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...AND INSTEAD SHAKES UP THE MARKET BY DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY" ~Sir Richard Branson
#BeDisruptive #RockTheBoat #BeDEFIant
Models, Designers, supporters and (DE-FI) leaders participate in a Habitat For Humanity Build.
The black sheep that's not for sale, not interested in being a part of your clique, nor are we interested in winning any popularity contests. (DE-FI) Global INC is a privately held, self-funded Fashion Incubator owned and directed by Dayton,Ohio native, resident, and former model Caressa L. Brown. (DE-FI) Global INC evolved from the disruptive volunteer based community outreach beginnings of the Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator; to the bold arrival of the first-of-its-kind one stop fashion fablab, the House of (DE-FI)ance: A Fashion & Design Co-working Experience; and on to the barrier removing, tax exempt 501 (c)(3) The Art of (DE-FI)ance Fashion Fund.
With a focus on fashion, talent, media, and events, we develop and support individuals and their teams seeking a career in the fashion industry by:
1) Connecting them to like-minded individuals.
2) By providing affordable access, resources, and opportunities to advance their careers via the Dayton Fashion Week Incubator and The Cincinnati Fashion Incubator.
It's never business as usual for us and you'll never have the same experience twice. (DE-FI) Global INC's events and programming are tailor made to provide participants, contributors, and patrons alike a distinctive and captivating opportunity to witness tomorrow's fashion stars at the birth of their careers, follow them throughout the process, and at the culmination of their fashion career, you'll have the chance to say, "I knew them when...". So if we tell you to #RememberTheirName; believe us, take notes, sit back, and just watch. No other regional fashion organization has developed and produced the number of success stories as (DE-FI) Global INC, making the Southwest Ohio region The Fashion Capital for the development and success of fashion based talent across multiple disciplines.
An organization so influential in its practices, strategy, and proven results that it reshaped how other regional fashion organizations across the world operate. Headquartered in Dayton, OH, we support, strengthen, and expand the fashion industry throughout Southwest Ohio including our sister city, Cincinnati which is 45 minutes south of Dayton. We do this through a combination of our Fashion Pipeline initiatives which includes:
Comprised of accomplished fashion industry professionals, business owners, and community leaders, (DE-FI) Global INC is far from polished; we are not your stereotypical, posh, or face giving fashion organization. We amplify influence and opportunities for aspiring, emerging, and independent apparel and accessory designers, as well as costume designers by promoting mentorship, entrepreneurship, collaboration, team building, community, and scholarship. In fact, before we even get into the creative aspects and business of fashion, we start with foundation building to ensure that our talent is equipped with the tools needed to navigate the not so pretty side of the fashion industry. It takes more than talent and looks to be successful in fashion, therefore, we start our talent off in our incubators by focusing on developing and/or fine tuning the following areas:
Our vigor has been a hub for innovation and creativity that has often been imitated yet our formula for success has never been duplicated. For nearly a decade, the crown jewel of our company, the Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator affectionately known as (DE-FI) and pronounced "defy", served as the first-of-its-kind one stop organization that re(DE-FI)ned what it meant to put community first, live out your wildest dreams, and supporting the needs of emerging fashion talent as a whole at the same damn time. And it was done in one of the least likely cities you'd ever expect to find a successful and thriving fashion community...yet here we are in Dayton, OH making it happen; and in July of 2023, we're adding some Gems to the crown of the Queen City of Cincinnati.
(DE-FI) Global INC ultimately fosters a viable, nurturing, independent, and self-sustaining fashion community in Southwest Ohio. With a focus on removing barriers, particularly the financial barriers that prevent many from succeeding in the fashion industry, our work is inspired by the struggles that Caressa L. Brown, (DE-FI) Global INC's Owner/Director faced in her one time promising career as a model.
Caressa L. Brown is a Dayton, OH native and resident, that comes from a long line of business owners and community activists. A 1998 graduate of Jefferson High School and a 2007 graduate of Wright State University, Caressa is preparing to study Horticulture and Fashion Design at the University of Cincinnati's DAAP in the Fall of 2023. She currently serves as a coordinator for HBCU Central State University for the Agricultural Research Development Program, where she also Chairs the Recruitment Subcommittee for The John W. Garland College of Engineering, Science, Technology, and Agriculture.
A 2019 Dayton Business Journal Top 40 Under 40 recipient and 2021 Ohio Black Excellence award winner who has launched the careers of thousands of models, designers, photographers, HMUA's, stylists, and more. Owner of the first-of-its-kind fashion incubator (DE-FI) Global INC, Caressa has worked behind the scenes of major New York Fashion Week events produced by IMG/Endeavor via the Council of Fashion Designers of America CFDA and Art Hearts Fashion. She is a founding member of the CFDA Connects Program and served as a member of the programs Executive Board in the inaugural year; she sits on the Advisory Board for Hocking College's Fashion Design & Retail Merchandising Programs, and is preparing to launch The Cincinnati Fashion Incubator in 2023.
Known for her in your face bold (DE-FI)ance, GRIT, giving, big heart, caring spirit, yet no non-sense accountability, tough love, and disciplined approach to business and everyday life; Caressa is probably best known for her resilience, tenacity, and perseverance. Her story has served as the foundation for (DE-FI)'s programming.
Suffering from low self-esteem as a child, Caressa's mom, also a former model, worked several jobs to put her into modeling school so that she could learn how to walk with confidence. After the first class, the instructor pulled Caressa and her mother aside and offered to continue to train Caressa free of charge because she believed that Caressa was the only person in her class that had what it took to make it in the industry as a professional model. It was later discovered that this decision had not been approved by the modeling school's owner who gave Caressa's mom the option to pay back the money owed or withdraw from the school, due to financial barriers, it was decided to withdraw from the school.
With newly found confidence and a new dream of becoming a model, Caressa spent a lot of time hanging out in the bookstores at the local malls reading fashion magazines and fashion based books looking for model searches, studying posing, reading interviews from top models and designers, and totally immersing herself into all things fashion. At the age of 12, Caressa signed her first modeling contract, unfortunately shortly after, her mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. As a result, their already strained financial situation worsened; Caressa's dreams were put on hold to become the caregiver for her mom, a title that 30+ years later, she still holds.
Shortly after graduating from high school, Caressa once again pursued a career as a model after attending a model conference where she scouted and offered a contract with Click Modeling Agency in Atlanta. At the time, she was working at General Motors Truck & Bus and was making good money, while also putting herself through college, and still caring for her disabled mother. Struggling to carry the load of being a full-time first generation college student, caring for a disabled mother, working 50+ hours a week at G.M., and chasing her dreams, she struggled to get to Atlanta to meet with her agency, once again her dream slipped away. A few years later, she became a Regional Semi-Finalist in the iconic Elite Model Look Competition and was offered a contract with Elite Chicago where she again struggled to make it to Chicago to meet with her agency. It was then that she realized that just being able to afford to pursue a dream is not enough, she also needed a support system, which she did not have.
It ultimately took her 9 years to complete her degree; years later, Caressa who has also been a loyal community volunteer and activist since the age of 12 created the Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator (DE-FI) LLC using community outreach as the foundation and requiring talent to volunteer in their respective communities in exchange for (DE-FI) services. As a result, (DE-FI) eliminated financial barriers and provided the needed support system that individuals seeking careers in fashion need to find success within the industry.
And success they have found! Shortly after our 2013 launch, Caressa went on to serve on the Council of Fashion Designers of America's Volunteer team working behind the scenes of NYFW from 2013-2018. Taking what she learned from those experiences, she held the door open for others, while providing the support system that talent needed via #DatDEFIFam. Since launching, (DE-FI) model alum have gone on to walk in Fashion Weeks in Milan, New York, and Paris for designers such as Versace, Saint Jesus, Saral Zens and more. They've appeared in campaigns for Kohl's, Michael Kors, ASOS, When Smoke Clears, Nike, Marc Jacobs, and more. They’ve been profiled in InStyle and Vogue Magazines, and have appeared in national commercials, prime time tv, and films. (DE-FI) Designer alum have been featured in Vogue Italia, Ebony, Ellements, Shape magazines, and more. They've been scouted by top fashion design programs and companies including FIDM, Kent State, UC's DAAP, SCAAD, Ross Dress for Less, L Brands and have been named to Forbes Under 30 Fellows list. Their work has been seen at Ulla Johnson, Calvin Klein, and on A-List celebrities at the Grammy's, the Oscars, Paris Fashion week, the Tribeca Film Festival, and on ABC's reboot of The Wonder Years, just to name a few.
(DE-FI) has grown every year since 2013 without ever having to scale down or veer off course. She is an industry builder. Under Caressa's direction, (DE-FI) Global INC has working relationships/partnerships with multiple colleges, universities, and high schools around the state of Ohio as a result of the unmatched and unparalleled number of success stories that have emerged from the community outreach focused (DE-FI) Global INC.
To date, (DE-FI) has working relationships with staff, faculty, and students at The University of Cincinnati, The University of Dayton, Miami University, Kent State University, The Ohio State University, Bowling Green State University, and Hocking College. Locally, (DE-FI) has the pleasure of working with a number of area high schools and their students including Dayton Regional STEM School, Horizon Academy, Alter, Dayton Early College Academy, Ponitz, and Jefferson. And we've made it happen in the most (DE-FI)ant and disruptive way.
From fashion, media, entertainment, business, and more, (DE-FI) alum have successfully done it all and they've done it all on a global scale. Making Dayton and the Southwest Ohio region the Fashion Capital for the development and success of fashion based talent across multiple disciplines. (DE-FI) Global INC ultimately fosters a viable, nurturing, independent, and self-sustaining fashion community in Southwest Ohio.
Always with the community in mind, Caressa started Veggie Soul: The Farmers’ Market in 2019 as a way to teach the residents of west Dayton (where she lives) and Trotwood how to garden and become more self-sustaining and self-sufficient in the midst of the food desert, and she offers her services free of charge. Her future plans are to open Noirquility which will be an urban retreat/homestead bed and breakfast.
With a focus on removing barriers, particularly the financial barriers that prevent many from succeeding in the fashion industry, (DE-FI)'s work is inspired by the financial struggles and lack of support system that Caressa faced in her one time promising career as a model; her story has served as the foundation for (DE-FI)'s programming.
In a little over 8 years, she has expanded her initial company the Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator, better known as (DE-FI) into an internationally recognized and highly coveted brand which consists of an interdisciplinary fashion incubator that focuses on the business of fashion, the first-of-its- kind one stop interdisciplinary fashion co-working space that focuses on team and brand building, the House of (DE-FI)ance, a modeling agency, (DE-FI) Models, Dayton Fashion Week, and more.
Previously, Caressa has served as a Trustee for the Montgomery County Arts & Cultural District, Community Voices producer for NPR affiliate 91.3 FM WYSO in Yellow Springs, and contributor to Dayton Most Metro now Dayton 937.
BE A WITNESS to the newest cities experiencing the evolution of emerging fashion. When we first launched, the goal was to serve as a springboard for Dayton area talent to connect with other fashion weeks and opportunities across the country, however, making that connection wasn't as easy as we had hoped and found that those other outlets weren't interested in sharing the spotlight. Locally, we found ourselves being dismissed, ignored, blocked, mitigated, gate-kept, and even sabotaged by the various small business owners, local government agencies, even community leaders who were uncomfortable with our rapid success, continued growth, outside the box operations, refusal to conform, and our in your face (DE-FI)ant attitude. So, we gathered our supplies, built our own platform and blazed a path and legacy of our own that those who tried to stop us and/or refused to acknowledge us, now duplicate or copy and paste directly from our blueprint.
For nearly a decade the self-funded (DE-FI) Global INC has transformed into a gate busting, door holding, accepts you as you are and where you are kind of organization that has built a solid reputation for developing world class talent and producing uniquely immersive fashion experiences with a style that is raw, in your face, open, honest, transparent, and (DE-FI)ant. A style that paved the way for fashion professionals to live out their dreams throughout various stages of life.
In doing so, we also built a sense of community, we curated ideas, we disrupted the status quo, we identified the problem then we initiated change. We've (DE-FI)ed all odds, every naysayer, every critic, every doubt, every fear, every rejection, and made the next level our floor. We did not re-invent the wheel, we changed how the wheel was used ultimately putting a global spotlight on Dayton’s emerging and advancing fashion industry and talented work force. #WeDidItOurWay
#ThisIsOurHow #TheEvolutionOfDEFI #ItJustKeepsGettingBetter #TheFashionExperience #LetsGetIt #CincinnatiFashion #DaytonFashion #TheBluePrint #DesignerIncubator #WeInside #TheNextLevelIsHere #RemovingBarriers #ConceptToCompletion #TailorMade #MoldCreator #BeTheOriginal #LetThemModelYou #CFDA #CFDAConnects #FashionCareersStartHere #TheFashionPipeline #FashionAdvancement
#BeDisruptive #BeDEFIant #BreakEveryRule #ThisIsOurHouse #WhatDoYouDEFI #FirstFlightNowFashion
Talent Development and Management
For nearly a decade we have helped to launch the careers of over 1000 models, designers, photographers, HMUA's, writers, sewists, and more. We have helped them navigate the frequently changing fashion industry to build lasting careers and businesses.
Fashion Operations and Advisory
Headquartered in Dayton, Ohio, (DE-FI) creates, designs, and executes strategic plans for fashion careers that pave the way for transformative, innovative, memorable events, and experiences with support from CFDA Connects programming making the Miami Valley and Southwest Ohio the fashion capital for talent development.
Experience and Event Management
We own and/or produce more than 10 signature events, from live fashion shows, to community engagement, and brand building educational series that merge culture, art, music, culinary, and lifestyle.
Media Production and Distribution
We are a content platform specializing in development, production, marketing, and distribution of fashion related talent and work out of the Dayton and Cincinnati region.
Creative Marketing and Branding
A marketing business providing experiential, impactors, influencers, and public relations expertise for fashion based talent in Dayton and Cincinnati but not limited to our region.
Beyond the glitz and glamor, the fashion industry is a Top 10 employer in the U.S. and is a $900 Billion dollar a year industry, Columbus and Cleveland have all benefited from the fashion industry. Why not Dayton and Cincinnati? From having headquarters of top fashion brands call their cities home to manufacturing internationally recognized brands. According to the 2020 census, the median household income in Dayton was $32,540 for Cincinnati it's $45,235; 30% of Dayton's residents live in poverty, for Cincinnati it's 24.7%; and out of 248 cities in Ohio, Dayton ranks 12th for childhood poverty, Cincinnati is ranked 28th; Montgomery County ranks 19th out of 88 counties for childhood poverty, Hamilton County was in the top 1/3. Our communities could really use better paying jobs and a more diverse economy.
While producing world class talent has been the pinnacle of our success, growing Dayton's market to benefit from the economic powerhouse that is the Fashion Industry has been met with challenges. Most notably the lack of support from our local government and government agencies. The governments of Midwest cities like Columbus and St. Louis are actively working to retain their fashion based talent; the St. Louis government is paying $50,000 for designers to move to St. Louis; Columbus has invested over a half a million dollars to retain fashion designers in their city since 2020.
In 9 years, we've had zero support, backing, or acknowledgement from the City of Dayton or Montgomery County and it's not due to a lack of trying on our end. The fashion industry presents immense opportunities for investing in garment manufacturing; one of (DE-FI) Global INC's longest held goals has been and still is to bring garment manufacturing to the Dayton and Miami Valley areas. Did you know that garment manufacturing requires less capital intensive with high investment to turnover ratio? The output of U.S. textile manufacturing (measured by value added) totaled $18.79 billion in 2019.
According to U.S. Joint Economic Committee, the U.S. apparel manufacturing industry employs more than 144,000 people. While occupations such as sewing machine operators, tailors, and textile machine operators still earn lower wages; higher paying garment manufacturing occupations such as market research analysts and marketing specialists earn an average of $59,750 annually, garment manufacturing computer based professionals earn $67,110/yr., and other production stages such as fabric and apparel pattern-makers earn an average of $53,800 annually.
Former high school intern turned model turned designer Sa-Shai Daniels shares her experience in working with the (DE-FI) in her 5-year journey of creative self-discovery.
After working behind the scenes of NYFW and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week with the CFDA's volunteer team from 2013-2018, in 2021 we were honored to become a founding member of the CFDA Connects Program and an Associate. Our Owner Caressa L. Brown and Designer Alum Aceani Michelle sat on the Leadership Committee in the inaugural year and are current voting member of the CFDA Fashion Award's Guild.
CFDA Connects is a network curated by the Council of Fashion Designers of America CFDA which is Chaired by American Fashion Designer Thom Browne, previous Chairs have included Tom Ford, Diane Von Furstenberg, Oscar de la Renta, Perry Ellis, and Bill Blass to name a few. CFDA Leadership includes Steven Kolb, who serves as the CEO, CaSandra Diggs, who serves as the President, Lisa Smilor, who serves as the Executive Vice-President, and Mark Beckham who serves as the Vice President of Marketing and Events.
Developed by Elliot Carlyle, the CFDA Connects program supports regional fashion weeks and organizations through promotion, business support, resources and member privileges whose influence alone will:
Designers selected to headline the Dayton Fashion Week Experience will also benefit from the following services via the CFDA Connects program:
Aside from our work started by the Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator, the 2022-23 CFDA Connects Regional Fashion Organizations include:
The Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc. (CFDA) is a not-for-profit trade association founded in 1962, whose membership consists of 477 of America’s foremost womenswear, menswear, jewelry and accessory designers. The mission of the CFDA is to strengthen the impact of American fashion in the global economy. The CFDA Foundation, Inc. is a separate not-for-profit organization, which was created to raise funds for charity and industry activities. In addition to hosting the annual CFDA Fashion Awards, the trade organization owns the Fashion Calendar.
Due to financial hardships, we have several participants in our incubators who are unable to afford the cost of the services that we offer. We never turn anyone away due to their inability to pay. Your support and contributions to The Art of (DE-FI)ance Fashion Fund allows us to keep our services affordable and provide hardship grants to participants in need.
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On Saturday, April 29th, 2023 (DE-FI) Global INC will produce the Inaugural Dayton Woman's Club Fashion Show featuring Clothes That Work and benefiting The Artemis Center for Domestic Violence.