Fashionable Life: Big Brand Aspirations Balanced with Boutique Approach

Kit and Ace brings comfort and quality-crafted clothing to Georgetown.

With a slogan “aimed to ease,” clothier Kit and Ace is not trying to disguise its commitment to comfort. Breezy, loose fitting and light are keywords customers can expect to find in product descriptions throughout the store. Each piece of clothing is designed with an emphasis on movement to keep up with the active lifestyle that characterizes an up-and-coming millennial buying power. Although the Vancouver-based retailer is growing at a rapid pace, opening 50 new stores last year alone, they are striving to be more than just another storefront on the sardine-sidewalks of Georgetown.

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Kit and Ace in Georgetown has retail downstairs and an upstairs boasting a large communal space. (Photo by )

Like many brands working hard to speak of the language of their target audience, Kit and Ace has taken a localized approach to their marketing endeavors in an effort to stand out in the overcrowded retail industry, where quality is often trumped by quantity. With massive retailers popping up at every turn, Kit and Ace hopes to create a more refreshing shopping environment than its fashion chain counterparts. Brand manager, , says that Kit and Ace combats the potential stigma by hiring employees who are passionate and knowledgable about their city.

Kit and Ace hosts a quarterly Supper Club where like-minded community members sit around, break bread and sip wine. Cordon says the dinners are a way to “drive conversation.” The team also developed an icebreaker card game called Real Talk to ease the tension of dining with strangers.To accommodate the gatherings, store locations are outfitted with square tables built by local craftsman.

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The work of local designers gives the Georgetown store local flavor. The Supper Club table and benches were designed by Joseph Wills and the light fixture is designed by Wayne Hinson at Hinson Design. (Photo by Catherine Trifiletti)

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Real Talk is an icebreaker card game sold at Kit and Ace. (Photo by Catherine Trifiletti)

Cordon and her team recognize that the rapid growth of Kit and Ace could be a turn off to shoppers and has found other ways, like the Supper Club, to make each store feel special and unique to its location. Little things go a long way at the Georgetown storefront, where rose gold accents turn average rolling racks into outstanding pieces of hardware and a rotating gallery of local art (currently featuring a series of paintings by Natalie Cheung) make the store feel hip and in tuned with the beat of Washington. Sparkling water on tap, is a nice touch too.

The Kit and Ace concept was conceived by Shannon and , names that may be recognizable from their ties to active apparel giant, Lululemon Athletica (Shannon is the wife of founder Chip Wilson and former head designer for the brand and J.J.is his son from a previous marriage). The dynamic duo crafted their vision based on the understanding that modern men and women are constantly on the go living a “full contact lifestyle,” with each step accounted for on Fit Bits or other health gadgets. For that reason, dynamic, no frill items rank at the top of consumer wish lists.

The Wilsons drew inspiration from time spent on Australia’s Bondi Beach where they noticed a fashion and lifestyle aesthetic equal parts casual, cool and versatile. It struck them that, despite being on the go 24/7, the relaxed Aussies could pull off a full day of working, running errands, surfing and socializing with friends, all while wearing the same outfit. In seeking to embody that effervescent lifestyle, Kit and Ace was born.

Clothing item prices ranges from mid to high-end­– costs justified by fabric quality that is trademarked in several instances. spent three years perfecting “technical cashmere,” for example, that looks like cotton to the naked eye but wears like a lightweight cashmere, sans the fuzz. Wilson had previously pitched the fabric to Lululemon’s design team, but they could not find a use for it. As the saying goes, one brand’s trash is another’s treasure (or something like that).

Kit and Ace, now open, 3262 M St NW, Sunday-Thursday 11am-7pm, Friday & Saturday 11am-8pm
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A neon sign displayed near the dressing room at Kit and Ace is a motto at the crux of the brand. (Photo by Catherine Trifiletti)

 

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