Men & Women of Substance & Style

by WL Author

Local residents who inspire us at a critical time

Portraits by Tony Powell


It seemed like business as usual in late February as the Washington Life editorial team imagined our April Substance & Style issue, one in which we have the enjoyable task of selecting a few Washington area individuals who embody both traits. The voguish photos in these pages represent the calm and the cool, right before the chaos. After the onset of the coronavirus epidemic, event cancellations and tumult soon became the norm and we faced hard decisions about the fate of this beloved feature. In weighing the relevancy of Substance & Style in our “new normal,” we decided to go forward and boldly shine the spotlight on those individuals with sophistication as well as tremendous talent. Today, we can’t currently enjoy the creative labor of Jacu Strauss, who transformed the former Riggs National Bank Building in Penn Quarter into a posh hotel; or rub elbows with philanthropist Tracy Bernstein at one of the many postponed spring galas. But we can still listen to Ari Shapiro’s sharp reporting on NPR’s “All Things Considered” each day and we can take comfort in knowing that Chuck Ghoorah, who co-founded global event marketing and management software provider Cvent, employs thousands around the world. He and his wife Karen Ghoorah, like so many other parents right now, are also stepping up in at-home schooling for the couple’s three young sons. This select grouping of those who beautifully express themselves represents the best of what the nation’s capital has to offer. We celebrate them, especially as we all need a boost from individuals we can truly admire.

Ari Shapiro Host, NPR’s “All Things Considered”; Vocalist

Substance: Ari Shapiro leads a double life. During the day he is co-host of NPR’s popular news radio show “All Things Considered” (according to NPR it is the most listened-to, afternoon drive-time, news radio program in the country). On select nights, he moonlights as a baritone singer with global pop band Pink Martini, and alongside Alan Cumming in a musical production they premiered last summer called “Och & Oy!: A Considered Cabaret.”

Style: Having previously served as NPR’s White House Correspondent, where he was required to dress in suits for in-person reporting, the radio journalist now relishes his freedom to wear what he wants to work. Shapiro’s answer to inclement weather and fluctuating studio temperatures is layering– a trick he mastered growing up in Portland, Oregon. On stage he swaps his casual wares for a suit and tie, relying on pins, pocket squares and sparkly jackets to add flair.

On Ari: Ted Baker jacket; Hugh & Crye shirt; Smalto tie; Shinola belt; AG denim jeans; Broletto shoes

WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE TO REPORT ON THE COVID-19 CRISIS? As everyone’s world has been turned upside-down by this disease, I feel grateful to have a job that gives me a sense of purpose. Giving voice to people who are suffering, asking leaders tough questions, and helping listeners through the daily upheaval feels like a privilege. It reminds me every day why journalism is so important to a free society.

Chuck & Karen Ghoorah President and Co-Founder, Cvent; Stay-at-home mom

Substance: We may be a bit partial to this union as the couple met at a Washington Life Young & the Guest List party in 2006. Having landed the issue’s cover, Chuck was especially confident when he approached Karen to ask for a date that night. Fast forward a few years and the couple is married with three young sons, who keep Karen busy day-to-day. Chuck is co-founder and president of Cvent, the world’s largest event marketing and management software company.

Style: On any given weekend the couple is out on the town for the causes they support (Chance for Life, National Portrait Gala, National Museum of Women in the Arts Gala and Children’s National Hospital), which means their black-tie attire is always at the ready. For Karen’s style it’s “feminine fabrics and prints that offer a hint of the unexpected.” For Chuck it’s “clean lines with a bit of edge.”

On Karen: Ba&sh dress; Christian Louboutin heels

On Chuck: Hugo Boss Super Navy tuxedo; Emporio Armani Night Blue tie; Cartier watch

WITH ALL THE CHARITABLE EVENT EVENT CANCELLATIONS THIS SPRING, HOW ARE YOU REDIRECTING YOUR SUPPORT? We intend to keep up charitable giving. However, given the swift and devastating impact the coronavirus is having on small businesses in the D.C. area, we are also looking for ways to patronize and hire more local providers when possible. This is not charity – it is purposeful empowerment. The “shop local” movement is more important now than ever.

Tracy Bernstein Senior Advisor, Meridian International Center

Substance: Being on the scene is a part of Bernstein’s ethos – she served as a senior advisor to the chief of protocol at the U.S. Department of State in the Obama administration. Now, at the Meridian International she directs the Global Leader Council creating programs for generous supporters that promote the exchange of culture and ideas in collaboration with the diplomatic community. Sasha Bruce Youthwork and Alliance Francaise, where she serves as a trustee, are among the other causes she supports.

Style: Quality over quantity is evident in Bernstein’s wardrobe, which among other gems, includes 20 year-old Balenciaga threads. She defines her approach to fashion as “classic with a twist.” With the advent of the spring season =and stay-at-home orders in place, she is reaching for Missoni knit bottoms and a sweater paired with Rick Owens Birkenstocks. “For me, fashion is form of creative expression, but it is also a way to convey personal viewpoints,” Bernstein says. “I just ordered a tee that says The Future is Female.”

On Tracy: Vanessa Cocchiaro tuxedo suit

WHY IS YOUR WORK WITH MERIDIAN IMPORTANT? Promoting diplomacy today is more important than ever. At Meridian, working with our International partners, sharing diverse perspectives, we bridge divides and accelerate collaboration. If we are to solve the climate crisis or a medical pandemic, it has to be a shared effort.

Jacu Strauss Creative Director, Lore Group; Founder, Lore Studio

Substance: Originally hailing from South Africa by way of London, Strauss’ design resume includes the Pulitzer Amsterdam and Sea Containers, London. Washington become home base after he was tapped to transform the Riggs National Bank building in Penn Quarter into a hotel. It made its official debut earlier this year to much fanfare.

Style: Standing at 6-foot-6, Strauss often relies on ateliers to customize his closet. Being a good Brit transplant, he counts Her Majesty Queen of England as one of his style icons and lists a few items in his closet he cannot live without: a large cashmere scarf by Eric Bompard, Paris and a A MOTOLUXE coat in alpaca mohair.

On Jacu: Suit Supply shirt; custom pants, designed by Strauss; Gucci Horsebit Loafers; IZIPIZI, Paris glasses

YOU WORKED ON THE RECENTLY OPENED RIGGS, WASHINGTON, D.C. WHAT WAS YOUR APPROACH TO THE DESIGN OF THE SPACE? We start from scratch with our collection projects – looking at the overall context: city and neighborhood. We also delve into the history of the building. In this case the relics we found in what was once a grand bank branch of Riggs National Bank, were details of roman deities (Juno Moneta, goddess of money) on original door frames and the original vault. I then get familiar with the building itself to understand the possibilities and limitations.

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