by Camille Johnson
RockCity Lookbook is a fashion publication founded by Detroit-natives Blair Watts and Bree Gant. With almost 2 years under its belt, what began as a way for Blair and Bree to promote Black culture and art in Detroit is well on its way to becoming a permanent creative fixture in the city. Bree’s eye for photography and Blair’s eye for style blend perfectly, producing visually stunning, fashion forward images. Recently, we got to chop it up with the duo about RockCity Lookbook, fashion, community, and more. . . .
STARTED WITH MINI ZINES NOW THEY’RE HERE
Bree: We started almost 2 years ago, making mini folded zines. Then last September, with help from Detroit Design Festival (DDF), we printed a half page zine. This year we want to make one of those arts and culture type magazines -- not too big though because we want to be able to print them. Hopefully we’ll be able to partner with DDF again on that project.
Blair: It was pretty easy starting out. It’s easy working with Bree because she trusts my style and I don’t have to explain my thought process to her when styling for our shoots.
WHY 'ROCK CITY'?
Blair: Bree found this poster that said ‘Rock City, Suckers’ right around the time I moved home [from Baltimore] and I was like that’s dope, I like that. ‘Rock City, Suckers.’ We had another name in mind – Our Style Therapy – but we weren’t married to it; it was just how we were feeling right there in that moment. After we saw the poster it was like ‘That’s it. That’s the name. RockCity Lookbook.’ we wanted it to say Detroit without saying Motown. Like a new age name for Detroit. How we’re feeling about the city right now. You know rock city, what is it?
Bree: I worked for the Detroit Historical Society at the time and was looking at a bunch of the old names for Detroit. Thinking about all the names for Detroit – Champ City, Motown, Motor City. . . Rock City - it reminded me of how many different things originated or evolved here.
Blair: You have to know your history because it’s gonna repeat itself. So Rock City Look Book is kinda like Rock City #2, because of the clothes and style.
THINKING GLOBAL, ACTING LOCAL
Bree: We definitely prefer working with local designers, store owners, models, and artists for RCLB. That’s what builds an empire. You gotta work with your people here. Think global, act local. That’s the reason we can and are so willing to pay the team. We know where this money is coming from and where it’s going.
Blair: That’s our whole thing. Detroit Detroit Detroit. On the tags, on the sources. Everything. The more you commit to it (the city), the more it strengthens the network. That creates wealth. That's why wanna start getting out into the community, especially the west side since that's where we're from.
Bree: Right. And we want to be able to support more big community events. One thing that’s always stood out to me is something Tylonn Sawyer said about really taking advantage of the changing city and spreading our the community reach further. He said we needed something like Art Basel or a music festival like Coachella here in Detroit because we have the space to do it, we have the resources to do it, and the creative power to do it. And that would bring money to the city, to a different realm than it has been. That money isn’t gonna be spread to the rest of the city but money from an event like this can.
FALLING FOR FASHION
Blair: I knew was in love with fashion when I did this shoot in Palmer Park. It was pretty big and I was really nervous. That was my second time styling a shoot and I was up all night ironing, tryna figure if things were gonna be right and if looks were gonna turn out the way I pictured in my head. I was really nervous about this jumpsuit I pulled. You know also, when I was on the toilet and couldn’t get up before I finished the whole fashion magazine I was reading lol.
Bree: So many moments. They keep on happening, thankfully! But the first moment for me was probably street shooting at Howard and seeing how people responded to it. I’m like yesss this is a thing guys, look.
70s SWAG & 80s COLORS
Blair: My favorite era of fashion is the 70s, but I appreciate them all.
Bree: I like the 80s, but you’re not supposed to like the 80s lol.
Blair: I like the 80s a lot too because it’s bold and it’s brave, and that’s how I kind of feel about how fashion is now.
Bree: I love the lines, the curves, the colors from the 80s.
Blair: But the 70s has the swank and the swag that I like. With the tails and the collars. Plaid, and the tight, and the high. Yeaaa lol.
Blair: I like that anything goes. I love Haider Ackermann. Kanye West for Adidas was good. But I’m really tryna find inspiration from within.
Bree: I like this highwaist trend. And I like that conversation around fashion is still being had and pushed and expounded upon. Especially in relation to art, or from the perspective of fine art work.
THE CLASSIC AMERICAN & THE FRONTBUN QUEEN
Blair: My personal style is very traditional, like Tommy, Ralph Lauren, Ryder.
Bree: Classic American lol.
Blair: Yea lol. And Gap.I like clean, traditional, timeless clothes. I can wear a white crisp button up blouse for decades. I can wear a black dress all the way through. Pants, loafers, jeans, turtlenecks. Stuff that’ll never go out of style. Like when I’m 80 I can still wear this. Bree is a unicorn with her style. She loves all black.
Bree: I’ll definitely wear all black. Black maxi skirt. Black t-shirt. Black skinnies. Black t-shirt. Little black dress. Black boots. And headwraps! I wear a lot of headwraps, and my front bun. I’ve been wearing my front bun for like 3 years.
Blair: It’s your signature at this point.
Bree: I like what headwraps do for my line. It just extends my line up. I like the way it looks. It’s convenient for bad hair days. And it dresses stuff up.
ART HOUSE SWAP MEET
Blair: Art House Swap Meet is an event supported through Allied Media Conference. It’s our second year, so we’re pretty hype about it. We have some artists, a sculptor Austin Brinkley, Khloe Katz. So that’ll be the art show. And then the actual event is a swap meet. We’ll have specific venders selling clothes and books and then other ppl there to swap. It’s kind of forcing people to talk to each other and get dope stuff at the same time. Our/Detroit vodka will be sponsoring some drinks. And then we’ll have some food too. And the homie, DJ Stacye J.
Bree: We’re still looking for venders, especially music venders! It doesn’t have to be a big table. But if you have some decent records, you can come set up a crate and table.
THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE GALLERY SHOW
Blair: We’re going to have a show this September during the Detroit Design Festival. It’s gonna be a different way for us to display fashion as art. Really saying that it’s all together.
Bree: Exactly. We want to show people that fashion is accessible. We want to have some different thinkers and creators in the place. So it’ll be a traditional gallery show with our fashion editorial work, drinks, food, and swag bags.
Blair: And the prints posted in the show will be for sale!
Blair: We’re trying to move toward more printed media this year. We'll still have online presence, but we definitely want to move into print. And we want to get into selling more posters of the shoots.
Bree: Mmhmm. There are all these epic 80s fashion posters. I’ve seen them mostly when I’m getting lost in John King Books, but you’ll see posters that are just fashion posters and we don’t have those anymore.
WORDS OF WISDOM
Bree: If something is your dream, talk about it. It’s okay to talk about it. I know people say “don’t talk about it, be about it” but you gotta talk about your shit sometimes. You know? Talk about it with friends. Tell people what you wanna do. Open your mouth.
Blair: There’s gonna be some type of difficult road ahead no matter what, so you might as well do what you wanna do. You’ll be a lot happier in the end. But you definitely have to say it out loud, even if it’s just to yourself, so you can hear it. You have to say it out loud though, not just in your head. Stuff becomes more tangible once you say it out loud. You start to think about step 2 and step 3.