by leslie quander wooldridge | March 19, 2014 | Food & Drink
Holly Thomas and Makeda Saggau- Sackey talk spring fashion at J&G Steakhouse’s Bar 515
Refinery29’s DC Editor Holly E. Thomas and Glamazon Diaries Editor and Founder Makeda Saggau-Sackey are ready for spring. When we meet at the newly redesigned J&G Steakhouse, Thomas wears a sea-toned Proenza Schouler print sweater and short A.L.C. skirt from Hu’s Wear. (“The minute I put it on, I felt like I’m supposed to wear this,” she says.) And Saggau-Sackey sports brights by ASOS (including her signature silhouette: an A-line skirt). They toast with sparkling wine and a bellini—“it tastes like a trip to the spa,” Thomas says—at the new Bar 515, a swanky space tucked away downstairs. When it’s time for lunch, which includes perfectly prepared calamari as an appetizer, steak, halibut, and amazing caramelized Brussels sprouts, they embark on a dynamic conversation about all things stylish (and tasty) in DC.
You know our city well. Do you think our style has changed?
Makeda Saggau-Sackey: DC fashion has changed completely. Fashion and blogging were still in its infancy in 2007 [when I started].
Holly E. Thomas: It was more self-expression, versus “this is a way to make a living.”
MSS: I had a full-time job and was blogging on the side. I’m not going to mention which job. [Laughs] People back then, they were like, “Fashion? You’re going to do this for a living?” But then people started finding me… and so I realized that if you were smart about it, you could make money at it.
HET: My mom was very stylish. So I think I’ve loved the idea of style as a whole, and I was really drawn to service journalism.… [When I worked at The Washington Post years ago] the fashion scene was really different. It was really only, like, the college kids who were being trendy and taking risks. Now I feel like the 30-somethings and 40-somethings are seeking out new designers, trying to find different brands, and pushing the boundaries a little bit more—which I guess means that the culture and the atmosphere here is a lot more open to having style and expressing style.
The restaurant’s six-peppercorn, 14-ounce prime New York steak
Some people think you have glamorous jobs. Do you really?
HET: It sort of depends on your role. I’ve always thought of myself more as a writer and editor than as a fashion person. Then, there are fashion people who are incredibly stylish 24–7. But when you’re under the surface, working hard to get everything done, it’s less about you and more about your talent and abilities. And that has nothing to do with whether you [dressed up] that day.
MSS: I completely agree.
HET: I like to look nice and put together, sort of timeless, hopefully cool. But it’s never really been like, “Hey, look at me. Look at what I’m wearing. Take my picture.” I’m definitely not one of those people.
MSS: Well, that was the one thing that I learned at my first Fashion Week. Street-style bloggers were emerging, and I said, “OK, I have to get all my clothes and heels—”
HET: And “I have to wear the coolest things I own, all at once—“
MSS: Exactly. And my feet killed me the entire Fashion Week, and I said: never again. I had standing tickets. [Laughs] So I learned my lesson.
HET: Everyone’s like, “[Fashion Week] is such fun; it’s so exciting.” But it’s really 10 times harder than you think when you have to do it for a living.
MSS: It’s the trade show of the fashion industry.
The bartender makes a Gold Finger martini tableside
Speaking of style, DC restaurants like J&G are chic, too. Where else do you like to dine?
HET: I really like Rose’s Luxury. The mantra there is sort of like “simple, clean, classic American, very down to earth.” And I think that’s definitely happening in fashion, too, especially with heritage brands.
MSS: It’s like that farm-to-table movement.
HET: Like knowing where your food is coming from, you can also know where your denim comes from.
MSS: I read somewhere that food is the new fashion—because everyone is into it. Lincoln [Restaurant] is great for brunch. And in terms of style, I love Ping Pong Dim Sum in Chinatown. I love the vibe. It’s been around for a while, and the happy hours are amazing. A nice lychee [and roses] martini—those are really good.
What was your favorite part of lunch here?
HET: I like the steak. The steak was very well-cooked and tender.
MSS: [Bartender presents a Goldfinger martini at the table and adds 24k gold dust. Saggau-Sackey looks at the sparkle.] That is so pretty. It’s a “zhuzhed” up martini. And the halibut is really good. I always get steak, but I think in 2014, I need to start eating more fish...
HET: I’m not a big drinker, but I have a summer drink, which is the Dark and Stormy. When the weather starts to get warm [a] Pimm’s Cup is nice.
It will get warm soon. Any other thoughts about spring fashion?
MSS: I think fashion has changed because people started reading blogs more, and they were getting into underground designers. DC was a J. Crew culture. But now, even Hill staffers wear Rag & Bone.
HET: We owe that to independent retailers, like Marlene [Hu A ldaba] at Hu’s and to Lori at Redeem. They really stuck by their guns and stock designers that they really feel strongly about. I think every bit helps.
photography by greg powers
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