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Blowdry Taxi founder Sona Sut shares her insider tips. By Caroline Cunningham
Blowdry Taxi Sona Sut gets ready for her day with the help of a professional stylist. Images courtesy Sona Sut.

Sona Sut had worked for eight years at the front desk of her husband’s Georgetown salon, when during one rare moment of peace, she looked around the room at all the women getting blowouts. She thought to herself, “I work at a salon and I don’t have time to do my hair!”

To help other women juggling their careers, families, and need to be presentable, Sut launched Blowdry Taxi in June 2014, with the accompanying app out the following fall. The “taxi” part of the name refers to the team of stylists that will meet women wherever they are in the DMV—an accessible power outlet being the only stipulation.

“We are designed for the professional woman who wants to squeeze in that morning jog before heading to the office and needs a good blowout that will last all day,” says Sut. “A lot of our clients are busy reporters and policy officials who appear on morning television.”

Many clients also book the stylists to meet them at home after work, making sure that they’re appropriately done up for their evening networking events and galas around town—whether that means getting a full face of makeup, a blowout, or a glam updo. Since many Washington women are constantly making the transition from home to work to evenings out, Shop Around got in touch with Sut to get her best tips on getting ready on the run.

1. Keep heels on hand. “Investing in a great pair of comfortable heels is a simple way to liven up any look for an evening,” says Sut. Can’t handle wearing heels all day? Pack them, or leave a spare pair in your office for nights out.

2. Don’t start from scratch on your makeup. “Instead of redoing all your makeup, just add mascara, some fresh powder, and gloss,” says Sut. Keep these three items in your bag, rather than your whole makeup kit, to cut down on how much you’re lugging around town.

3. Blowouts aren’t the only option. “If you didn’t use Blowdry Taxi to get your hair event-ready, slick back your hair with a little water and wear a sleek ponytail,” says Sut. If Katy Perry can rock it on the red carpet, it can work for your rooftop cocktails.

4. Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize. Want to distract from the dark circles under your eyes or the fact that you’ve only washed your hair once this week? Do it with something sparkly. “There are great, reasonably-priced statement pieces almost everywhere these days,” says Sut.

5. Fake it ‘til you make it. “Put a smile on and have some fun,” says Sut. “Even if it’s a stuffy work obligation, enjoy yourself—that always looks great.”

Posted at 10:33 AM/ET, 05/18/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
This Columbia native is bringing her retail dream to life at & Such Shop. By Caroline Cunningham
Photographs courtesy Charo Bishop.

A tax accountant by day and an NFL cheerleader captain for the Redskins by night, and Charo Bishop has somehow found the time to launch an online store, & Such Shop. It went live on April 13, and Bishop has already packed her first order shipment.

A native of Columbia, Bishop began her intensive dance training at the age of five, attending the Ballet Royale Institute of Maryland and studying ballet, jazz, tap, and hip hop, building the foundation for her cheerleading moves in the years to come. She then enrolled at the University of Maryland College Park, earning her bachelor’s degree in accounting.

Now, when Bishop isn’t filing tax returns or cheering on the Redskins, she’s pouring her creative energy into & Such Shop. To find out how she does it all, Shop Around got in touch for an interview.

What inspired you to open an online store?

This idea has been swimming in the back of my head for years now, but I was never quite sure what route to take. In stereotypical candor, I read the book #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso in February and it jettisoned me into the free fall of e-commerce. While I enjoy my career as a tax accountant, it is just that much more fulfilling to be working on something that I have built entirely myself, and that allows me to use a mix of my business and creative skills.

Have you always been interested in fashion?

To be honest, I have always been intimidated by high fashion, in the same way that I love math, but am intimidated of higher mathematics: there’s just so much unattainable out there. I admire women who are able to put themselves together so meticulously and flawlessly every single day and who are always right on trend. However, the majority of women are not those people, nor can we afford to be. Style is what is important. Like art, style is a true expression of self; it takes self-awareness and confidence—that’s what ultimately drew me to clothes. I really just want a woman to feel as comfortable and confident in her clothes as she is in her own skin.

What kind of woman do you envision shopping at your store?

My target customer is a woman who realizes she is unique, yet also recognizes the uniqueness of others. She is economically savvy, coy, quick-witted, imperfect, and appreciates the unexpected. There are not many basics sold in my shop, so women who understand that there’s no reason to go through life unnoticed will be more likely to shop & Such.

What’s your process for curating the pieces you sell in your shop?

I choose the pieces for & Such essentially in the same way that I choose the clothes I purchase for myself, but with an even broader taste. I go for comfortable pieces that have an unexpected “wink”—meaning maybe an open back, a near-hidden slit, an interesting but not overwhelming print, a dramatic high-low hemline. I want the pieces to be memorable, but I also want women to be able to wear it more than once, so choosing pieces that have longevity and that surpass fads is also important.

So you’re an NFL Cheerleader and a professional accountant and you decided to launch your own online shop. How do you do it all?

It most definitely involves an IV of coffee, endorphins, and extreme time management. Surrounding myself with positive people is also so incredibly important in feeling balanced and focused. I make to-do lists and check them off obsessively. Last night, after our first Redskins Cheerleader practice of the season (which was after a full day of my accounting job), I stayed up until 2 AM packaging my very first shipment. It was exciting. I really love all of the things I’m doing with my day, so it’s easy to succumb to the adrenaline.

What’s your favorite thing you’re selling on & Such Shop right now?

I absolutely love all of the Hanuel jewelry that I’m selling, but my favorite clothing piece is probably the Terez Playsuit. It has this wide-open back with a subtle pink and grey snakeskin print—one-pieces are making a strong and comfortable comeback.

Why the name “& Such Shop”?

I’m a huge word-nerd, so first off, the word “such” is a determiner. In other words, it doesn’t mean anything—you define it by whatever is proceeding or preceding it. I want the & Such Shop customer to do the same with herself and with her style. The possibilities are limitless, just like her.

Posted at 11:31 AM/ET, 04/16/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Netflix says our Alvin Valley story was wrong. By Caroline Cunningham

Editor's Note: After Washingtonian published this article on April 8, Kemal Harris, Robin Wright’s costume designer for the third season House of Cards, contacted us. Harris said Alvin Valley, introduced in this story as "the designer who dresses Claire Underwood," had not dressed Wright, who plays Claire. Harris told us she was certain none of Valley’s clothes were used on the show.

This claim was surprising, to say the least: Valley—a New York-based designer known as the “King of Pants”—had associated himself with House of Cards at a March 31 trunk show honoring him at Ann Hand, an elegant Georgetown boutique. The event invitation offered a chance to meet Valley, “as featured on Season 3 ‘House of Cards.’” Dr. Jill Biden and model Kelly Bensimon attended.

Other local media picked up on the affair: the Washington Post reported on the event, saying his clothes "have made appearances on 'House of Cards' and 'The Good Wife.'" Hollywood on the Potomac produced a video at the trunk show that intercuts shots from House of Cards with an interview in which Valley talks about being on the show's set. A publicist for the event offered us an interview with Valley, which led to this story.

After we heard from Harris, we asked Valley through that publicist to tell us which of his clothes were featured on House of Cards. He replied with four images of clothing. When we asked for images of Wright wearing items he had designed in the show, Valley said the show had not “been helpful” in providing pictures.

We then did what we should have done before we published this article: contacted representatives for Netflix, which produces House of Cards. They said Valley's designs were not featured on the show and that they had no record of him asking for pictures.

When we brought this information back to Valley, his own spokesperson, Kevin Michael Barba, replied with a statement saying Valley "was indeed on the 'House of Cards' set in Joppa, MD" in June 2014 and that he had met with "Wright and other cast members."

In this statement, Barba says Valley "did not confirm that samples sent to Ms. Wright were used on the show, just that pieces were sent to her attention, upon request.”

Netflix has not yet commented on Valley’s statement.

Our original story is below.

Alvin Valley poses for a photo with Jill Biden and Valerie Biden Owens at a Georgetown cocktail party. Photo courtesy Daniel Swartz.

Last Tuesday, designer Alvin Valley made an appearance at a cocktail party at Ann Hand in Georgetown to showcase his spring 2015 collection. Though he works out of New York, Valley has a number of ties to the Washington scene: he was named ambassador for the White House initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics; Kick Kennedy, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and Emily Black, modeled for his 2015 campaign; and he dressed one of the most widely known Washington women of all—fictional as she may be—Claire Underwood, for Season 3 of House of Cards.

Known for his well-tailored work pants, Valley's professional, powerful aesthetic was a perfect fit for the impeccably dressed House of Cards leading lady, played by Robin Wright. To find out what it's like to dress Wright for her role as Claire Underwood, Shop Around got in touch with Valley for a Q&A.

How were you chosen to dress Wright for her character Claire Underwood?

A friend of mine is an assistant director on the show. He loves my collection, and he thought it was perfect for the show and Ms. Wright's character. He invited me on set and introduced me to Ms.Wright who I found very warm and engaging. I saw her do some scenes and loved how professional and patient she was with the other actors. After that, we talked about fashion and her character. It was a natural fit.

Claire's look is very powerful. How do you use her wardrobe to create that effect?

Oddly enough, Claire's character is a woman that I envision as a client of mine. She's powerful and—though attached—very independent in her thinking. She likes power. The Alvin Valley woman has traditional values, but lives in a more experimental world.

What do you like about dressing a Washington woman?

I absolutely adore Washington women—they have a true fashion sense, just as my clients in New York do. Women in DC tend to have a straightforward business look. One that is no non-sense, conservative but feminine. They look at fashion with a twist, a component that enhances their look—it's not "the" statement.

What is the "Washington woman" aesthetic?

Straightforward, conservative and feminine.

What are the components of the perfect work pant?

The components for the perfect work pant include versatility—being a part of a beautifully tailored suit during the day, to being the piece that completes the perfect evening outfit. Women today don't have the time to be changing in the middle of their workday. I am all about bringing a complete look, or uniform, so women can focus on their work and not their outfit.

What are the three things that every professional woman needs in her closet?

A great black suit, an amazingly feminine colorful blouse, and a great tailored skirt.

Want to dress like Claire Underwood? Check out Alvin Valley's online shop to add some power pants to your wardrobe.

Posted at 03:06 PM/ET, 04/08/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
These wardrobe staples can be surprisingly tricky. DC Style Factory's Rosana Vollmerhausen shares how to nail the fit. By Caroline Cunningham
Image courtesy of DC Style Factory.

For Washington’s professional women, skirts are a wardrobe essential. But according to DC Style Factory founder Rosana Vollmerhausen, who spends her days auditing and filling the closets of men and women in the District, skirts also tend to be “the redheaded stepchild of any woman’s wardrobe.” That’s why Vollmerhausen has teamed up with Betsy Garcete of Zophia, a handmade “power skirt” company based in DC, to offer a skirt styling workshop on March 12.

As Vollmerhausen prepares for the workshop, Shop Around checked in to get her tips on what women should look for when buying and styling skirts.

1. Have your bases covered. “The classic skirts I have been putting in my clients’ closets are a black power pencil skirt in a fun texture like leather or faux leather, a neutral knee-length A-line skirt in a ponte fabric that skims your curves instead of hugs them like the pencil, and a three-season wool-blend pencil skirt in a color or easy-to-match pattern.”

2. Professional doesn’t have to mean boring. “An animal-print pencil skirt with a silky cream blouse, black blazer, and pumps still maintains that classic look, but the animal print adds interest. I also always try to put in clients' closets pencil skirts that are not black, but a rich red or teal or an interesting pattern to mix things up.”

3. You can make any skirt style work for your body type.

Petite frames: “You want your midi skirts to hit a bit below your knee but not go all the way to your calf, which will start to look a little sister-wife. You can wear maxis, but stick with a solid maxi instead of any bold prints that can overwhelm a petite frame, and always make sure the hemline is just so your toes peek out at the bottom.”

Curvier types: “You can wear pencil skirts. For wide hips, just wear with a top or jacket that hits at your hip, which will minimize and balance your curves. If you’re fuller around the middle, pair your pencil skirt with a wrap top, a cute jacket, or blouse that can be left untucked, and add a scarf or necklace to draw attention up.”

4. Stay on-trend. “Remember the statement necklace? Well, it’s all about the statement skirt this season. Whether wrapped, asymmetrical, embellished, or emblazoned with bold prints, these skirts are a great way to mix up your wardrobe."

5. If you go big, go home. One of the biggest mistakes women make is buying skirts that are too large. “Nothing off the rack is going to fit your body exactly the way it should. My clients will most often leave pencil skirts hanging below their waistline, which throws off your proportions so that your torso looks longer than your legs.”

Skirting the Issue. Betsy Fisher 1224 Connecticut Ave., NW. March 12, 5:30 to 8 PM.

Posted at 01:15 PM/ET, 02/25/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Find your soul mate for $5,000. By Caroline Cunningham
Photograph by Shutterstock/Nejron Photo.

Need a date for this Valentine’s Day? Step away from the Tinder: Three Day Rule, an LA-based matchmaking company, launches in DC on Wednesday.

Founder Talia Goldstein got started in the biz while working at E! Entertainment, where she'd become the office go-to for dating advice. As more friends started asking for her to set them up, she began hosting singles events—which quickly boomed to 600-person guest lists.

Talia Goldstein is the founder and CEO of Three Day Rule. Photograph courtesy Three Day Rule.

It was then that Goldstein decided to quit her job and launch TDR, her answer to the high-performing, busy modern women and men who want to find their soul mate without wasting time on bad first dates.

Anyone can join TDR as a free member, which puts them in a database of potential matches for the paid clients. But the company’s most popular offering is a $5,000 six-month matchmaking package, which includes TDR representatives hunting down candidates and meeting them in person to vet them for compatibility, plus access to TDR events, a photography session, dating coaching and styling, and feedback after each date. There's also a $3,500 package, which provides three months of personalized matchmaking without any of the added perks.

We asked Goldstein to give us a bit of background on this “white-glove” matchmaking company and what made Washington next on their list for launching the service.

Why should singles sign up for Three Day Rule, rather than just using OkCupid or eHarmony?

Think of us as the solution to outsource your dating life. Were not another online dating site or mobile app. We put the human touch back into dating. Our white-glove service means that we hand-select and vet every potential match in person before making any formal introductions to clients. We get answers to the questions that youd like to know but might be awkward or uncomfortable to ask: Do you want kids? Do you want to settle down in the suburbs or city? We also go to specific events looking for matches on the clients behalf. As an example, if our client wants a corporate type, our matchmakers will infiltrate finance events and lawyer conferences to meet matches for them.

Walk me through the TDR matchmaking process. I sign up for TDR—now what?

You grab coffee with your matchmaker and get to know her, and she gets to learn about you and your preferences. She then goes back to our database and finds about 100 people who seem to fit what you are looking for based on their profile. She starts meeting with potential matches in person to vet them and make sure they would be a strong match. When she finds someone she truly believes is a great match for you, she will send you a bio she has written and photos and ask if youd like to meet them. If you say yes, you go on a date and then give your matchmaker feedback after the date. We also gather feedback from the match to share with you.

Why launch the next branch of TDR in Washington?

The DC dating scene can be difficult due to demanding work schedules and the transient population. There is a huge opportunity for TDR to help DCs large population of accomplished, busy professionals who are single and looking for a committed relationship.

Who’s your target clientele in DC?

Singles who are ready for a committed relationship and want a partner in that process. We work with both men and women and with all types of people—busy professionals, Fortune 500 executives, successful entrepreneurs, screenwriters, teachers, and artists. Our clients tend to range in age from 28 to 65, but we are always on the lookout for quality singles of any age.

What do you love about matchmaking?

There is nothing more fulfilling than helping the singles we work with make meaningful connections and find love. I really enjoy meeting all of the amazing singles we work with—everyone is unique and interesting and has so much to offer. And I obviously love attending weddings of the couples that Ive matched!

Posted at 11:54 AM/ET, 01/13/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
The model and actress was in Washington Thursday to chat about her new book. By Caroline Cunningham
All photographs by Daniel Swartz Photography.

A seven-months-pregnant Molly Sims arrived at Drybar Bethesda on Thursday night to sign copies of her latest book, The Everyday Supermodel, her Bible for women who want to look and feel their best.

The glossy, 320-page tome includes plenty of autobiographical anecdotes—Sims's transformation from a unibrowed teen to Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, losing the 72 pounds she gained with her first pregnancy—plus advice on subjects such as how often women should wash their hair.

Sims had been on a talk show in New York that morning and she was flying out to Los Angeles the next day, but she paused in Washington to sign some books and stay overnight at the Hay Adams—she wanted to stay somewhere “historic,” she said—and to weigh in on DC style with Washingtonian.

How long have you wanted to write this book?

I think the book has probably been in my mind for three or four years. It started with me being who I am—I love giving advice, and I’ve always been that girl. It started with my girlfriends, and then it went to a blog, giving out tips and secrets on mollysims.com, and now here we are, two years later, with a book.

People often say Washington style is conservative. What do you think?

You know what? I love DC style. It is a tad conservative, but I love it because I think it’s so ultimately chic. I love the women who embrace color in DC, and even though the forms and the structure of the outfits might be quite simple, they mix it up with statement necklaces. I love Mrs. Obama’s style where she wears a beautiful tea-length skirt with a cardigan and a statement necklace. I do think it’s a little conservative, but DC style has a definite chicness and a sense of play, whether it's with a color or with accessories.

So how would you define DC style?

When I think of DC, I think, “They take care of themselves. They dress up.” It’s not like Los Angeles where you’re going to be in your flip-flops and your rolled-up boyfriend jeans and your long boyfriend cardigans or an oversize sweater. And it’s not like New York, where it’s head-to-toe designer. There’s an elegance to DC.

What are the must-haves in your closet?

I love the cross-body bag. I think every woman should have one—it makes you hands-free, it’s good on the go, and you can tuck in the straps and make it a chic clutch at night. Also, a boyfriend jacket that you can wear with a tank top or over an amazing dress. I always tell women to really play with their accessories. Have two or three great handbags, a great pair of black heels, a great pair of nude heels. Those are my staples.

How do you keep that supermodel glow on the road?

If I’m going from a long working morning to day to an afternoon to night, I will try to use a primer to help my makeup last longer. There are some wonderful ones out there, such as Smashbox or Make Up For Ever. I also use lipgloss or a rosebud salve that you can get at your local drugstore on my eyelids to get that natural glow. As you get older, think creams and use less powder, and make sure to hydrate and moisturize.

Posted at 01:29 PM/ET, 01/09/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
The app, which launched this month, automatically gives a portion of every purchase to the cause of your choice. By Caroline Cunningham
Photographs by PopNod.

Stephanie David was working as an account executive for Microsoft in Washington, when a trip to Thailand inspired her to take her career in a completely unexpected direction. In 2013, she left her corporate career in favor of fashion for a cause, launching PopNod that November, with a new app version that was released this month.

Through PopNod, members can purchase one of more than 500,000 items from popular retailers, and a portion is automatically donated to one of 55 causes of their choosing.

David, 34, the mind and energy behind PopNod, shares her journey from corporate techie to humanitarian fashionista and her goals for her company.

What was the inspiration for PopNod?

On a chance trip to Thailand in 2009, I met a gracious and kind family who owned an elephant farm. Although the family had very little, they devoted their lives to rescuing, breeding, and raising elephants—a sacred animal in Thai culture. If a single family is able to make a huge impact for an entire country, imagine if everyone felt empowered to help change the world every day. I left my rising career in the corporate world in fall 2013 to launch PopNod, a simple way for people to support the causes they care about while shopping at their favorite stores.

What’s the drive behind the app?

We launched the PopNod app to unite the most fashionable brands with the organizations and people that are changing the world. We wanted to create a beautiful shopping experience enhanced by carefully handpicked stores and curated products, combined with the ease of giving with every purchase. We also strive to create an engaging community for anyone to share their style stories and connect with their favorite brands, impactful organizations, and other mission-driven people.

Why do you think Washington makes a good market to launch this app?

We have met amazing people in the DC community—fashion bloggers, stylists, designers, retailers, nonprofit supporters, and others. And with DC being the epicenter of the nonprofit community and the setting for a growing fashion scene, we are excited to be a part of the fashion and tech community in DC.

How do the donations work?

We automatically donate a portion of your purchase to your cause every time you shop. You pay the same price for the item as you would if you purchased it normally—PopNod matches a portion of your purchase and donates it to your cause. It's a win-win for you and your cause.

What’s the benefit of this kind of built-in giving?

Our goal is to show people that giving back can be done simply and in small ways. I think that people sometimes feel uncomfortable to give back if they don't have large amounts to give. Much like small acts of kindness, the little gives can add up to a whole lot more without you even realizing it. For example, as little as $1 will provide a hot, nutritious meal for a child in need. If a single person donated one dollar every week, or a thousand people donated one dollar—imagine the impact.

Posted at 09:35 AM/ET, 12/23/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The nail designer and reality-show competitor talks fingertip trends and post-show plans. By Kay Wicker
Celeste Hampton competes on Oxygen's Nail'd It. Still courtesy of Oxygen Media/Lindsey Byrnes.

The journey from humble manicurist to reality-TV star has been an unusual and unexpected one for DC native Celeste Hampton. After growing up in Japan as part of a military family, Hampton attended Eastern Technical School in Georgia and largely taught herself the trade—the art lover is known for elaborate Warhol- and Picasso-inspired nail designs—before winding up a competitor on Oxygen’s reality show Nail’d It, which airs Tuesdays at 9. We chatted with Hampton to get the scoop on her favorite nail trends and what it’s like to be on a reality show.

What inspired you to go into nail art?

I've always been an artist—I got that from my dad. My dad draws, so I've been drawing all my life. That was the aspect that I loved about doing nails: trying to put something regular-size on a very small canvas.

How has your time in DC influenced your nail art?

The fashion here is amazing. That definitely inspires a lot of my nails. At DC Fashion Week, I definitely pay attention to all the different trends and mimic that with my nail art.

What's a nail trend you've seen recently?

People ask for nudes so much! It's so popular in the fashion world right now. I try to have every shade of nude. Everyone loves Swarovski crystals. I order those, like, every month because people want them all the time. They're beautiful. Floral patterns are very huge. I do a lot of hand-painted faces on people's nails.

Really? What kind of faces?

I had a client who wanted her boss's face on her nails. It was a challenge for her job. I take a lot from art, too. When I do the nails of people who are already artists, I don't want to mess up on a piece they consider their baby. I love doing stuff like that because the artists themselves are always so amazed at the extent of it.

Did you ever think you'd be on a reality show?

Never, ever did I ever think I would be on a reality show. Ever. When Oxygen reached out to me, I thought it was a joke. They found me through social networks. It was crazy.

What are your plans if you win?

I want my own salon in DC. A nail bar.

What's it been like on the show so far?

It's definitely stressful. I've never done a competition before. This is all new to me. You have to be here, and you’re under strict time. When I do nails I can pretty much map out how much time it takes for me to finish a client, but when you have a clock sitting in front of you and you're down to the second, it is stressful. But I've had so much fun doing this. Oxygen has really stepped up as far as the network is concerned. This is the first nail show in the US—the opportunity is once in a lifetime. It's been a journey, to say the least.

Posted at 10:08 AM/ET, 11/04/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The budding fashion designer got her start sponge-painting in Chevy Chase before finding success in New York. By Maddy Berner
Photograph by Arden Way.

Ellen Van Dusen has always lived a colorful life: sponge-painting with Mom at home in Chevy Chase, ripping apart fabrics to make clothes, and painting one too many pairs of pants. Today, she designs an eclectic line of clothing for New York City boutiques that’s earned attention from fashion giants Refinery29, Nylon, and Vogue—an experience she says feels “pretty weird.” 

Van Dusen released Dusen Dusen in spring 2010, influenced by her creative adolescence and love for simple shapes and bold prints. This year’s spring line is bright, geometric, and fun, and there’s plenty more art-inspired design on the way in her fall 2014 collection, set to be shipped to stores later this month. 

We talked to the Tufts graduate to learn more about how DC shaped her blossoming fashion career—and the worst thing she’s ever designed.

Tell us about Dusen Dusen. How would you describe it?

I’ve always been really interested in color and shape and art, so I wanted to make clothing that had really simple wearable shapes with bold, bright prints. I’m a big doodler; I love to draw. When I started making clothes in high school, I would buy stuff from thrift stores, then cut them up and sew them. Then I graduated to finding wacky fabrics and making stuff from there. I’ve always been interested in textiles and patterns and prints, so that’s where the line came from.

Van Dusen in her own design. Photograph by Amanda Jasnowski.

What was it like growing up in DC?

I lived in Chevy Chase, DC. My parents were both architects, so we had an art-plus-design-centric home. Instead of going to church or synagogue, my parents would take us to a museum every Sunday. It was our own little education. We would always go whenever there was a new show at the National Gallery of Art. We spent a lot of time at the Air and Space Museum. We would always do little projects in the backyard. We did tie-dye, we did sponge-painting.

DC is such a beautiful city. I feel like people don’t talk about that enough when they talk about DC. The architecture is so nice and so green. The contrast from DC to New York is extreme. New York is nice, but there’s a lot of bad stuff, too. My studio is in Williamsburg, and the walk to my studio, is very uninspiring.

Have you always been interested in fashion? 

I’ve always made my own clothes and painted on things—I have pants that I painted a checkerboard on that I would wear to ska concerts. Probably the worst thing I ever made: At the Field School, I took a class called “Picture, Poem, Song.” I partnered up with a friend of mine and I painted a pair of pants while listening to music.

There are so many good thrift stores in DC, and I think my passion for making clothes came from thrift stores. I would go to G Street Fabrics in Rockville and make dresses out of quilting fabric. During high school, I had a hat-making business. I got really into it and started selling hats at my high school and made 200 hats over the course of one winter. I charged $15 a hat, which is absurd for a hand-knit hat.

What path did you follow when you moved away from DC?

I went to Tufts. I did a design-your-own-major program there called psychology of design where I was basically studying the visual system from a bunch of different disciplines. I did some internships while I was at school, over the summers, with designers in New York, and learned a good amount. I worked a costume shop at Tufts and picked up a bunch of skills there. I had to make all kinds of weird stuff for plays. 

After I graduated, I moved back to DC for a couple months, and worked at Annie Cream Cheese [in Georgetown]. That summer, I made some clothes and sold them at Meeps in Adams Morgan. Then I moved to New York and interned for two designers, and then I started my own line.

What do you miss most about DC?

I definitely miss the space I had in DC. It was very different from the space I have here. I miss some of my old spots. I liked taking my dog to my elementary school park. I miss Rock Creek Park—it’s a great place to go jogging.

Posted at 12:20 PM/ET, 08/14/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Ahead of her appearance at the Front Row, the TV star and author shares style tips and her favorite local spots. By Diana Elbasha
Maria Menounos will be in Bethesda this weekend for The Front Row. Photographs courtesy of BrandLinkDC.

Tonight marks day two of Bethesda Row’s annual fashion extravaganza, the Front Row, and the appearance of this year’s VIP guest, Maria Menounos. The Extra host and reality television star is constantly on our radar for her impeccable style—from red-carpet stunners to cute, workout-motivating fitness wear and everything in between—so it seemed only fitting that she’d headline one of the area’s most highly anticipated fashion events. Before sitting front and center at the runway show that takes over Bethesda Lane Friday evening, Menounos will greet guests and sign copies of her newly released book, The Everygirl’s Guide to Diet & Fitness, in front of Redwood restaurant beginning at 5. While sit-down tickets to the show, which kicks off at 7:30, are sold out, guests are still welcome to purchase copies of the book and meet the star beforehand. Read on for our interview with Menounos, who told Shop Around about everything from her favorite DC spots to her closet essentials. 

Welcome to Washington! What has your experience been with our city? Any favorite spots?

I love the city and being active in causes I believe in. I’ve advocated for diabetes awareness on the Hill and have been a part of other coverage and advocacy efforts. I also love the history surrounding Washington, and seeing the cherry blossoms never gets old. 

What’s your impression of DC fashion? 

Most people say it’s conservative, but I disagree. The style is some of the sharpest around; it’s smart and sexy.

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Posted at 12:36 PM/ET, 06/13/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()