ride academic scholarships to Wright State University, Central  State University, and The Ohio State University with the intent of  majoring in engineering. 


In  1998,  after her father retired from the Sheriff's Dept. and relocated  to his native Texas, Caressa, still caring for her disabled mother,  shortly after her high school graduation,  was offered a job with  General Motors, Truck and Bus Moraine Assembly where she went on to work  for 8 years before the plant closed.  During those 8 years and now in a  better financial situation, she once again pursued her dreams of  becoming a model while also pursuing her degree at Wright State.  She  went on to be scouted and offered a contract by Click Models in 1999,  and in 2001, she was chosen as a Regional Semi-finalist in the Elite  Model Look Competition, where she was also offered a contract. However,  this time, she realized that she was in need of more than just financial  support to pursue her dreams. 

  

Her  scholarship required her to maintain a 3.0 gpa, while taking 15 credit  hours which was nearly impossible to do working 50 hours a week in a  factory, caring for a disabled parent, and helping other family members.  She was in need of a strong support system. She eventually lost her  scholarships, flunked out and dropped out of college. After sitting out a  year, she changed majors several times, transferring back and forth  between Wright State and Sinclair Community College, and giving up on  her dreams, all while sinking into a deep depression, losing faith, and  not knowing her purpose. Nevertheless, she persisted and eventually  earned her degree in 2007 from Wright State in  Organizational/Educational Leadership.In 2015 she began pursuing a  second degree in Urban Affairs with a focus on non-profit management and  regional & city planning at Wright State as well, while serving as a  member of the Dean's Student Advisory Board for the College of Liberal  Arts advocating for non-traditional students.  


In  2007, after quickly rising to the position of Branch Corporate Account  Manager then Assistant Branch Manager for a Fortune 500 company, Caressa  began focusing on Community Outreach which led her to  a career change  and a shift in thinking to only accept opportunities that aligned with  her passion.  She went on to intern  for 91.3 FM WYSO in 2009 where she  went on to become a part of the very first class of Community Voices  Producers.  She remained actively involved in the community and in 2012  she became a contributor for Dayton Most Metro after volunteering as the  Model Coordinator for the first Dayton Fashion Week.  However, when  that organization folded the same year, Caressa was encouraged to start  her own fashion organization by members of the local media and other  volunteers from the first Dayton Fashion Week.  In 2013, the Dayton  Emerging Fashion Incubator (DE-FI) LLC was born!


Since it's launch, Caressa  has served the  2013-2018 seasons working behind the scenes with the Volunteer Program  for the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, she has assisted with Casting Calls for Art Hearts Fashion and other major New York Fashion Week events.  In 2018, (DE-FI)ance Magazine, our annual publication received its first invite for press credentials from a major producer of New York Fashion Week all  while opening AND holding the doors open for other local fashion  professionals to gain the same access and knowledge that she had gained.  She has made it a point to help educate aspiring fashion talent, as  well as helping to remove any barriers that may prevent talent from  pursuing their dreams in fashion and design, and most importantly, she  is committed to providing the support system that she wished she had  when she was pursuing her dreams. 

 

In less than 6 years, under Caressa's leadership, (DE-FI) has expanded to include the Dayton Garment & Textile District, The Gem City Sewing Company,  and Dayton Threads.   In 2016 (DE-FI) acquired  Dayton Fashion Week and and in 2019 launched   Dayton Design Week, in essence, she has laid the foundation to supply  every aspect of the fashion industry right here in Dayton, Ohio.  


Known  for her GRIT factor, giving, big heart, caring spirit, yet no  non-sense, tough love, and disciplined approach; today, Caressa's life  has come full circle, she is still the caregiver for her mother and by  day, she serves as the assistant to the Assistant -Dean of Engineering  Graduate Education and Office Administrator for Graduate Programs for  the College of Engineering Diversity Outreach, and Inclusion at The Ohio  State University.  She is  also serving her 2nd term as an appointed  Trustee for the Montgomery Country Arts and Cultural District where she  has led the way advocating for under-served communities, transparency,  and accountability for the past 6 years; she currently serves as the  Secretary of the Board of Trustees. In short, while her dreams of  becoming the world's first Supermodel Architectural Engineer were not  realized;-) She is living a fulfilled  and purpose driven life in  helping pave the way for future models, designers, artist, and engineers  from all walks of life to live their dreams. #DEFIngAllOdds  #WhatDoYouDEFI

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