In case you’re not yet familiar, fashionista friends, say hello to Butler + Claypool, the nom du jour to drop when impressing friends with your insider knowledge of the Washington design scene. This self-described “retail and design” collective is the latest—yet perhaps most prominent—group to jump into the steadily expanding pool of Washington fashion scenesters.
“We’re proud to offer carefully chosen, affordable vintage that you can mix with your everyday pieces from the Gap and H&M, alongside cool artwork, handmade jewelry, and salvaged housewares to spruce up your nest,” cofounder Holly Thomas says of Butler + Claypool, which also boasts an active Twitter stream and supports an Etsy shop. “With everything we’re collecting and making, we’re aiming for quality, sustainability, and affordability.”
Luckily for Butler + Claypool, it’ll undoubtedly have few problems making a splash—nearly all the members of the collective have well-established presences in the city. Holly Thomas is a well-known fashion journalist at the Washington Post. Cofounder Krista Haywood is a government analyst. Paul Thornley plays guitar U.S. Royalty, everyone’s favorite Washington rock band. Betsy Lowther and Rachel Cothran both reign over local fashion blogs (Lowther authors Fashion is Spinach; Cothran is at Project Beltway, and both are former Washingtonian style contributors). Along with Lowther, Kristin Guiter was selected as a 2010 Washingtonian Style Setter.
Last Saturday, after months of stockpiling vintage finds, the crew set up a pop-up shop at American Ice Company, a new U Street area bar quickly gaining popularity for a gritty-cool Brooklyn feel not at all dissimilar to Butler + Claypool’s. Customers were invited to sip hot toddies, browse through barrels of vintage clothing and accessories, and take home quite a few steals. As Thomas told us in an e-mail, only a few of the most splurge-worthy items were priced above $65.
Sad you missed out? Click here for photos from the event, then read an interview with Butler + Claypool cofounder Holly Thomas after the break. In wake of Saturday’s event, she answered a few questions concerning Butler + Claypool’s overall look and shopping processes as well as where that quirky name comes from.
How would you describe the collective’s aesthetic? What makes something a “Butler + Claypool find”?
“Each of us [in the collective] has a slightly different personal aesthetic, but I think we appreciate that those aesthetics can peacefully and artfully coexist. The rough-edged, rustic Americana vibe appeals to me, but then so does a sort of glam-disco edginess, and both can play off the polished, ladylike vibe that others pull off so well. We don’t aim to be a hodgepodge of everything. We have a handful of looks that we love, and we each work on cultivating them.
And where do these finds come from?
“We source from all over the map—literally. We buy a lot from estate sales and private sellers, but we do regular thrift-store runs, some Craigslist trolling, and yard-sale picking. We have buyers in Stockholm, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston, New Orleans, and small towns in Indiana, Iowa, and Florida. Having friends and significant others with great taste who do serious amounts of traveling helps, too.”
Consignment shopping can get pretty pricey at some Washington stores. Would you consider yourselves an accessible outlet for vintage shoppers?
“One of the reasons we’ve chosen the pop-up-shop route is because it lets us keep prices extremely low. Practically everything at the event on Saturday was priced below $65. We do have some big-ticket items, but we try to limit those to really special, splurge-worthy pieces. No one likes walking into a store and realizing immediately that you can’t afford anything—it takes all the fun out of shopping, and the fun of shopping is half our motivation.”
Considering that your group is five-sixths female, the masculine-sounding name Butler + Claypool is an interesting choice for the collective. Where does it come from?
“I founded the collective alongside Krista Haywood back in September, and the name comes from the places where we each grew up. Butler is my family name, and it just came to me in the shower one morning. I called Krista right away to ask where she grew up, and when she said Claypool, we knew we’d found it. We thought the names just worked really well together—it sounds like a law firm from the Old West.”
Photos by Kyle Gustafson