When Shinola and Filson announced plans to open DC storefronts, Washington thought it’d hit the American-made goods jackpot. But this weekend, locals can take an even deeper dive into products that are made in the United States and the craftsmen behind them. American Field, a traveling marketplace featuring over 40 American-made brands, will take over Georgetown Park this Saturday and Sunday.
It’s a pretty bleak time to be running a clothing boutique in Washington. This year alone has seen the shuttering of Georgetown’s Urban Chic and Duo; Bethesda’s Ginger; and 14th Street’s Muléh. Anthom, in Merrifield’s Mosaic district, was celebrated in our July “Best of Washington” issue; it has since headed for New York after just over a year here.
This doesn’t mean local entrepreneurs have given up on retail—they’re opening stores online instead. While trading a street address for a web address drastically lowers costs, it doesn’t provide the foot traffic that comes with settling into a known shopping corridor. And in the gigantic world of the internet, shoppers can’t easily find you, especially if they don’t know you exist.
Which is why the new tactic for niche boutiques online is to go to where your shoppers are. And where they are now is on social media—the photo-sharing platform Instagram in particular, which boasts 300 million monthly active users. Brands post glossy lifestyle shots, hashtag meticulously composed product images, and partner with ’grammers with high follower counts, all in hopes that you’ll see their handle pop up in your feed.
Building a following is a retailer’s first step. Turning followers into customers is the next—a process complicated by the fact that Instagram doesn’t allow users to post clickable links that would send shoppers to a virtual storefront. Here’s how three of Washington’s most exciting e-tailers are doing it.
Alexandria’s Emme Wynn, 28, separated the bridal portion of her vintage Etsy store to launch Gossamer Vintage in August 2013. Her ethereal wedding gowns and accessories blend seamlessly with the organic, fine-art wedding photography popularized by Style Me Pretty and other national wedding blogs.
Follower count: 49,700.
How she builds the hype: Wynn collaborates with a culled list of aesthetically conscious, social-media-prominent wedding vendors on two dozen styled shoots a year. Wynn and her partners share and tag the finished photos, landing Gossamer in the feeds of hundreds of potential new followers each time. Magazines and national blogs that publish the results of the shoots (and then tease the photos on their own feeds) push her Instagram handle even further.
#Hashtagging: Straightforward, heavily trafficked terms like #weddinginspiration and #weddingphotos are Gossamer’s go-to’s.
Bestsellers: Handmade Edwardian-style dresses. “Savvy brides love the old lace,” Wynn says.
After balking at how much it cost to order custom pillows through an interior designer, DC’s Heloise McKee, 28, saw an opportunity to make home decorating more affordable for women her age. She brought on Caroline Lawler, 30, to oversee marketing, and in September Mintwood Home celebrated its one-year anniversary. The Mintwood Girl is, as McKee puts it, “on a budget but has expensive taste”—the sweet spot for the shop’s trend-conscious furniture and accent pieces.
Follower count: 5,100.
How they build the hype: “We started our social-media accounts before we launched, and we developed a base of people we could blast information to once we opened for business,” says Lawler. “After we launched, we worked hard to interact with and do giveaways for followers.” The most popular posts are on barware, dogs, and photos of the founders. “People like to see the faces behind the brand,” says McKee.
#Hashtagging: “Creative hashtags are fun, but they don’t get you eyeballs,” Lawler says. “We use #homedecor, #hometour, and #onlineshopping a lot and limit it to four or five hashtags a post.” Customers are encouraged to share how they’ve styled Mintwood products with #MintwoodStyled.
Bestsellers: Custom pillows in limited-access designer fabric, which sell for less than the pillows that inspired McKee to found the company.
Georgetown’s Jocelyn Gailliot and Madeline Grayson, along with Pennsylvania transplant September Rinnier (above, left to right), grew up filling their closets with classic all-American sportswear purchased at boutiques in Nantucket and other vacation towns. Dismayed to find that the mom-and-pop brands they loved couldn’t always be bought online, they launched the preppy emporium Tuckernuck in June 2012.
Follower count: 18,400.
How they build the hype: Tuckernuck partners with about five lifestyle/fashion bloggers a season, who choose Tuckernuck items to “style”—code for wearing or posing with those items in photos post-ed on their blogs and Instagram—and Tuckernuck gives those items to the blogger. The blogger tags Tuckernuck in her posts, Tuckernuck re-shares the posts, and the cross-promotion helps both gain exposure.
#Hashtagging: Tuckernuck includes a seasonal bucket list with each purchase and encourages customers to tag photos of themselves crossing off activities with the #tuckernucking hashtag. One click and the viewer is immersed in the outdoors-loving Tuckernuck community—and the company sees how products fit right in.
Bestsellers: Barbour jackets, striped Saint James shirts, and the monogrammed “Sunshine” satchel.
Fashion editor Sarah Zlotnick can be reached at email@example.com
This article appears in our October 2015 issue of Washingtonian.
Like to Know It is the best Band-Aid on the you-can’t-shop-Instagram problem right now, and it’s free to join and easy to understand. Bloggers use the platform to create affiliate links for the products they post about, and when a Like to Know It user likes a photo that includes a Like to Know It URL in the caption, the company e-mails shopping details for the tagged items in the photo. Voilà! You’re one step closer to owning those lace-up Aquazzura pumps your fave fashion blogger posted from brunch last weekend.
Fashion editor Sarah Zlotnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article appears in the October 2015 issue of Washingtonian.
As temperatures start to dip, we can joyfully embrace the return of the blanket scarf. For the uninitiated, a blanket scarf is an oversized scarf, often in a tartan pattern, that can be worn as a cozy cape or wrapped around the neck like a giant fluffy collar. They’re warm and wonderful, and the closest fashion has gotten to embracing Tina Fey’s slanket look.
The Heurich House Museum in Dupont has long been an establishment of late-Victorian history, but the carriage house that shares the property has recently gotten a hip, modern upgrade: it’s now a studio space for four local artisans.
On October 2, Brewmasters Studios celebrated a grand opening for the four new studio spaces. Among the tenants are Mallory Shelter of Mallory Shelter Jewelry, artist and painter Rikke Kuhn Riegels, Carolyn Misterek of Matine, and Meredith Akery of Sea Heart City Press.
If you leave your house this weekend only to get caught in Hurricane Joaquin, you may want to make a pit stop for an umbrella. If you do, though, we don’t recommend ducking in for shelter at these shops--an umbrella from these retailers will cost you quite a bit more than $25. You’re better off stopping in at a CVS for a cheap umbrella to do the job, or just embracing the weather in all its misery.
While they may be the king of outdoorsy apparel, this umbrella’s $108 price tag at Filson isn’t very wallet-friendly, even with the fancy maple wood handle.
While the traditional, knee-high rain boots can do the trick when puddle jumping or wading into a creek, wearing ten pounds of rubber on your feet isn’t strictly necessary when you’re just hoping to get to and from work without soggy socks.
Not only are these boots lightweight, they also won’t look as awkward with your professional outfit, and you may even get away with wearing some of the solid-colored pairs all day long. With the torrential downpours headed to Washington this weekend, it might be time to invest in a good pair of rain shoes.
These easy black booties will keep your feet dry without crimping your style, $68 at J. Crew.
Seattle-based outfitter Filson opened its doors on September 29, bringing outdoorsy apparel to Washington in the form of their "unfailing goods." After Shinola, Filson's sister brand under Bedrock Manufacturing, vacated the space to move into their gorgeous permanent storefront on 14th earlier this month, Filson was able to take over the 1543 14th Street address to open up shop.
“We are thrilled to be coming to DC,” said Filson president Gray Madden in an interview with Washingtonian. “People in DC appreciate the quality and history of our brand.”
Seattle-based Filson Opens on 14th Street
The outdoorsy men’s shop opened the company’s eighth store on September 29, taking over Shinola’s former location between Q and Church streets. The shop will feature some of the brand’s most iconic outerwear, but as D.C. is Filson’s southernmost location, keep an eye out for jackets in lighter weight material. The new store’s address is 1534 14th St., NW.
Workshop With FashionBoss Brittany Rawlings
Fashion Group International, a global non-profit that helps members become more effective in their fashion and design careers, is hosting a workshop with FashionBoss CEO Brittany Rawlings on Wednesday night from 6 to 8 PM. FashionBoss is an online, one-stop-shop for everything you need to start and run your own fashion business, and Rawlings will be giving in-person tips and advice tonight at the General Assembly. Tickets are available at Eventbrite for $10 for FGI members and $20 for non-members, or cost $25 at the door. The event is taking place at the General Assembly, 1133 15th St., NW on the 8th Floor.
The ten best dressed in Washington were honored last night at Washingtonian's Style Setters Party at Anderson House. The ornate venue made the perfect backdrop for the even more elaborate outfits, which guests didn't hesitate to share on social media. Take a peek at some of the stylish guests in the best Instagram posts of the night below.