As a concept, Somewhere is quite simple. “We sell fashion and we sell coffee,” says Will Sharp, one of the three co-founders, all in their thirties, who are behind the new storefront in Navy Yard. But when you discuss the meaning, motivation, and long-term vision for the shop, the owners will tell you it’s much more layered.
Somewhere (an ode to Japanese streetwear store Nowhere) is the brainchild of Maketto partners Sharp, Dominick “Dom” Adams, and digital marketing guru Steve Place. Adams and Place describe the concept to me on a warm, slightly breezy day in early October atop the F1RST Residences, a luxury apartment building that houses Somewhere on its ground floor. The view is incredible—on one side, construction is the only thing blocking a direct line to home plate at Nats Park; on the other, a view of the Southeast waterfront. Adams points to a smokestack a few blocks southwest and says that he grew up in the apartments below it. His family moved to DC during the Great Migration, when Southern black families traveled north during the 20th century.
“If you look at our crew, it represents what DC really is,” says Adams. “We’ve got [me] a brown boy from the city, who went to DC public schools; a white guy from just outside the city, who went to a private school; and you got Steve, who has a Latino and Caucasian background, comes to the city for school, loves it, and contributes to the city. So you have those perspectives interacting without it being pretentious or hokey.”
In this way, the “crew” wants Somewhere to be welcoming to everyone—that is, everyone who wants to have a serious conversation about international fashion and DC’s role in that world. For instance, the shop might put an $8 T-shirt next to a $450 one. “Some of it is an homage to how we grew up,” Adams says. “We grew up on Ben Davis and Dickies—these brands that are still relevant in skate and street culture.” On their racks, brands modeled on Milan runways (Marni, Off-White, and Heron Preston) share a stage with the labels they grew up with. “Something for everyone at every price point,” Place chimes in. “Putting something familiar next to something that people have never seen before.”
The shop itself is as minimalist as they come. Inside, there’s an attendant named Moy Silk, a fashion designer with a face-tattoo, dyed-red hair, a long skirt, expensive-looking black sneakers, and a hoodie that’s way cooler than any of the button-downs seen in nearby restaurants. He describes the collection on the wall. These are the last of the summer items, he says, but the fall/winter spread is coming in a week or two. The coffee bar nearby offers lattes, cappuccinos, and Vietnamese iced coffee from Hyattsville brewer Vigilante Coffee, as well as treats like brownies, banana bread, and “Hippie Crack” from Baked and Wired.
Sharp, Maketto’s creative director and founder of streetwear brand Durkl, is thousands of miles away during our conversation at his creative studio in Los Angeles. In a phone call, Sharp says that he wants customers to come in and interpret the store for themselves, to have their own story with the coffee and the clothes—which explains why there are no signs inside, save for the one displaying coffee prices.
So why this specific location? Sharp hopes to have a hand in defining fashion in the quickly changing Navy Yard and, in turn, the District as a whole. “If you want a brand that you’re probably not going to get anywhere else in the city on the fashion side, you come to us. That’s what I think differentiates us. And I think that’s what’s going to hopefully push what you’re going to see more of in the city.”
Sharp and Adams recall traveling to fashion hubs like Paris and Tokyo only to meet people who grew up in the Washington area but felt they had to leave to accomplish their dreams.
“DC always has a reputation of being more competitive than collaborative, but I think that’s not true,” says Place. “That’s why I love this city—what people mistake for a lack of opportunity is just immense potential. There are so many people here doing awesome things in food, sports, music, fashion. When those things come together, that’s where the magic happens.”
Noticeably absent from this project is Maketto co-founder Erik Bruner-Yang, the restaurateur who’s opening his own cafe and restaurant, ABC Pony, in Navy Yard soon. Sharp explains: “There’s just no prepared food. That’s his world in the kitchen, and there’s no kitchen at this new spot.”
Adams says he has seen a close-knit group of Washingtonians shake up the DC fashion scene before. When he was stocking shoes eight years ago at Georgetown streetwear store Major, he and his coworkers would joke that the next stars in the local fashion scene would come from their ranks. “And they did,” he says, before listing people who’ve moved on to start their own creative ventures in DC (Dontlilbrome, the Fortune Shop), himself included.
He talks about growing up less than a mile away from the store he now co-owns, seeing the whole area get bulldozed and rebuilt, and how important it is to have a Southeast address on the store. He talks about how many brands were born from Japan’s Nowhere. And, with pride, he says, “I think the next huge local brands will come from Somewhere.”
Somewhere, 7 AM – 7 PM, daily. 1239 First Street, SE. Washington, DC.