Pamella DeVos has fashion plan for Grand Rapids


Fashion Design and Construction students Anne Tilma, left, and Athena Anger enjoy their new space at Kendall. Photo by Johnny Quirin

The seeds of the fashion industry are being planted in Grand Rapids, and Pamella DeVos is looking to help them flourish.

Kendall College of Art and Design’s fashion program has been named the Pamella Roland DeVos School of Fashion, following a $1 million donation from the Dan and Pamella DeVos Foundation. A dedication ceremony was held Tuesday, with DeVos in attendance.

Grand Rapids’ fashion industry isn’t in full bloom yet, said DeVos, president of the New York-based fashion brand Pamella Roland, but she and the leadership of KCAD are working on it. As a Grand Rapids native, she said she’d love to move her fashion headquarters to Grand Rapids — as would her husband and family — but first she needs the city to produce local pattern makers, sewers and other trained fashion designers.

“Obviously, this (program) is new. We have to work on it,” she said. “We have a great city here. There are a lot of people that want to stay here, or even sometimes leave but then come back to raise a family.”

She’s hopeful the donation will allow KCAD students to stay in Grand Rapids, train in the program, and establish their own fashion businesses here, creating a job market for future students. If that happens, it would be an opportunity for her fashion brand to find Grand Rapids laborers.

Hardworking Midwestern kids have a niche to fill in the fashion industry, DeVos said, and that niche needs to keep talent local.

“When I was younger, I had to leave the city to study fashion, and I really think it’s great to stay here,” she said. “Parents want their kids to stay here. If you get the kids studying fashion here, they will then open the stores and help grow this city in the fashion area. They’ll collaborate.”

How long will it be before fashion jobs are popping up in the city? Unfortunately, not tomorrow, DeVos said. But she’s hopeful that within the next few years, a fashion foundation will be established in Grand Rapids.

“I think it will happen in this decade. It’s getting there. I do see fashion growing here, and I think people are becoming more fashion savvy in this town,” she said. “This is certainly a good start. I can’t tell you the future, but I can tell you our city is growing, especially with the arts.”

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