Born and raised in Dayton, OH, to Sharon Brown, former model and Makeup Artist for Fashion Fair and State Certified CNA and James Brown, a former Drill Sergeant for the U.S. Marine Corps. and Sergeant for the Montgomery County Sheriff's Dept. Though her parents were divorced and her father had re-married, he was always active in her life.
Often teased for being tall, thin, and her parents not being able to afford to buy her the latest fashions or get her hair done professionally at the age of 11 and suffering from low self-esteem, Caressa's mother enrolled her in Bettie Massie Modeling School with the hopes of her gaining self-confidence. Even though her mom could not afford the extra expense, she took on a 3rd job to help cover the cost.
After the very first session of modeling school, the instructor asked Caressa and her mother to stay over for a meeting, during this meeting the instructor shared how impressed she was with Caressa and her belief that she had what it took to become a signed model. The instructor then offered to continue to coach Caressa free of charge for the remainder of the courses at Bettie Massie. After several more weeks of training, it was discovered that the offer had not been approved by Bettie and Caressa's mom was given the option to pay back the money for the previous courses and pay for all of the future courses. A decision was made to to leave the modeling school.
Caressa did gain the confidence that her mother had hoped she'd gain and a year later, she was signed to her first modeling agency at the age of 12. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, her mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and could no longer work creating an even deeper financial burden that prevented her from being able to travel to her agency in Cleveland, OH and in a role reversal, Caressa then took on the role as a caregiver for her mom.
With her new found dream of becoming a model fading quickly, Caressa re-shifted her focus on her long-time passion was art, drawing, computers, architecture, and engineering; and she continued to focus on her education in hopes of becoming an Architectural Engineer. However, attending a underfunded and under-served Jefferson Twp School district that did not offer the levels of math needed for free, she found herself in the 8th grade trying to learn advance math on her own without credit from an advance math book given to her by her 8th grade math teacher.
In high school she continued to excel in school with computer classes, math, and wood shop being her favorite subjects. She went on to receive full ride academic scholarships to Wright State University, Central State University, and The Ohio State University with the intent of majoring in engineering.
In 1998, after Caressa graduated from high school, her father retired from the Sheriff's Dept. and relocated to his native Texas; Caressa, still caring for her disabled mother, was offered a job with General Motors Truck and Bus Moraine Assembly; she went on to work for 8 years before the plant closed. During her time as a line worker for G.M., she was in a better financial situation, she once again pursued her dreams of becoming a model while also pursuing her degree at Wright State. She went on to be scouted and offered a contract by Click Models in 1999, and in 2001, she was chosen as a Regional Semi-finalist in the Elite Model Look Competition, where she was also offered a contract. However, what she was lacking was a support system, someone to encourage, mentor, and guide her in pursuing her dreams and completing her degree became her focus.
Her scholarship required her to maintain a 3.0 gpa, while taking 15 credit hours which was nearly impossible to do working 50 hours a week in a factory, caring for a disabled parent, and helping other family members. She was in need of a strong support system. She eventually lost her scholarships, flunked out and dropped out of college. After sitting out a year, she changed majors several times, transferring back and forth between Wright State and Sinclair Community College, and giving up on her dreams, all while sinking into a deep depression, losing faith, and not knowing her purpose.
Nevertheless, she persisted and eventually earned her degree 8 years later in 2007 from Wright State in Organizational/Educational Leadership. In 2015 she began pursuing a second degree in Urban Affairs with a focus on non-profit management and regional & city planning at Wright State as well, while serving as a member of the Dean's Student Advisory Board for the College of Liberal Arts advocating for non-traditional students like she was.
In 2007, after quickly rising to the position of Branch Corporate Account Manager then Assistant Branch Manager for a Fortune 500 company, Caressa began focusing on Community Outreach which led her to a career change and a shift in thinking to only accept opportunities that aligned with her passion. She went on to intern for the Yellow Springs based 91.3 FM WYSO in 2009 where she went on to become a part of the very first class of Community Voices Producers. She remained actively involved in the community and in 2012 she became a contributor for Dayton Most Metro after volunteering as the Model Coordinator for the first Dayton Fashion Week. However, when that organization folded the same year, Caressa was encouraged to start her own fashion organization by members of the local media and other volunteers from the first Dayton Fashion Week. In 2013, the Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator (DE-FI) LLC was born!
Since it's launch, Caressa has served the 2013-2018 seasons working behind the scenes with the Volunteer Program for the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, she has assisted with Casting Calls for Art Hearts Fashion and other major New York Fashion Week events. In 2018, (DE-FI)ance Magazine, our annual publication received its first invite for press credentials from Art Hearts Fashion for New York Fashion Week all while opening AND holding the doors open for other local fashion professionals to gain the same access and knowledge that she had gained.
Caressa has made it a point to help educate aspiring fashion talent, as well as helping to remove any barriers that may prevent talent from pursuing their dreams in fashion and design, and most importantly, she is committed to providing the support system that she wished she had when she was pursuing her dreams. In short, Caressa approaches the business of (DE-FI) as a means to give dreamers and creatives alike the "big break" that they deserve.
In the first 6 years, under Caressa's leadership, (DE-FI) expanded to include the Dayton Garment & Textile District, The Gem City Sewing Company, The House of (DE-FI)ance: A Fashion & Design Coworking Experience, and Dayton Threads. In 2016 (DE-FI) acquired Dayton Fashion Week which will launch in December 2021 and in 2019 launched Dayton Design Week which is launching in 2022. In essence, she and #DatDEFIFam have laid the foundation to supply every aspect of the fashion industry right here in Dayton, Ohio.
A winner of the prestigious Dayton Business Journal's Top 40 Under 40 award; in 2019, Caressa's love for her community and gardening, inspired her to co-found an 8 acre farm with a childhood friend. In 2020 she launched Veggie Soul: The Urban Farmers' Market to address the food desert in the West Dayton and Trotwood communities by providing an outlet for community gardeners to sell fresh produce harvested directly from their own soil and support local farmers while nourishing our community with wholesome local foods in a Block Party style setting. This act alone has inspired a push for Black farmers in the area,with new programming being developed and sparked the discussion of a permanent Farmers' Market in west Dayton. In 2021 Caressa began laying the groundwork for Noirquility Farm Bed and Breakfast which will be an Urban Retreat and Healing Place.
Known for her GRIT factor, giving, big heart, caring spirit, yet no non-sense, tough love, and disciplined approach; today, Caressa's life has come full circle. She served tree terms as a Commissioner appointed Trustee for the Montgomery Country Arts and Cultural District where she led the way advocating for under-served communities, transparency, and accountability from 2013-2021. Miss Brown also serves as an Advisory Board Member for Hocking College's newly developed Fashion Design and Retail Merchandising Program. Much like her drive to provide access to those strugling to launch a career in fashion, she applies that same drive to her career in higher education. With over a decade of experience in higher ed, Caressa has advocated for non-traditional and underserved student much like she was during our college career. She has worked in enrollment and testing for Sinclair Community College, admissions for Clark State Community College, an administrator for Diversity Outreach and Inclusion for The Ohio State University's College of Engineering Graduate Education, an administrator for Wright State University's School of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry, and currently serves as an Administrative Coordinator for HBCU Central State University's College of Engineering, Science, Technology, and Agriculture for the Agricultural Research Development Program, and continues to inspire, empower, and support others in achieving their dreams.
In short, while her dreams of becoming the world's first Supermodel Architectural Engineer were not realized;-) She is living a fulfilled and purpose driven life in helping pave the way for future models, designers, artists, engineers and farmers from all walks of life to live their dreams. She has only one more goal for (DE-FI)...bringing a Fashion Design program to Dayton based colleges and universities.
(DE-FI) was cofounded by some of Caressa's dearest friends and mentors, Ed Dixon, owner of the Edward A. Dixon Gallery, Cindy Gaboury, owner of Audio Etc...,Danielle Simpson, Pete Bradow, owner of of PTB Photography, Sarah Wacksmuth, Lamar Pacley, LaToya Stephens. Together this network is re-engineering the global fashion experience.
(DE-FI) has positioned itself as one of the most influential fashion organizations in the country! A first of its kind fashion organization, (DE-FI) serves as an umbrella organization that addresses every aspect and need of those seeking careers in fashion including micro-manufacturing, workforce development, e-commerce, and production via our subsidiaries the Dayton Garment & Textile District, The Gem City Sewing Company, Dayton Threads, and the newly acquired Dayton Fashion Week and Dayton Design Week.
Caressa L. Brown: Owner and Director of the Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator (DE-FI) LLC
Mark your calendars for Saturday, July 31st, 2021! The Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator (DE-FI) LLC will be celebrating our 8th Anniversary!! Are you ready to answer the call of 12 local grassroots organizations who are doing amazing work in our community?