Trend Report: DC Gets A Fashion Directory

by Editorial

Newly launched Fashion Impact Report seeks to galvanize and evolve capital region’s emerging fashion and design scene.
By Elaine Mensah

Sass & Bide Show London Fashion Week. (Photo by Samantha Sault)

It is no secret that over the past few years Washington, D.C. has become a hotbed for creative talent. Not surprisingly, a fully fledged fashion industry was not far behind. Businesses, organizations, and individuals started emerging with a focus on the local fashion scene. With any new movement, there are missteps, false starts, inefficiencies, and just plain ineptitude. Luckily, with the social, political, and economic clout that DC has, the focus is more on what we ARE doing versus what we are not doing well. Luxury brands are now flocking to DC as a destination for flagship stores. In 2011/ early 2012 designers including Donna Karan, Derek Lam, Elie Tahari, Tory Burch, Rag & Bone, and Joseph Aboud, to name a few, and fashion impresarios such as Tim Gunn and Simon Doonan, have all paid a visit to our nation’s capital.

What does this have to do with The Fashion Impact Report, you ask? Well, the creators of the Fashion Impact Report – SVELTE, LLC‘s Elaine Mensah (myself) and the ladies of Pleatherette Emma Fisher and Merin Guthrie – decided that while all these great things are happening to the DC fashion scene, it was important that we (entire community) focused on truly coming together to develop a real tangible industry. Far too often, the conversation was taking place between groups of people (unfortunately for some it was focused on notoriety) but not as a whole. So with the inaugural Social Media Week DC approaching, we decided to stop talking and start doing. We thought, “What are some of the core things we’ve found lacking that could really help our businesses?” The number one thing we all agreed on? Data. Real hard quantitative numbers. How many fashion entrepreneurs really existed in DC? How many designers, pattern makers, stylists, publicists, producers, retailers etc., are doing business in DC? What is the impact of these individuals and businesses on the local economy?

Armed with these questions, a drive to acquire knowledge, and an altruistic urge to contribute to the industry, we came up with the following approach:

  1. A Crowd-Sourced Directory.
    The FIR Directory is a FREE, open-to-the-public, crowd-sourced directory of the fashion resources available in DC (powered generously by All Things Fashion DC). We wanted a place where folks seeking local resources could go to find vetted talent. It’s not just about having any and everyone on there, it’s about having brands and organizations that are who they say they are, and doing what they say they do. It also serves as a place where industry professionals outside of DC can go to get a holistic picture of our industry and the reality that it does exist here in DC. Since our launch during Social Media Week DC (February 13-17, 2012), there have been almost 90 submissions to the Directory. Who knew we had that many available resources?
  2. An Economic Impact Survey.
    So having a list of resources is great, but what everyone in the community strives for is opportunity. Opportunity to grow a business and make money doing it. Opportunity to collaborate with like-minded people towards a common fiscal goal. Opportunity to STAY in DC and turn a profit. As such, we created a simple and concise online survey that looked to gather economic data. The survey is still open so if you are in ANY part of the fashion industry in DC, please complete.
  3. Live Twitter Chats.
    Lastly, we didn’t want to have this conversation in a bubble. We wanted to reach out and talk to those interested and affected by this initiative. What better time to have this conversation than during Social Media Week DC. We hosted 2 days’ worth of twitter chats using hashtag #fashionpact and with digital speakers including Aba Kwawu (The Aba Agency), Marquis Perkins (DC Commission on the Arts), Micha Weinblatt (Crooked Monkey), Phillipa Hughes (Pink Line Project), Pranav Vora (Hugh & Crye), and Elizabeth Fassbender / Lacey Maffettone (CapFABB), we discussed challenges and successes of doing business in DC, resourcing, opportunities, collaboration and more. What resulted was an extremely informative and engaging conversation (see link above for conversation on Storify) that has created our 1st offline venture – The FashionPact Unconference scheduled for Spring 2012.

In order to fulfill what we believe is a key obligation and expectation with this initiative, we will be publishing The Report in March 2012. It will have the results of the survey along with the additional data and information we have gathered via the directory and the twitterchats. We are extremely appreciative of all the support The Fashion Impact Report has received thus far, and everyone who has contributed to the Directory, taken the survey, and/or joined the #fashionpact conversation. It is our belief that if we all truly work together to build the DC fashion community as more than just a ‘scene’ and as more of an industry, we will all benefit.

The Fashion Impact Report is just the beginning.

For more information visit

Follow Elaine Mensah on Twitter and follow the conversation #fashionpact.

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