With a passion for art and design, Orleans + Winder owner Erin Wetzel has brought quality fashion to Detroit.
By Alexa Caccamo
Photography by Alyssa Lopatin
While it’s easy to follow fast-fashion trends, Erin Wetzel wants consumers to take a step back.
Before opening the fashion boutique Orleans + Winder, Wetzel, a 43-year-old Grass Lake native, attended the University of Michigan where she studied theater performance. After she graduated, she moved to Paris and lived there for a year. While living in Paris, Wetzel became inspired by European fashion and discovered her passion for the industry.
“All around me were beautiful quality-made pieces and cultural interest in gearing toward quality over quantity, and that was the European lifestyle that sunk into me,” Wetzel says. “Fashion in particular was always really intriguing to me because it’s how we design ourselves. It can be very artistic and a very beautiful form of self-expression.”
After moving back to the U.S., Wetzel and her business partner opened Orleans + Winder. The store first opened on Russell Street and after three years moved to Gratiot Avenue. Wetzel opened her boutique in Detroit because, she says, she didn’t choose Detroit, Detroit chose her.
“(My family and I) moved to Detroit 10 years ago, and having a child here, living, working and being very rooted into the city from the get-go, we knew we were here,” Wetzel says. “It was going through this beautiful renaissance, and Detroit was so welcoming to small businesses and new entrepreneurs. We wanted whatever we opened to be in the heart of Detroit.”
What makes Orleans + Winder different from other boutiques in Metro Detroit is the store’s focus on “slow fashion and design.” What that entails, Wetzel says, is a mix of local and international designers who create their designs in their own distinct way.
“Every independent designer we carry either produces their pieces in small batches or by hand,” Wetzel says. “We wanted people who were working and creating under the lovely umbrella of sustainability, whether it’s the fabric itself or them, the designers, working only locally within their region or creating things using old techniques that are becoming lost. That is our full-on mission. That is what we seek out when we are looking at designers and artists.”
What also makes Orleans + Winder special is its refrainment from following trends. Wetzel says when customers walk into the store, they browse through pieces that do not come from mass production. For instance, Orleans + Winder recently launched its own capsule collection of five pieces.
“The beautiful thing about our store is that we stay as far away from trends as possible,” Wetzel says. “I think it’s lovely for people because they’re coming in to invest in a piece that’s incredibly timeless and well made that’s going to last them many years.”
When you walk into Orleans + Winder, you will notice that the showroom is filled with pieces only in neutral colors such as black and nude. This method of merchandising ties back to Wetzel’s mission of carrying pieces that shoppers can wear for years to come.
“When someone is really investing in a piece that lasts them a long time, you want it to be very wearable, so we stick to a neutral color palette,” Wetzel says. “There are certain things per season that my designers might offer that have a pop of color or a beautiful, intricate design, and we will carry a few of those pieces, but typically we offer a neutral palette for that reason — to be timeless and interchangeable in someone’s wardrobe.”
With Orleans + Winder operating in Detroit, what Wetzel hopes to bring to the city and Metro Detroit, are more choices for shoppers.
“We have been creating more of a gathering space at OW, a like-minded community of artists who are practicing sustainability,’’ Wetzel says. “We want to spread the word that there are a lot of options besides the ‘big-box store.’ ”
While educating customers on quality fashion, the boutique also exposes visitors to local artists such as Leon Dickey, Elizabeth Youngblood and Anjali Purohit, founder of Studio Variously.
“Erin is extremely well-versed in curation for the collection she showcases there,” says Leslie Ann Pilling, 59, a Detroit native and designer whose fashion and home decor pieces have been featured in the shop. “Her tastes, level and reassignment expands from being serious and minimalistic to fun and a bit raw edgy. It’s wearable art.”
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Orleans + Winder
1410 Gratiot Ave., Suite 102, Detroit