The list of cities that have continually shaped the way we’ve lived these last hundred years isn’t a long one, New York and LA definitely, probably Tokyo, London and Paris too. But Detroit, mass production pioneering boom town, WW2`s arsenal of democracy, centre of black power, gospel music and Motown records, incubator of punk rock, and home of Madonna, Techno, Eminem, and mega corps Ford, GM and Chrysler, has to make the list.
Detroit helped shape the now universal suburban dream, doing it better than most places, it’s suburbs are amongst the very richest in America, but the flipside, middleclass and white flight to the suburbs and inner city poverty, decay and urban violence meant that murder capital Detroit defined futuristic, nightmares too. Yet most people don’t know what Detroit, Carhartt`s home and the people there, who wear the label, look and live like, hence we decided to find out.
First impressions of Detroit were suburban, Dearborn where Carhartt is based its home next to Ford’s global HQ and to one of America’s largest Islamic communities. There’s something viscerally modern about mothers and daughters in Islamic headscarves, jumping out of all American 4×4`s, outside drive-thrus with rotating signs in neon Arabic calligraphy. Driving into the city reveals an impressive skyline, half of which is derelict when you get there, as are major shopping streets and suburbs full of large, burnt out, detached houses. Some of this destruction can be explained by Devil’s Night a celebration of bad behavior, on the night before Halloween and now an orgy of arson.
A journey to Ford’s huge, miles long River Rouge plant, felt like entering the modern industrial world’s sacred heart, a cathedral of the machine age, where a steel press the size of an office block hurled through the air, stamping raw steel into car parts that would come off the line hours later as Fords.
But key to understanding Detroit are the Bellview three. Wikipedia was less developed back in 2003 and we searched in vain for Techno equivalent of The Bronx or Compton. Only to realize Techno founding fathers Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May were friends at Belleview High School, an establishment popular with Detroit’s huge black middleclass, in a lakeside suburb. They deliberately sought to ape European synth pop, in an elitist urge to be anything but urban. Ignore Detroit’s rundown core, its economic and cultural successes happen on its outskirts, like LA it’s the definitive suburban city.
(Text: Daryoush HAJ NAJAFI)
The images of UK based photographer Gemma Booth document Detroit and provide a precise impression of a city inextricably linked to Carhartt. Her work is featured at the inaugural exhibition at the all new Carhartt Store Munich.
Detroit Exhibition by Gemma Booth
Münchner Freiheit 2