Michigan is not known for being a hub for the fashion industry, which makes it difficult for those desiring to enter that career path.
But, Matthew Williams is trying to change that. The Northwood University graduate has launched The Runway Avenue, a “fashion company that promotes emerging independent Michigan fashion designers by providing them with an online presence on our unique E-marketplace exclusively for designers.”
“When fashion designers emerge from universities with their degrees and certifications, they have often received very little to no coursework in business or marketing to teach them how to build their brands, unlike other states such as New York or California that possess major fashion scenes where designers can join fashion houses and work for brands to learn branding skills,” said Williams, CEO and co-founder of The Runway Avenue.
The company focuses on fashion forward women and men between the ages of 22-55 who desire “nonmainstream clothing and prefer unique and trendy apparel.”
“Our target customers seek high-fashion and luxurious clothing and are willing to pay top dollar in order to have a wardrobe that stands out and consists of one-of-a-kind looks,” Williams said. “Our appeal is targeted to customers who seek unique, trendy and quality clothing regardless of style.”
All designers that offer merchandise on The Runway Avenue undergo a “curation process.”
“We evaluate our designers using a process that we modeled after a few components from the portfolio submission requirements of the Fashion Institute of Technology. We do this to ensure that each of our featured designers are exceptionally talented in what they do to guarantee quality,” said Williams, who earned a master’s degree in business administration and management from Northwood University — Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management.
The original business plan was to help small boutiques in Michigan expand their presence by building an online platform to market merchandise and connect to shoppers.
“However we soon discovered that the logistical struggles of coordinating that would be a tough barrier, as well as for the challenges stemming from other existing competitors in that space. Not to be discouraged, we still believed that we were on to something that could do a lot of good for the right group of people,” Williams said.
The original idea, hatched in a dorm room, underwent some fine tuning with the development of a garment district in Detroit by the Detroit Garment Group.
“We discovered that there was a real need for a reliable platform that would promote talented emerging independent fashion designers. That’s exactly what The Runway Avenue is — a unique marketplace that promotes up and coming fashion designers,” said Williams who graduated from Livonia Stevenson High School.
One might think a market offering only high quality designs would be limited.
“This market is actually not as narrow as many think,” Williams said. “There will always be those individuals who only purchase a garment if it’s from a big name designer. But in this industry being trendy sells. From what we have found many fashion forward shoppers’ buying habits are based around the love of owning unique and trendy merchandise.”
Williams’ interest in fashion design comes from his love and desire for people.
“I always knew that once I completed my education with Northwood University I wanted to use everything that I had learned and apply it in an area where I could directly cause positive change in the lives of people in my community. My fascination with fashion design is really tied to the people, and it has been growing ever since,” said Williams, who also holds undergraduate degrees in business management and economics.
To purchase designs or learn more about The Runway Avenue, visit therunwayavenue.com.