DC Designers: Rakiyt Zakari

Check out our style feature, DC Designers, where we highlight a local designer who has caught our eye.

“Talented Tenth” hoodie from The Original David line. Photo and styling by Yvonne Taylor and Lauretta McCoy.

What: The Original David, a line that seeks to “provide you with intelligent design that sparks dialogue.” It began as a local t-shirt line but now includes hoodies, scarves, and bags.

Who: Twenty-seven-year-old designer Rakiyt Zakari. She graduated from Howard University in 2003 with a degree in fashion merchandising and is currently based in Arlington. She started a women’s-wear line in 2001, and began working on The Original David in 2004.

Where to buy it: Her newly designed site,

Who is David? When Rakiyt was coming up with the concept of the clothing line, she was influenced by art, politics, and social communication. The idea behind the clothes is to take cultural differences and poke fun at them, so that they seem less offensive. Many of her t-shirts feature cartoon-like African or Asian male characters on the front, and one reads, “Product of the dark continent” in large, dark print with a black Africa-shaped cutout on a white shirt. “I wanted to do something that captured my personality, which is kind of sarcastic and a little apolitical,” she says. And why did she pick the name David? It’s the name of her eight-year-old son.
Hitting the streets: The line really kicked off in 2007, when Rakiyt started advertising and talking to people on the street to get the word out about her clothes. Reaching the right crowd and getting buyers to understand the concept was difficult at first, but once people started talking to her, they got a feel for what The Original David was all about. “It really opens up a dialogue with people,” she says. “One way or another it’s going to be an interesting conversation.”

“A” head crew sweatshirt from The Original David line. Photo and styling by Yvonne Taylor and Lauretta McCoy.

Tees for guys and gals: While the line is directed toward men, Rakiyt wears some of the clothing herself and doesn’t want women to be discouraged from wearing it too. “I like being behind the scenes, but I’m putting myself on the forefront because I want to show that even though there’s a guy wearing it there’s a girl behind it,” she says.

Thoughts on the local fashion scene: “I think DC’s approach to fashion is more inclusion than adventure but with the influx of college students and young professionals, I see it taking on its own life.”

Rakiyt’s faves:
Place to shop for clothes: Thrift stores, Club Monaco, and Relish.
Place to shop for shoes: DSW.
Restaurants: Dukem and Thaiphoon.
Bar: Marvin, Black Cat, Rock & Roll Hotel.
Favorite place in DC: The courtyard space in the middle of the National Portrait Gallery. “You walk in there and you feel like you’re outside. It’s the coolest place and it’s huge.”

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