DC’s Fashion Scene

The Inside Scoop on DC’s Fashion Scene

Stow that winter coat and refresh your wardrobe with new styles from chic to street this month when the work of nine local designers makes its way to the runway at Hecht Warehouse at Ivy City on April 14. Expect to see leather and silk, lace and velvet – from edgy to sweet and flirty to androgynous. Big trends this spring include flared silhouettes, slightly cropped tops, stripes and denim. This eclectic group of designers has a range of experience – from fresh off their first fashion week to vintage scouters who search far and wide for just the right mix of old and new. On Tap chatted with some of the talent behind the show to see what they’re up to this season.

Mila & Fire

Mila & Fire are long-time best friends who combined their educations, skills and passion to create a clothing and lifestyle brand that is playful, sexy and vibrant. Two-piece printed outfits, shorts and bold patterns prevail. For inspiration, they look to street fashion.

“Many of our closest friends are incredibly stylish and fashion-savvy without trying too hard,” Kelcie Glass, a.k.a Fire, says. “They have such a strong understanding of who they are as people, often mixing feminine looks with androgynous pieces.”

Fans will see something a bit more “grown-up” on the runway this spring.

“Our aesthetic has changed dramatically since our start four years ago, and so has the style of our long-time clients, customers [and] supporters, so we want our new look to be reflective of that,” Fire says. They’re especially into shoulder-baring pieces, denim, metallic accents, lingerie for daywear and timeless dresses.

Learn more: www.milaandfire.com

Michelle C. Gibson

Michelle C. Gibson’s four-season collection, “The Bold & Beautiful,” is inspired by Lana Del Ray’s haunting track “Young & Beautiful,” as well as the “lush perfection” of the Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton, Md. Flowy fabrics in neutral creams and bright pops of color are draped in sheer capes and full skirts. Silk in crepe, velvet and cotton sateen gives garments a luxurious look and feel, while crop tops add a flirtatious touch. The Serenity Print Faille Top & Skirt in black and cream would flatter any body type. Gibson combined her love of art, computer graphics and Vogue to pursue a degree in fashion merchandising at Howard University, and she first showed her work during her senior year at New York Fashion Week. The results are sophisticated and fun with the aim to “open opportunity to become the best version of you,” Gibson says.

Learn more: www.michellecgibson.com

Beyond The Velvet Rope

The women behind Beyond the Velvet Rope, March Bell-Daniels and Katina Robinson-Wright, founded their company on the premise that “fashion is not exclusive.” Their pieces are approachable and affordable for all shapes, sizes and incomes.

Bells-Daniels says, “We have a quest to open the world of boutique shopping. All of the pieces are carefully selected from a wide array of distributors, manufacturers and independent designers, and in true boutique style, limited quantities of each item are stocked and once an item is gone, it’s gone.”

This spring, they’re focusing on soft denim, bright coral, bold stripes and Victorian inspiration, which take the form of draped tops with details like fringe, studs and full-printed skirts.

Learn more: www.bvrboutique.com

Brown & Williams

H. Brevard Brown III and Christopher Williams are Sartorial Anglicans: “That is, we like all things British fashion,” says Brown. Together, they created Brown & Williams, a collection of vintage menswear sourced from across the pond.

“We grew weary of the same old offerings,” he says.

They wanted to give men more unique options, but also “allow them to mix truly unique and amazing vintage pieces with their already existing wardrobes and trends.” Inspired by the likes of Guy Ritchie, Michael Caine and Mick Jagger, Brown describes their aesthetic as London street meets country chic, combining classic finds with edgy, modern pieces. On the runway, you’ll see plenty of summer scarves, ascots, safari jackets and vests.

Learn more: www.brownandwilliamsclothiers.com

Carrie Rockwell

Carrie Rockwell’s designs are soft and feminine. Using luxurious fabrics with lace details, floral prints and flared silhouettes, she creates an air of sophistication and elegance that would make a splash at any wedding or garden party. Rockwell looks to nature for ideas.

“Nature has so many beautiful details, whether it is in the spring flowers, the fall leaves turning different shades or the beautiful sunsets each day,” she says. “I try to capture those to represent some of the feminine and beautiful details I use within my designs.” Rockwell is a brand new addition to the fashion scene. After attending Marymount University, her collection was featured in Crystal Couture Show and Sale 2015, and she premiered her 2016 line this year at the same show.

Learn more:  www.carrierockwell.com

Rosies and Rockers

Mateen Khan of Rosies and Rockers looks to pin-up and punk rock fashion for inspiration, but creates his own modern twist with today’s silhouettes. His line offers a wide range of choices for both men and women that are “flirty, aggressive, edgy and just different – so you can stand out in the best possible way in any room,” Khan says. Leather pants and tight jeans worthy of Patti Smith and Joey Ramone, sweet sweaters embroidered with kittens, and lots of leopard print are a few things you’ll see. Creative tees and leather moto jackets along with 50s dresses make for a date night role play as Danny and Sandy from Grease.

“I constantly evolved and drew inspiration from the music scene and concert costuming,” Khan says, “taking something over the edge, attention-drawing, and turning it into a wearable piece that makes you feel like a rock star!”

What’s his favorite trend this spring?

“English Rose – a romantic heroine that lends a hand for social justice.”

Learn more:  www.rosiesandrockers.com

Deborah Mdurvwa

Deborah Mdurvwa’s line is not for the shy. Her designs show a lot of skin without crossing the line. Remember those mesh tops from the 80s? Mdurvwa refines that questionable look with structured cuts in neutral tones that empower rather than expose.

“I draw a lot of inspiration from women with attitude such as Rihanna, Tracee Ellis Ross and Demi Lovato because they exude confidence,” Mdurvwa says. “I design for the woman who knows her strength [and] her power, and is not afraid to confront the world with those characteristics.”

Her looks include unpredictable pairings like dark, textured pencil skirts with mesh jackets. She’s looking forward to the runway experience.

“This spring, I am expecting to see a lot of mesh, velvet and crops – also a lot of chokers.”

Learn more:  www.twitter.com/mdurvwa

Ankara Streets

Ankara Streets specializes in bold, colorful African prints that are a refreshing addition to DC street fashion. These pieces are not for the red carpet, but for the busy woman who is “sexy and turns heads even when she’s going grocery shopping with a toddler on her hip,” says founder and designer Jessica Thomas. She makes dresses, separates, jackets and accessories that include jewelry, head wraps, belts and hats.

“I’m constantly on the go and need my wardrobe to flow with me, not constrict me,” she says. “My inspiration comes from real life. I’ve designed dresses based off of my favorite apron or hair accessories that were inspired by my husband’s bow ties. It comes from all over.”

Learn more: www.ankarastreets.com

These eight designers will be joined by Elite Fitz for the Hecht Warehouse Fashion Show from 7 to 10 p.m. There will be a runway show and pop-up shop, plus light fare, music from DJ Stacks, beer and wine, and tours of the loft-style apartments. The show is free, but requires an RSVP via  www.hechtfashion.com. 21+ event.  Hecht Warehouse at Ivy City: 1401 New York Ave. NE, DC; 571-748-3245; www.hechtwarehouse.com
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Vanessa Mallory Kotz

Vanessa Mallory Kotz has been a writer and editor for more than 15 years. She covers visual arts, fashion, food and anything that advocates for better treatment of humans and animals. Her work has appeared in Popular Photography, American Photo, The Writer's Guide, Hirshhorn Magazine, First Person Plural, Goucher Quarterly, AmericanStyle, Niche, Reflections: Ultra Short Personal Narratives and art catalogs for museums across the country.