They don't just live for it; it's their careers—meet a sample size of the founders driving Washington's most stylish industry.
From left: Joy Kingsley-Ibeh, Kate Warren, Lena Farouki and Eric Niu.
Coverage of Washington's non-political industries typically focuses on food, arts and tech—and for good reason; those have all helped propel the city into the 21st century as a world-class destination. But from modeling agencies, stylists and designers to photographers, retail operators, disrupters, buyers and more, local fashion professionals are making an economic impact while making us all look more fabulous in the process.
“Washington is known for politics, not fashion. If you are not part of the fashion community, you may not know one exists, but we are finally coming out of the shadows,” says the former model, whose journey into small-business ownership also enables her to give back via involvement with events like Runway Moms for a Cause, Feed It Forward and Fashion for Paws. kingsleymanagement.com, @kingsleymodels
“There is a stereotype that Washingtonians are unfashionable and don’t care about how they look, but nothing could be further from the truth because style is part of how you present yourself, whether you are in politics or not,” says Hu, whose independent Georgetown boutique offers hand-picked selections of designer footwear, handbags and accessories from New York, Milan and Paris. husonline.com, @hustweet
“People know me as a stylist, but I think of myself more as a teacher,” says the consultant, who has been helping to advance Washington’s fashion industry for 10 years. “I show my clients how to become their own stylists and develop the confidence that can only come from knowing how to dress yourself.” polishedimageandstyle.com, @polishedimage
“When I moved from California to be a political appointee in the Obama administration, I was a young professional in need of designer looks that I couldn’t afford,” says the innovative go-getter, who turned that need into Swaggle, a mobile closet-sharing marketplace for men. The company just received its first round of funding. Niu, who is a member of DC Dapper Dudes, also believes DC “is becoming a fashion hub thanks to the power of social media fashion influencers.” goswaggle.com, @goswaggle
“We were the first agency in DC to represent talent that focused on fashion and beauty, in addition to lifestyle,” says the owner of the local management group that has successfully fostered fashion in the District for 33 years. “Even after three decades, when asked, ‘Is there really fashion in DC?’ I’m still explaining that our retail stores, boutiques, ad agencies, photographers, creative directors and bloggers are a pillar of our city’s creative economy.” theartistagency.com, @theartistagency
“My business provides opportunities for me and my clients to walk the walk on shared values around diversity, inclusion and representation,” says the multiplatform storyteller, who makes it a goal to combat inequality with her art. “I educate clients on the importance of being intentional about every element of their visual narrative, and that includes styling. I refuse to let DC’s conservative take on styling limit me; I try to raise the bar on each project I do.” gokateshoot.com, @gokateshoot
“I am constantly in awe of my clients’ interest in the pursuit of style, fashion and beauty knowledge,” says the professional style guide, whose latest book, Style Bible: What to Wear to Work, has been featured in The New York Times, Washington Post and on CNN. “DC’s political climate will always ensure the survival of classic style, but eager shoppers are on the prowl to emulate the latest runway trends,” she adds. styleauteur.com, @styleauteur
“We have a passion and fierce drive to influence the future of DC fashion and style through offering exclusive fashion product offerings and forging alliances and collaborations that strengthen the quality, value and design aesthetics of fashion available in greater DC,” says Burt, who recently showed both her Amazonia and Red Carpet Dur Doux Resort collections at New York Fashion Week. durdoux.com, @dur_doux
“I moved to DC five years ago when creativity and fashion were emerging across the city. The market has grown significantly, and the creative community is truly special and doing incredible things,” says Blake, whose line of fashion and fine jewelry is designed for the “modern, confident woman” and is age-agnostic, eco-friendly and made in the USA. “I think we have a very bright future here in DC,” she adds. sophieblake.com, @sophieblakeny
“I’m very thankful that DC has embraced me and my brand and evolved as a city as I’ve evolved as an entrepreneur. Ten years ago, people weren’t quite sure how a person like me could create a fashion and lifestyle brand. I’ve finally figured it out, and now there’s no limit to how far fashion entrepreneurs can go in DC,” says the TV personality, who has also carved out his unique niche being a producer, journalist, author and angel investor. paulwhartonstyle.com, @paulwhartonstyle
“At the start, we thought Curio wouldn’t be embraced because we’re quite different from what is sold in stores around us. But the reaction and response has been positive and exciting,” says Farouki, who has made it possible for international designers to showcase their work at her ever-evolving boutique in the heart of Georgetown. “It’s fun to surprise visitors with how eclectic and varied DC’s style really is,” she adds. curioconcept.com, @curioconceptstore
“DC is where I developed my personal mix of prim, proper tailoring and slick, modern silhouettes,” says the District local, who believes confidence is the chicest look of all. “I absolutely love the way our men and women mix it up.” Jefferies has smartly leveraged a supportive local ecosystem of willing partners, including Catholic and Georgetown Universities and recently the Mayor’s Office of Talent and Appointments, among many others. espionatelier.com, @espionatelier
From left: Elaine Mensah, Mindy Lam and Kai Sia.
“In 2011, I walked away from my corporate job at Deloitte to pursue entrepreneurship in fashion full time. I’ve taken risks and reaped the rewards of ventures here that I don’t think I would have had the courage to try anywhere else,” explains Mensah, who is also spreading the gospel of style entrepreneurship via her position as adjunct professor for fashion and luxury at American University. elainemensah.com, @brandmeetscreative
“My designs don’t have boundaries—from kids to men to women of all ages, there is something for everyone,” says Lam, the local creator of the popular, intricate and handcrafted Mindy Lam jewelry line. Along with daughter and creative director, Kai Sia, Lam also strives to make a social impact donating to charities like American Heart Association, Becky’s Fund and St. Jude, among others. mindylamcouture.com, @mindylamjewelry
“I’m here to remove the fear and show people how to stay current, look fantastic and ultimately convey their message in a chic and sophisticated way,” says the celebrity wardrobe stylist, whose work has been featured in Vogue, InStyle, Elle and more. “My belief is that style is a tool that communicates a statement about yourself. The question is, what do you want to say? That’s what we uncover together.” lindseynolanstyling.com, @lindseyevansstudio
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARQUIS PERKINS; LOCATION: THE HISTORIC PERRY BELMONT HOUSE; STYLING BY GLAMSQUAD; MAKEUP BY TIA STYLES AT GLAMSQUAD; HAIR BY KRYSTAL MORANT AT GLAMSQUAD; PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANT: MIROSLAV PARUSHEV; DIGITAL TECH: MATT VICARI