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Twins from Grand Ledge Make Fashion Statements in Lansing and Nationally

When you think fashion, you think New York, Paris, Milan and Lansing. Yeah, that's right — Lansing. There are designers from Grand Ledge who are revamping the fashion scene. Twins Shawn and Claire Buitendorp wanted to do something big.

"We decided, oh, we want to do something very exciting for our birthday, we weren't big partiers, so we said, 'Let's do something we like, let's go see Katy Perry in concert. We're going to turn 21 once, let's buy meet and greet tickets'," Claire Buitendorp said.

And then a spark of inspiration hit.

"Since we were studying fashion design at Lansing Community College, we thought, 'What better time to make some outfits for ourselves'?," Claire Buitendorp said.

And then again.

"Well if we're going to meet Katy Perry, why don't we make her one? How fun would that be?," Claire Buitendorp said.

Fast forward six months, and the twins created an outfit based on Katy Perry's 2011 California Dreams Tour and gifted it to her as planned.

"She wore it over 25 times," said Claire Buitendorp. "And from there, we got this ball rolling. We interned with the fashion designer Betsey Johnson that summer in fall, and while we were there, we gave Katy Perry another outfit, which both ended up appearing in her movie, in Nylon Magazine. We then got a spread for ourselves in Teen Vogue magazine, started dressing some other young musicians and celebrities, and then made it on to VH1's "Twinning."

"Twinning" is a reality show that puts 12 pairs of identical twins through a series of physical and mental challenges for a big cash prize of $222,222.22 — which they won.

The twins' gritty, yet fun and bright clothing also has been worn by groups like Little Mix and Nervo.

And though a story like this might seem like a rare stroke of luck. But Lansing fashion designer, Jon Lewis begs to differ. He is the chairman of the New York and Detroit-based Project I.

"Absolutely, and the greater Michigan area," said Lewis. "You know I'm from Michigan and was raised here, even though I've been in New York all these years, I've kind of kept an eye on the Michigan fashion ecosystem and it's really grown to a level where it can truly be part of the national narrative, with New York and Los Angeles."

Project I brings to life the emerging ideas of designers on par with those from major cities.

"Project I is a venture capital fund that focuses on early-stage fashion apparel companies," said Lewis. "Companies that have a disruptive business model that takes advantage of a rapidly-changing retail landscape."

That disruptive business model, means a shift away from the age-old brick and mortar shop, and  into a digital experience. That gives the twins the option of mobility. They've shown their fashion in Michigan and New York, and hope to go to Los Angeles eventually — but maybe not yet.

Locally, Project I's offices are found downtown, at The Runway, Lansing's fashion incubator.

"It's been wonderful partnering with The Runway in the time that we've been in Michigan," said Shawn Buitendorp. "Not only helping other young designers further their careers, but just working with other designers and working with other committee members with The Runway to help build the fashion arena that fashion can be."

According to the twins, their partnership has been very beneficial. Shawn and Claire Buitendorp's brand is called Shock and Awww.

Shawn favors the grit, she loves the color purple and a "wonderful leather jacket" at any time.

While Claire loves the glamour.

"My favorite piece of clothing is probably a really big, voluminous skirt," said Claire. She also loves the color pink.

Brooke Allen served as local producer and host for Morning Edition, from June 2016-March 2018.
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