IT STARTED WITH $25 to purchase a sewing machine off Craigslist when she was in her twenties, fulfilling a desire that has been building for years. Franchon Crews-Dezurn always had this passion, a way of seeing fashion design how others couldn’t.

Machine at her fingers and a vision in her head, Crews-Dezurn taught herself how to sew. From altering clothes for her Barbie dolls growing up to creating outfits for her dogs and navigating her own style in high school, she had always been like this.

She taught herself how to design clothes, turning her ideas into actual clothing — all while seeing her boxing career take off. She designed her own outfits outside the ring. She made boxing kits for her husband, for women’s pound-for-pound No. 1 Claressa Shields, for other fighters and, of course, for herself.

Crews-Dezurn will showcase one of her own kits — this time a collaboration with a high-level designer — when she defends her undisputed super middleweight titles against Savannah Marshall in Manchester, England, on Saturday, continuing to mesh two of the worlds she plays in.

“She’s been kind of her own, unique person,” Shields said. “I wasn’t shocked to see her take up making boxing uniforms and getting into fashion. That’s just how she is. She has her own style.”

Crews-Dezurn may be the most interesting woman in boxing. She’s an undisputed world champion. She’s a fashion designer — besides her fight kits, she had her first fashion showcase for a clothing line last year in Baltimore.

And she’s a singer. She’s sung the national anthem at sporting events and released a single in May, ‘Secret Place,’ under Patriark Records, the independent label of her manager, Peter Kahn. ‘Secret Place’ hit No. 30 on the Music Week Commercial Pop Club Charts in the United Kingdom last week. The full album is expected to drop next year.

All this from someone who once was told this: “You can’t be good at everything, you know what I mean. And you’re a good boxer.” Simon Cowell — yes, that Simon Cowell — told Crews-Dezurn that on national television during a 2005 audition for “American Idol,” where Randy Jackson also encouraged her ‘to keep working on it,’ and also she wasn’t ready yet.”

She was 17.

She didn’t advance that day, and as she left the room, she said she’d become a boxing world champion — which she’s accomplished. Because if one thing is clear, if you test Crews-Dezurn, she’s going to do what she can to prove you wrong. And dress damn well doing it.

CREWS-DEZURN STARTED considering designing clothes for a simple reason.

“I was broke,” Crews-Dezurn said. “With expensive tastes.”

When she bought clothes, she found herself continually trying to alter them to fit her own style. Eventually, she figured she should try to do this on her own.

Doing so led her to messing around with boxing outfits. She bought the sewing machine in the mid-2010s and started experimenting, a period of trial-and-error involved for the self-taught seamstress. Shorts she made early on split during an amateur fight. She viewed — and still views — her husband, Glenn Dezurn, as her muse. Also a fighter, he was the first to wear her creations. When she turned pro in 2016, it became more serious. Her first fight came against Shields — on two weeks’ notice.

“I had to have something flashy,” Crews-Dezurn said. “I knew what I was going in against so I had to look good, win, lose or draw so I threw something together.”

She lost to Shields, the only pro defeat of Crews-Dezurn’s career, but others took notice of her in-ring fashion. It led Crews-Dezurn to consider a small side business as a fighter who knows the importance of looking good and feeling good entering the ring with early clients like fellow boxers Raquel Miller and Tiara Brown. The compliments she received gave her confidence as she designed her own fight kits, including for last year when she beat Elin Cederroos for the undisputed super middleweight title.

She charges for the kits, Crews-Dezurn declined to say how much she asks for, in part because it depends on the fabric, the design and the construction time of the creation involved. She continued growing her business through word of mouth and her fashion Instagram, thehhdezearned.

Then a phone call came, putting her designs on a different platform.

STORIES VARY OF who made the initial suggestion, but the message was clear: Claressa Shields needed a fight uniform for when she fought Hannah Rankin in 2018. Shields turned to her friend-turned-opponent-turned-friend again for help.

Crews-Dezurn came up with a design she called ‘Flintstone,’ a combination of pink and purple with waved texture and a gold waistband on the trunks with “FLINT” in white lettering – an homage to Shields’ hometown of Flint, Michigan.

“She did a great job on my uniform and she knows how everything is supposed to fit because we’re kind of built the same in some ways,” Shields said. “And we kind of just put our minds together and she does great work.

“It’s like we’re always kind of a part of each other’s fights in some kind of way.”

It began a long-term collaboration between the two. Shields will tell her the colors for her fight and the general theme she’s picked out — although sometimes they’ll brainstorm that together, too. Then she’ll leave it to Crews-Dezurn to create.

She created a combination of an homage to Muhammad Ali along with a broken hammer on her trunks for Shields’ undisputed title fight against Christina Hammer. She also designed perhaps the most notable one, the American flag design when Shields fought Savannah Marshall in the United Kingdom for the undisputed middleweight championship in 2022.

The design had remnants similar to the American flag shorts designs in ‘Rocky IV’ and ‘Creed 2,’ but a flash to it — fitting of Shields and also her elaborate dance ring walk. As part of the initial outfit, Crews-Dezurn designed a robe for Shields and drove it down to Florida, where she was training. Two weeks before the fight, Shields wanted a shorter jacket instead.

Crews-Dezurn was training and she turned to her husband and said “I have to find a sewing machine.” She created the jacket with the portable sewing machine she travels with.

“I really take being a stylist and a designer very serious,” Crews-Dezurn said. “Because that’s what it’s about.”

How serious is her work? The night of Shields-Marshall, Crews-Dezurn was in the crowd watching when she got called backstage to sew one of her sponsor patches on Shields’ shorts at the last minute. For Crews-Dezurn, it’s just part of the gig.

CREWS-DEZURN’S WORK with Shields led to other clients. She’s dressed flyweight champion Marlen Esparza, junior lightweight contender Maureen Shea, former junior featherweight champion Isaac Dogboe and DeAngelo Leachman, a cruiserweight prospect.

Ideally, Crews-Dezurn would like four-to-six weeks notice. This gives her time to make sure she can acquire necessary fabric and finish the idea.

Crews-Dezurn doesn’t often sketch out the designs and often will “freestyle” a plan unless a fighter comes to her with a concept in advance. She treats her clients like high-end designers in the fashion world treat theirs. If you need something on short notice, as long as it doesn’t affect her own fights, she’ll get it done.

“I take the approach as a real designer,” Crews-Dezurn said. “And if you see some of the musicians, like take a Beyonce or somebody like a high-profile celebrity, when their stylist calls a designer and says, ‘Hey, I need this in three days,’ that designer gets it done.

“That’s the concept I take.”

Her work caught the eyes of those outside boxing, too. She had her first fashion showcase at LEVEL 25 – THE GOLDEN AGE in November as part of a celebration for The Katwalk, a clothing boutique in Baltimore.

In a combination of her boxing and fashion worlds melding, she gained a mentor. Magda Kahn spent 16 years at Perry Ellis International — eight as the company’s design director before setting off as her own designer and stylist.

The wife of Crews-Dezurn’s manager, Peter, Magda saw Crews-Dezurn’s work in the ring and outside of it. Peter and Crews-Dezurn started working together during the pandemic and Peter had Crews-Dezurn come to their offices, where Magda also has her design studio. They connected instantly.

“She said to me, ‘I do everything that I can, but I don’t know a lot,'” Magda said. “And I said to her, ‘I’m going to try to groom you and teach you and guide you so that you learn the important things about the fashion world and you can develop your style.'”

It’s turned into a mentorship with Magda, who works with private clients in the United States and United Kingdom for custom evening wear. They text ideas and collaborative design concepts constantly, including for this weekend — when Magda and Crews-Dezurn designed her fight outfit.

Magda said working with Crews-Dezurn was watching someone who “knows exactly how she wants to look.” Rare, Magda said, is someone without years of experience in the industry who has a defined sense of style like Crews-Dezurn.

“The type of knowledge that I’m going to receive from her…,” Crews-Dezurn said. “I’m just like, people for years would die for this.”

Which led to Saturday’s design. It has ties to her first single, ‘Secret Place,’ which has an influence from Donna Summer, melding all three of Crews-Dezurn’s passions into one.

“The artist is what her essence is, which is she’s a singer. She’s an athlete. She’s a diva,” Magda said. “But her soul shines everywhere she goes.”

CREWS-DEZURN WILL walk into the ring Saturday night as all three of her focuses: Fashion, fighting and behind the power of her voice. It’s what she’s built her multifaceted career on.

She’ll be wearing a design she helped create heading toward a ring as one of the best top 10 fighters in the world, in the same time frame, her first single is charting high in the country that she’s fighting in.

Crews-Dezurn started writing songs when she was eight years old and taught herself to sing — her first love — at age 12. She started playing around with fashion when she was a kid and turned into a self-taught fashion designer who, Magda said, has a future as a stylist.

And then she fought and fought — worked her way up through the amateurs and the pros to become an undisputed champion.

“I’m just basically applying pressure all over the board,” Crews-Dezurn said. “Boxing and fashion, singing, managing, film, whatever the hell I want to do, I’m applying pressure.”

It’s a long way from Cowell, who may have been very, very wrong. If Crews-Dezurn is one thing, it’s this: She is good — better than good — at almost everything she does.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *