Young Washingtonians on the rise—they're everywhere, in every field, from politics to arts to sports to medicine. Two of those we featured in the May issue of The Washingtonian in our feature, 40 People Under 40 to Watch? They happen to be two of my favorite business people in the city: Alishia Frey and Grace Wang, who run the online boutique Unsung Designers. Read more with Frey and Wang below, and pick up the May issue of The Washingtonian, on stands now, to read the other fascinating profiles.
Arbiters of Uncommon Style
If you see a local society matron in a strapless ball gown made from vintage T-shirts, she probably bought it from Unsung Designers. The DC-based online boutique (unsungdesigners.com, with an Adams Morgan showroom open every Saturday) is the area’s best place to find cutting-edge fashion from little-known California and New York designers.
It’s the brainchild of Alishia Frey and Grace Wang, both 34. Frey, a Texan, and Wang, who grew up in DC, met working in fundraising. They bonded over their habit of traveling to Manhattan to find unusual fashion. “Two years ago,” Frey says, “there wasn’t a lot of choice if you didn’t want to shop at a chain store.”
Neither had extensive retail experience, but with help from the University of the District of Columbia’s Small Business Development Center, they turned Unsung into a national success.
Many brands the site carries are available only there. But for both women, it’s about more than selling one-of-a-kind dresses and handmade jewelry. They also hope to mentor young designers and help them develop business plans.
So how are the clothes selling in Washington? “A lot of the funkier items are harder,” Wang says. “So many people say they can’t wear something to work. We’re like, ‘Come on—you can go anywhere to get your work clothes!’ ”