Indianapolis is a great city. It’s emerging out of the Midwest and slowly becoming a fashion metropolis; like a diamond in the rough. Indianapolis has so much talent; movers and shakers in the nationwide fashion family. Danielle Smith, CEO of Fresh Fettle Fashion Events and Creative Consulting, is certainly a key piece of Indianapolis’s developing fashion puzzle.
The Indianapolis native has had the pleasure of working with major fashion brands, stores, and corporations including Parisian, Simon Property Group, Macy North and more. She was a freelance fashion writer for the Indianapolis Recorder and the Indiana Minority Business Journal. She was a technical editor for the “Fashion for Dummies” book series. Smith can be seen on Fox 59’s Morning News as a guest fashion expert and correspondent, and is also an adjunct professor for the Art Institute of Indianapolis.
Janelle Cissell recently caught up with Smith on the beautiful grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Janelle Cissell: What is Fresh Fettle Fashion Events and Creative Consulting?
DS: Fresh Fettle is a fashion event and creative consulting company that I developed in 2009, after freelancing for several years.
JC: Can you talk a little bit more about your background?
DS: I’m from Indianapolis and I was in the magnet at Broad Ripple for Visual Arts and Humanities and then I went to Alabama A&M and majored in Apparel Merchandising and Design. My concentration was fashion design. During that time, in between my junior and senior year, I interned with Anna Sui in New York. I finished schooland was working for Parisian. I was doing visual merchandising my senior year. At the end of my senior year a position came open here (Indianapolis). I got the position downtown at Parisian doing visual merchandising. I kinda talked my way into another position doing special events and PR just for that store. A guy at the Keystone at the Crossing store got me to special events and PR for that store as well. I did a lot of smaller events to help get traffic in the stores. Then I started pitching to TV stations asking them to come and cover some of our events. I pitched one event to Cody Stark with Fox 59. After the event he said I would be perfect for this segment they were going to start doing with fashion, but he didn’t have all of the details yet. So he called me like two weeks later and he’s like, “Hey Danielle”. I went in and did a segment called “Monday Makeovers”; it was good PR for Parisian. It was like, once a month, and then they had me do a segment called “Fashion Police”. I was like, “Oh my God, I’m really out here working as a stylist, producing photo shoots and doing TV”. I mean it was great because my full-time job allowed me to do both. I used every sick day…every flex day…came in late…came in early, but you know they believed in me; they didn’t have to do that. I just see it as the Lord making things possible for me. I still have days when I’m in the closet crying, “Oh God, is this going to work”, you know? But I feel like He has always surrounded me with people that keep pushing me along. With that I just went for it; I started Fresh Fettle around the same time I started teaching a class at the Art Institute.
JC: What is your passion?
DS: I would say my passion is what I’m doing now. Being able to work in this industry and love what I’m doing? It feeds my passion. On a deeper level, I really like exposing talent; I’ve always been a connector. Someone could call me and say, “I’m looking for a job”, or “I’m trying to do this”, or “Do you know a venue”, and I can link people together. You know it doesn’t really have anything to do with me, and I don’t have any ulterior motives, I’ve just always liked linking people together and orchestrating the success of others.
JC: Who is your inspiration?
DS: My earliest inspirations were my parents and my older sisters; they taught me everything. They taught me how to be stylish. They taught me about fashion. Of course they also taught me morals and values. My dad’s a contractor. He would teach me how to hang drywall, and how to change a wax ring on a toilet, when I was like seven years old!! In the end, it was great because these things taught me how to be independent. I think my mom has really great style. She wears a lot of classic stuff. She taught me how to mix high and low end pieces– you don’t have to spend a lot of money to look great. My sisters are eight and ten years older than me, so they were like hanging out at the mall when I was still playing with Barbies. Back in the day everybody was doing Salt N’ Peppa, had the asymmetrical hair and wore doorknocker earrings and the tight jeans. My sisters taught me how to do stuff with my clothes, and taught me how to do makeup. As I got older, it was people like Oprah; just uplifting people. Maybe not on that big of a scale, but you never know how that might change the course of that person’s life. I would say, I have a big humanitarian side too.
JC: What do you see in the future for Fresh Fettle?
DS: Ohh…what’s in the future? I really hope for Fresh Fettle to continue providing consulting services for people. I plan to continue to learn and grow and get excited artistically. I hope I can help others do that too.
JC: What do you see in the future for Indianapolis?
DS: I’m really excited about organizations like IFC and the FAS (Fashion Arts Society) here at the IMA. You know, when I met Bernie [Martin] several years ago, I was reaching out to him as a writer to cover Midwest Fashion Week. I’m really proud of what he’s doing with Midwest Fashion Week and the success that it’s had. Unfortunately, I think it’s difficult for a creative person to be here in Indy, but if people keep leaving, [Indy’s fashion scene] is never going to evolve into anything. The public needs to support the events; they need to start supporting what other people are doing. I can’t go to every event, but my heart is there. I really wish Indy could get more support from larger backers. It takes money to do all this stuff, and I think the city is really waiting for us as the professionals to show that we are a worthy investment. This industry can bring revenue to the city; it’s hard for someone that’s a photographer or a stylist to make money…like a living wage. The arts are always the first to go and it’s so sad. You have to carve a niche for yourself and find out what you do well and go with that, but sometimes you’re forced to do many things to make a living. I’m really proud of Nikki Sutton, Polina [Osherov], Catherine [Fritsch], Nikki Blaine, Thierry Baptiste–people who have strong artistic points of view and are really successful at what they are doing here. I think there’s hope. It think it has helped having the Art Institute here; having a younger energy. I think there’s a hunger for it, but it’s hard to get the support.
Smith continues to open a gateway for other artists in communities besides fashion. Journey for Design, a web based series produced by Smith under Fresh Fettle, will take Smith across the country finding talent in fashion, art and other creative outlets. The series is in pre-production and is slated to be released by the end of the summer.
Here’s a teaser: