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  • By Dana Casadei

Shari Barnett

For most people auto show season is about the cars. Not for Shari Barnett though.

Barnett – the Director of Creative Services at Productions Plus – The Talent Shop – is much more focused on the clothes she helps select for the product specialists than anything with four-wheels.

Each auto show season, Barnett and her team work with 19 original equipment manufacturers to wardrobe about 700 people. Yes, 700, keeping Barnett much busier than she thought she would be when she accepted the job.

“I thought, ‘Oh, this is easy. You do the wardrobe to get them started for the season and you kind of go from there,’” she said. “I was planning on getting my masters at the same time while I was working and 13 years later, here I am and much too busy to be getting a masters and work.”

Her team starts each auto show season well in advance, researching the brands they are working with, the fashion trends coming out, and putting together lots of presentations. Barnett said they do everything from costume wardrobe to pulling off the rack to made-to-measure for their clients. She loves being able to source locally whenever she can, and watching Detroit’s fashion scene grow, making mention of Detroit Denim.

She’s also a fan of designers who are closer to her Bloomfield Township home, like Birmingham jewelry designer Beth North.

“She’s local and she’s creative and she’s different,” Barnett said. “She’s kind of like a go-to person, she does great stuff.”

While Barnett works often with Michigan designers now she hasn’t always been local.

Prior to working for Productions Plus, the Michigan native was in New York, where she attended the Parsons School of Design – which has alumni like Marc Jacobs, Donna Karen, and Isaac Mizrahi.

“It was the best school around so there was no question that that’s where I really wanted to be,” she said, referring to it as the ‘Harvard of fashion schools.’

After graduating from Parsons, Barnett went on to work designing women’s wear for Donna Karen – who Barnett gushed about – and sportswear for a few different companies. But Barnett said the job she misses the most was designing childrens wear for Kmart, which was simply super fun.

Living in New York not only influenced Barnett’s career but her own wardrobe, which she described as “classic with a twist” and has a lot of black. And yes, she knows how cliche that sounds.

“I really like classic, really well-made clothes,” said Barnett, who has been interested in fashion since childhood. “And then I get really interested in just one really spectacular detail. Or amazing fabric with great texture.”

Barnett wishes more American women would invest in a few well-tailored garments where the inside of the garment is almost as impressive as the outside. She also thinks everyone needs an amazingly, well-constructed jacket – which all starts in a really good fit in the shoulder, draping nicely from there – and one great-fitting pant that can go with everything. She suggested a slim-fit pant.

Current fashion trends she could do without? The new athleisure with brightly-colored or printed body-skimming knits and color-blocked body suits worn for everyday or worse yet, casual office attire.

“I love the comfort of knits, but leave the printed leggings for the gym,” Barnett said.

Photo: Laurie Tennent

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