Washington, D.C. is not the first city that comes to mind when one thinks about fashion. The stereotypical Washington resident is more likely to wear a power suit and practical heels than the season’s latest trends.

But the District has always been more fashion-forward than it is commonly perceived.

“If you really look at your history and what D.C. represented in the ’20s, the ’30s, the ’40s … D.C. was into theater and jazz and music and fashion,” Christine Brooks-Cropper, president and founder of the D.C. Fashion Foundation, says. “They say it’s conservative, but … D.C. has a whole nightlife scene with dinners and parties and galas and something every single night. We’re just getting back to the way it used to be, when Washington, D.C., was a world-class cultural city.”

According to Gennet Purcell, designer of the D.C.-based clothing line Maven, D.C. style is unique because it’s very task-oriented.

“Whether it be students, interns, politicos, attorneys or your everyday 9-to-5 worker, everyone dresses for function,” she said.

Stodgy senatorial get-ups are by no means all the city has to offer today. Though the District might not yet have a reputation to match New York or Los Angeles, the city’s fashion scene is dynamic and growing. Almost 100 designers presented their collections at D.C. Fashion Week in late February.

“This is a good time for the creative economy, period,” Brooks-Cropper says. “It’s a good time for a lot of entrepreneurs to make the decision to follow their dreams.”

Recently, designers received a boost from city officials who have prioritized the budding fashion industry because of its potential for job creation and economic development.

“Mayor Gray is very supportive of the creative economy, and he has made it one of his priorities to help build industry,” Brooks-Cropper says. “You can’t have industry if you don’t have infrastructure.”

The D.C. Fashion Foundation, a nonprofit division of the Greater Washington Fashion Chamber of Commerce, has been working on several initiatives to promote the development of the industry in Washington. The most notable of those initiatives, the D.C. Fashion Incubator, launched in January and provides five emerging designers with workspace in the D.C. Convention Center, equipment and training, all at below-market rates.

In July the foundation hopes to move to a permanent location on Good Hope Road in Anacostia. The new space would allow the incubator to expand its programs and support 20 to 24 designers.

This spring, the guide celebrates the District’s growing fashion scene with spring looks from three up-and-coming D.C. designers working with the DCFI. Such collections as Azadeh Tajdivand’s self-named brand, sPACY cLOUD by Tatiana Kolina and Maven by Gennet Purcell are vibrant and imaginative, capturing the spirit of renewal of both the spring and the District’s fashion industry.

Azadeh Tajdivand

Tehran-native Azadeh Tajdivand worked and studied in London, Frankfurt, Oslo, and Berlin before settling in D.C. to found her eponymous label. She seeks to redefine traditional ideas of fashion by incorporating unconventional materials, 3D layers, and innovative textures. Art, nature, and architecture inspire many of her designs. These pieces from her spring collection showcase her unique point of view.

Azadeh’s picks for the spring include asymmetrical pieces, pastel colors, styles from the ’20s and ’50s, leather accents as pockets, collars and other details, all-over abstract prints and florals.

Maven by Gennet Purcell

Gennet Purcell studied law in D.C. before starting a made-to-order dressmaking service that grew into Maven, a collection of dresses and separates in bold colors and unique shapes. She sees her mission as inspiring the women of D.C. to embrace dressing more fashionably in their daily lives.

“I accept the challenge to broaden the fashion thinking of the masses — one lovely dress at a time,” Purcell said.

The maxiskirts and dresses pictured here can be easily integrated into the everyday spring wardrobe.

“The biggest trends for spring are pretty soft pale and pastel colors, flirty florals and sculptural silhouettes,” Purcell said.

sPACY cLOUD by Tatiana Kolina

Tatiana Kolina’s experience growing up in Russia in the 1980s inspired both her clothing line, sPACYcLOUD, and her line of footwear, My Moody Booty. She decided to create colorful, unique designs as a reaction to the monotony of fashion in St. Petersburg during her youth. “Back in Russia, when I was 10 years old, my mom had a jacket made out of paper material. I was very fascinated by it,” Kolinasays. “I really loved the wrinkled paper texture which reminded me of old books’ pages.” Her clothing designs incorporate Tyvek, a recyclable and waterproof synthetic textile frequently used as a building material.

“This material scrambled together resembles a big cloud and that is why I called it sPACY cLOUd,” the designer explains.

“D.C. is similar to a salad bowl. It has a rich mixture of ingredients: Asian, African American, South American, European, American and many other cultures,” Kolina said.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *