Detroit-Shoreway was the perfect atmosphere to foster the creativity of 29-year-old Lisa Malanij when growing up. The neighborhood, of course, looked a little different back then, in the 1980s and 1990s, before it was home to the Gordon Square Arts District. But Malanij had plenty of inspiration at home. Her paternal grandfather, Bohdan Malanij, was a painter and art teacher from the Ukraine, and her father, Paul Malanij, worked as an art director and graphic designer.
For the budding designer, who was inspired by Alexander McQueen, expressing herself meant carefully choosing what to wear to school.
"I always got compliments on my outfits, by the big seventh- and eighth-graders," she says. "I was also notorious at Westside Baptist Christian School and Lutheran West High School for my alternative style. Going to private school meant certain dress codes and no fun hair colors or extreme styles. I was jealous of my public school friends who could wear whatever they wanted and color and cut their hair anyway they wanted to."
Malanij's journey next took her to the fashion school at Kent State University, where she graduated in 2009. Sure, she'd seriously considered studying psychology and pursuing a career in the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit, but her passion was fashion. So she spent time learning the industry in New York City, where she completed an internship with Soundgirl during her junior year, building up her portfolio, experimenting and working with clients. She then spent seven years post-grad working for local designers, freelancing and creating her own garments and labels — hard work that has paid off.
For the past year and a half, Malanij has been the lead pattern maker at The Pattern Makers, one of the leading pattern making companies in America and the top pattern factory on Maker's Row, an online marketplace that helps clients pair up with American-based manufacturers. Malanij works under Sean Bilovecky of Wrath Arcane, Dredgers Union, Whiskey Grade and Reverence Co. design fame.
"We started in a basement, then to the back of the Whiskey Grade store office on West 25th Street and Jay Avenue with a rad see-through window so customers could watch us pattern make and design," she says, "I had been wanting to work with him ever since I discovered Wrath Arcane my junior year of college."
In June, the company moved again to partner with FORMA MFG Apparel and Design, a new apparel factory in Beachwood. There have been ups and downs but Malanij always has her eye on what's next.
"My future goals are to establish my own brands or be a creative director of an already existing brand," she says. "So, keep your eyes out and check back on me in a couple years. I will probably have new accomplishments under my belt."