Fashion Forward

Local notables in Washington’s style circuit discuss the future of the area’s fashion.

Think Washington and fashion can’t go together? At Saturday’s Fashion and Technology panel—part of last week’s Digital Capital Week—Fashion Fights Poverty vice president Elaine Mensah brought together a passionate and experienced group of local industry leaders to discuss how Washington’s blossoming fashion culture can grow through careful application of technology.

Some of the five panelists’ arguments came as no surprise to the tech-savvy crowd.

“Technology has ushered in a new era of democracy in fashion,” said Betsy Lowther, former senior editor of Fashion Washington and Fashion is Spinach blogger. “It has removed a lot of the elitism that surrounded the industry.”

It was illuminating to see hear about how small brands are embracing new tools to get their lines off the ground.

“Without technology, we certainly wouldn’t be a company,” said Lucas Pierce, director of operations for DURKL, one of Washington’s most well-known sportswear companies. His key programs are Skype (for cost-effective communication with overseas producers), do-it-yourself accounting services via Quickbooks, and Adobe Illustrator for all design-related activities. Pierce was unapologetic about outsourcing clothing construction to Asia because “no fabric is made in America anymore,” and it would put DURKL significantly behind schedule to have fabric made overseas and shipped to America for assembly. That certainly wasn’t the labor-is -cheaper answer we were expecting.

While local style bloggers joined the conversation on Twitter hashtag #fatdcweek, Christine Brooks-Cropper, president of the Greater Washington Fashion Chamber of Commerce, urged audience members to get involved in advocating for fashion policy and funding in Washington. “The Commission on the Arts and Humanities gets $9 million from the city [to local support artists],” she said. “Go talk to your representative! Let’s support local fashion with similar microgrants.”

Additional panel members included Vidya Narine, who joined via video chat to discuss virtual trade shows in Paris, and Tysons Galleria Director of Marketing Nichole Devolites, who offered intelligent insight on the work social media can do in solidifying the reputations of local fashion centers. “Do it well, do it actively,” Devolites said of maintaining Twitter, Facebook, and Web site presences. “And know your audience. Always represent your brand.”

Sarah is the Editor-in-Chief of Washingtonian Bride & Groom, and writes about weddings, fashion, and shopping. Her work has also appeared in Refinery29, Bethesda Magazine, and Washington City Paper, among others. She is a Georgetown University graduate, lives in Columbia Heights, and you can find her on Instagram at @washbridegroom and @sarahzlot.