Here in our nation’s capital, history is always in the making. So it’s not surprising that locals also love reaching back in time to spice up their wardrobes. The past few years have seen an explosion of amazing vintage stores, vintage-focused side projects, and pop-up shops in the area. In recent weeks, Butler & Claypool and La Petite Marmoset, two of our favorite vintage purveyors in Washington, just upped the ante by bringing an appointment-only shopping experience to the mix.
Both businesses recently opened showrooms and are using local fashion blogs and word of mouth to create buzz about their curated selections of clothing. In order to shop at either spot, you have to make an appointment and divulge a few details about what you’re looking for.
By Sarah Zlotnick
Hello, all you lovely Shop Around readers! If you somehow missed local designer Rochelle Behrens in our April “Women of Fashion” feature (or her stunningly stylish Creative Director Meredith Carter in What I Wear to Work), we strongly encourage you to take a look at these ladies—and their beautiful new collection of work blouses—now. Or better yet, come see all of us in person! Next Tuesday, June 19, we’re pairing up with Rochelle and the lovely ladies on her team to host a shopping happy hour at Johnny’s Half-Shell from 5 to 8 PM. And best of all, we’ll be giving away a shirt from the collection to one lucky attendee.
So stop by after work, have a drink, peruse the beautiful blouses Oprah herself deemed a must-have fashion item (when you see how the ingenious button system prevents the dreaded bust gape, you’ll definitely agree), and show your support for Washington fashion. There will be a special happy hour discount price of 20 percent on all shirts purchased, and you know we’re just generally pumped to meet you all.
Former DC-based makeup artist Crystal Hannon started her line of classic-with-a-flirty-twist dresses in 2010. “My passion is making women feel beautiful,” she tells us. “That made [fashion] a very natural crossover for me.” We managed to nab a few minutes with the designer, who currently splits time between New York City and Georgetown, to talk Washington style, the ins and outs of the design process, and where she turns for inspiration.
By Sarah Zlotnick
Public policy, law, international affairs--the list of academic strengths is long and wonky here in Washington. But students excel in creative areas, too--for proof, look no further than Marymount University's signature fashion design program. On a sleepy campus off Northern Virginia's Glebe Road, aspiring fashion designers learn the ins and outs of sewing a pattern, developing a line, and landing a fashion job post-graduation.
Each year, students compete for the honor of showcasing their designs at the school's annual Portfolio in Motion fashion show (see our favorite looks from this year's show here). After the show, each senior designer's portfolio is critiqued by Marymount's designer of the year. Past honorees have included Michael Kors, Diane von Furstenberg, Carolina Herrera, and Peter Som; this year the title went to Eileen Fisher.
Perhaps most well known for her luxurious, loose-fitting basics, the 28-year industry veteran has stores all over the world and a very loyal following among Washington women. Here, she opens up about the looks she saw, the pros and cons of designing outside New York, and why a work/life balance is important, especially in a field as creative as fashion design.
By Natalie Grasso
The looks in Mera Anwar's Miri collection are all about juxtaposition--think rigid silhouettes with soft details, and boyish pieces done in silk chiffon. And her design concepts aren't limited to her work--the idea of contrasts has shaped her life, as well. She studied biochemistry in college, but did a 180 and went into fashion shortly after graduation. She had been making clothes for friends since she was a kid, and quickly landed a gig as a design assistant for Jasmin Santanen. Currently, Anwar keeps a studio in New York but prefers to design in her hometown of Brookville, Maryland.
"New York can be too fast-paced," she says. "In Maryland I have time to think."
We caught up with Anwar to talk about her spring/summer 2012 collection, designing in Washington, and where she looks for inspiration.
There’s gridlock in the House and Senate, the markets still look shaky, and the Caps can’t catch a break—when’s the last time the Washington man got to check something off in the win column? But take heart, guys: At least nowadays you can look good while listing those #firstworldproblems, thanks to a slew of cool new men’s stores that have popped up in Washington this past year, just begging to help you update your pleated khakis and tired North Faces. From 3D body scanners to yellow bow ties, here are six new ways for men to refresh their closets.
The wardrobe necessity: A suit that actually fits
Where to find it: Alton Lane
Alton Lane’s Dupont Circle showroom combines the comforts of home, the look of a private club (leather couches and Scotch on the rocks included), and a state-of-the-art 3D body scanner to create an entirely new custom suit experience for men.
And what can you expect to find on the racks? “With the colder weather, we’re selling a lot of tweed blazers and flannel suits, which are both great ways to stay warm and still express your style,” says cofounder Colin Hunter. As for opening the DC showroom after much success with the New York flagship, Hunter couldn’t be more excited: “We want to not only be a part of the [men’s style] movement in DC, but also help steer it.”
Alton Lane. 1506 19th St., NW; 646-896-1212.
Sola Biu has always known two things: She wants to help kids, and she loves repurposing vintage items. Oynx Feather, the jewelry company she began in 2009 and runs out of her Union Station apartment, combines both of these passions.
“I was chatting with my girlfriends about how we all wanted to be doing something we loved but have it matter,” says the media relations coordinator of the beginnings of her jewelry line. One of Biu’s friends encouraged her to make this dream a reality, and when boutique owners started noticing the handmade necklaces she’d wear, Biu knew she’d found the perfect combination.
Nowadays, 15 percent of every Onyx Feather purchase is donated to the Invisible Children Legacy Scholarship Fund, which Biu picked for its use of creative methods to improve the lives of impoverished children in Uganda.
“They address not only a child’s immediate physical needs, but also his or her long-term needs,” says Biu of the education-based program. “That is how you change a community and help it to rebuild.”
We recently sat down with the bubbly, put-together do-gooder to discuss building a business in DC, local designers she loves, and jewelry essentials for every Washington woman. Read on for her insights.
While Washington certainly isn’t lacking in decent vintage stores, very few shop owners in town are as dedicated to repurposing old clothes as Erin Derge and Kristen Swenson. Former Minnesotans who got their start tailoring pieces for Treasury, the trendy 14th Street consignment haunt, the duo branched out to their own space this past summer and officially debuted their house line last Saturday. Settled in the basement of a U Street window-shade shop, Ginger Root Design recycles and repurposes vintage clothing to create one-of-a-kind pieces designed to blend seamlessly with the modern-creative wardrobe. With a deft eye for detail and finely honed crafting skills (both Swenson and Derge studied apparel technology), the duo turns forgettable heaps of fabric into garments that could have jumped off the pages of an Urban Outfitters catalog. That reversible crop top hanging on the right wall? It began life as a floor-length choir dress. The retro lady’s ascot necklace on the center display? Used to be a thrift-store tie.
With its hammered gold-and-silver plating, delicate classic design, and sweetly colored semiprecious gems from India, Thailand, and China, you might never guess MIJA Jewelry is the product of conservative Washington. But the eye behind this line, Michelle Guest, is based in Glover Park. After she created spur-of-the-moment bracelets for her nieces, lots of people asked where to buy the dainty single-pearl chains, and Guest decided it was time to channel her creative juices into professional jewelry making. The result—a collection of stack rings, bangles, charm necklaces, and earrings named for the designer and her sister Jani—is “youthful, refined, and delicate,” according to her fiancé. The understated and versatile add-ons work with everything from jeans to wedding gowns, and we especially love how the bangles and simple birthstone rings can be combined to create a unique look that doesn’t overwhelm.
Now in her third year selling her pieces all over the country, it’s safe to say Guest knows a thing or two about jewelry. So we turned to her for gift-giving advice this Valentine’s Day. Read on for tips on finding the perfect Valentine’s piece for your significant other and how to win a his-and-hers gift package from MIJA and Smathers & Branson, another DC accessories company.
What happens when a classically trained artist and photographer gets an itch for something different? She seeks out a new medium. Or at least that’s what happened in the case of Aidah Fontenot, a 26-year-old artist turned fashion designer based on Capitol Hill.
In fall 2008, Fontenot launched Aidah Collection, a clothing line that combines shapes for women of all sizes with bold colors and hand-painted accents, including her signature swirls and spirals.
“My clothes are designed for real women with real figures,” she says. Each piece is hand-crafted to flow around the body, which means there are no zippers, buttons, or clasps. Instead, the clothes are adjusted with ties or belts.
Fontenot grew up in San Francisco. By the time she was 15, her artwork had been exhibited in the San Diego Museum of Art and the Centro Cultural in Tijuana, Mexico, as well as several private venues. The next year, she began her first fashion endeavor, Aidah Designs. While studying photography and graphic design at the San Diego School for the Performing Arts and San Diego State University, she made clothing for friends and family.