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Photo: courtesy of Danielle Sauter

Insta Fashion In The District

DC’s sense of style has improved a ton over the last decade. While there are still those confined to the rigid rules of offices – meaning pencil skirts and blazers, and not always in the best fit – a lot of locals have begun to display their creative side through garments and fabrics. Though some of this is just an organic change in mindset, there have been tastemakers in the District using their own sense of style to lead the charge. We talked to a few of the many stylish people in the city and asked about the life of an influencer, where DC’s trending and the feedback of their Insta followers.

Photo: courtesy of Cory Luckett

The Fashionable Man
Cory Luckett

On Tap: When did you start your blog? What sparked that decision, particularly with DC in mind?
Cory Luckett: I probably started five years ago, and the reason why I started was because my aunt told me I should. My aunt was talking to me about my interests, and how I enjoy clothes. One day, she was like, “You should start a blog,” and I immediately figured it was a good point.

OT: How do you differentiate between things you’re sponsoring and things you just enjoy?
CL:
I try not to differentiate at all. I try to keep everything as organic as possible. I try to make it appear to the outside audience like everything is authentic, because ultimately it is. I’m not going to take a sponsorship I’m not going to wear from a company I don’t like. Just because I got free shoes, it doesn’t mean I’m going to post about [them]. If there’s shoes that I’m getting paid to promote that I really like, and if there’s shoes that I bought at a boutique that I really enjoy, the posts for those are going to be very similar. I’ll shout out both companies. I want to show that I like these things, and I always try to mix it up.

OT: How much research do you do before putting together outfits?
CL:
I don’t do much. I dress through observation, and my style is based on things that I like that I see people wearing. It’s really just my personal sense of style.

Follow Luckett on Instagram @the_fashionable_man and check out his blog at www.thefashionableman.com.

Photo: Pablo Reyes

District of Chic
Elisabeth Pendergrass

On Tap: How would you describe DC fashion?
Elisabeth Pendergrass:
I’ve always thought of it as a melting pot, in a way. There are a lot of international people that have moved here, and it’s a transient city so you get influences of Southern style and New England preppiness and an urban element as well. It depends on where you are, but it’s not like New York because you just don’t have the [same amount] of people. It’s fairly diverse and it’s definitely more than just suits.

OT: What kind of feedback have you gotten since embarking on this journey?
EP:
At the beginning, there was a little bit more negative feedback because you’re putting yourself out there, [but] nothing that was ever enough to make me feel like I made a mistake. I’ve definitely discovered this supportive community through it and met some incredible, creative people through the years. There’s definitely been great feedback from readers, and it’s always really encouraging.

OT: Do you go through waves of trends?
EP:
I’m just always looking at trends. If it’s a beauty or fashion trend, I put a lot of work into it. The most intensive work I do that people don’t see is photo editing in [Adobe] Lightroom. That’s what I spend the most time on. That, and writing content. I try to be very thoughtful.

Follow Pendergrass on Instagram @districtofchic and readher blog at www.districtofchic.com.

Photo: courtesy of Danielle Sauter

Blonde in the District
Danielle Sauter

On Tap: How did Blonde in the District begin?
Danielle Sauter:
I started Blonde in the District in 2014 as a creative outlet with the goal to encourage women to look at style as a tool to boost self-confidence as it had done for me.

OT: What are some things about DC’s fashion scene you’ve noticed since starting your blog?
DS:
DC fashion has come a long way from when I started my blog. I’m seeing more people having fun with what they wear – as it should be – and breaking outside of the whole DC stigma of professional wear. I used to think DC style was stuffy, but I’m happy to see it changing. I think DC style influencers have had a huge impact in shaping DC’s fashion scene for the better.

OT: How much experimentation do you go through when piecing together outfits?
DS:
I do love to experiment with trends, but I won’t wear something just because it’s on trend if I don’t love it. I spend a lot of time putting together outfits, especially if it’s for a styled shoot. I always put thought into what I wear each day. You never know who you’re going to run into, so it’s best to be prepared.

Follow Sauter @blonde_inthedistrict and check out her blog at www.blondeinthedistrict.com.

Photo: courtesy of Anchyi Wei

Anchyi Adorned
Anchyi Wei

On Tap: What inspired you to start displaying your style?
Anchyi Wei:
I’ve always had people stopping me to ask about my outfits, but what really kicked this off was my coworkers taking photos of what I wore to work every day and putting them on a Tumblr [account] called “Anchyi at Work.” After a couple years, and with much encouragement from local bloggers, I started to transition that into my own blog [and] Instagram.

OT: How much does the work culture of DC play into its fashion scene?
AW:
It is still conservative and practical overall due to the nature of most of our workplaces. Plenty of people love what I wear but say they can’t get away with it on a daily basis. I work as a contractor in a federal agency, and I definitely stand out. If we collectively all take “workwear” to another level and incorporate more creativity, I don’t see why it can’t become the norm.

OT: What’s your favorite part of keeping up with the fashion world?
AW:
Putting together outfits is the most fun part of the whole process of content creation. I generally don’t do too much research but already have an idea for styling based on trend reports, street style and runway images I’ve came across. If I’m stuck about an item, I’ll Google “street style” to get some ideas.

Follow Anchyi Wei on Instagram @anchyi and read her blog at www.anchyiadorned.com.

A Costume Conversation with Trove Founder Kelly Carnes

Photo: Caitlin Beam

“Halloween doesn’t hold the monopoly on dressing up.” DC-based Kelly Carnes, founder of the new virtual store Trove Costumes, is extremely enthusiastic about accurate costumes. Her new e-market is set to launch this month and will offer people a vast database of rentals, with elaborate costumes for anything from themed parties to cosplay-friendly conventions. In the lead-up to the store’s opening, we chatted with Carnes about how there’s no excuse not to wear costumes, how their staying power goes beyond October 31 and how pop culture fashion affects her everyday wear.

On Tap: What made you want to start Trove Costumes?
Kelly Carnes: I think the power of play is transformative and Trove will make costumes accessible to everyone. People can make money renting out their own costumes or save money by renting other people’s costumes, giving them greater access to this creative, empowering medium.

OT: What would you tell people that may be skeptical about dressing up for a convention or movie premiere?
KC: Costumes are empowering. One of the beautiful things about the cosplay community is how inclusive it is. Every kind of body and ability can be celebrated. There’s particularly strong representation by cosplayers of different ability, in part because assuming the qualities of a character you admire and respect can make you feel more powerful.

OT: How often do wardrobes from pop culture inspire your personal style on a day-to-day basis?
KC: A lot. I’m wearing Deadpool leggings right now! I find so much creative expression in curating and donning elaborate costumes to bring a character to life that to then put on “muggle clothes,” as we say, makes me feel like Superman putting my Clark Kent glasses back on. I don’t feel fully myself. Living this costume lifestyle has made me far more bold in my style choices.

OT: What are some of the elaborate costumes people can look forward to on Trove?
KC: It will serve as a platform for people to exchange directly with each other. But as its founder and best customer, I will certainly be renting out my extensive wardrobe on Trove! I have a list of almost 300 costumes and accessories I’ll be listing in my wardrobe, which include some of my most valuable and elaborate pieces.

For more information on Trove Costumes, visit www.trovecostumes.com.

Photos: Trent Johnson

From Freshman Foodie to Instagram Influencer: @dcfoodporn’s Justin Schuble

It definitely feels a little meta to watch On Tap’s assistant editor Trent Johnson take photos of @dcfoodporn’s Justin Schuble taking photos of Brothers and Sisters Pastry Chef Pichet Ong’s ornate The London cake at the LINE Hotel. This feeling is only intensified by the fact that our subject is on the stairs by the LINE’s iconic, off-kilter mirror – perhaps one of DC’s most Instaworthy spots to date – so there’s two camera-wielding Schubles and two mouthwatering, crepe-stacked cakes in every photo.

All self-referential insights aside, we decided to meet up with DC’s most successful food Instagrammer – with 246,000 followers and counting – at his location of choice so we could see him in action. The LINE has been high on his wish list for some time, so we pop down to the impossibly trendy AdMo hotel one afternoon in August to pick the 23-year-old’s brain about how he turned his college hobby into a booming millennial business.

The Instagram influencer is soft-spoken and thoughtful, an adept multitasker who is constantly searching the room for the best angles while still giving us his full attention. He approaches food photography – and his entire @dcfoodporn brand – as a curated experience, bringing an artistic element to every shoot. A steady stream of decadent desserts keeps coming from Erik Bruner-Yang’s kitchen, the final one in the hands of the pastry chef himself, who chats with us for a few about photography on the LINE’s front steps.

Schuble moves deliberately during the shoot, selecting a new location in the hotel’s lobby for each dessert and experimenting with countless angles. When he is sure he has enough options, we sink into two oversized armchairs and begin to talk shop – from his creative process for keeping his content engaging to how he grew his account from 100 followers as a Georgetown freshman to hundreds of thousands of followers as the owner of a profitable business.

BEFORE THERE WAS @DCFOODPORN, there was @freshman_foodie. After growing up in a Potomac, Maryland household that rarely ate at home – save for takeout – and with zero interest in subsisting solely off of Georgetown’s dining hall options, it made perfect sense to Schuble to eat out a lot. And as millennials often do, he began snapping photos of his food and posting them to his personal Instagram account.

Countless food posts later, he created the @freshman_foodie handle and a food-only account. By the end of the year, he had 100 followers and decided to rebrand with his current handle, which has now been used as a hashtag on Instagram in almost 272,000 posts.

The business school student bought a camera that summer and taught himself some photography basics, like how to manipulate lighting. He remains a self-taught photographer even now, crediting his natural eye for knowing what elements need to come together in a successful post.

Schuble has experienced steady growth since launching @dcfoodporn, reaching the 10,000-follower mark within a year. As his account became more popular, his plans to pursue a career in finance or marketing – real estate and working on Wall Street were among his considered paths – began to dwindle until he decided to try the Instagram influencer lifestyle out for one year. Fast forward to a little over a year later, and he’s running a successful media company through the @dcfoodporn brand.

“It is crazy,” he says of his rapid rise to local fame. “I think I got really lucky with timing. I was lucky that I got to experiment with this in college. That really allowed me to let the passion drive the account and its growth. I was set up for success because I had the flexibility to do things that maybe weren’t going to work, and there was no financial pressure because I was in school.”

But now that he’s in the real world – Bethesda, to be exact – he defines success by a new set of metrics that includes being able to answer questions like, “Can I pay my rent?” in the affirmative.

It wasn’t until brands began courting Schuble that he realized @dcfoodporn was a potentially viable business. Sweetgreen was one of the first to reach out soon after the 10,000-follower benchmark, a geek out moment for him since the chain was started by three Georgetown business students. As more brands hired him for projects, he became more selective and set a standard rate for his services.

“A lot of what I’m doing recently is paid work with brands. They’ll send me a product, and I’ll have to shoot it and do all of the creative and figure out the style and what I want to pair it with, which I love. I think that’s more fun than going to a restaurant where the chef does all the creative work and I just have to do my best to make it look good.”

A National Tequila Day-themed post with a bottle of Jose Cuervo nestled among fresh avocado halves and tortilla chips, a Potbelly Free Shake Friday promo filled with neatly stacked Oreos surrounding an Oreo milkshake, and a drool-worthy picnic shot for Voss water are among his recent brand projects.

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WHILE SCHUBLE LOVES TRYING his hand at art direction for brands, a huge percentage of his feed is still devoted to the local food scene.

“It’s always different. Everything about what I do is different. There’s no typical day and no typical photo shoot, which keeps it fun. I love that.”

Whether the visit is planned or impromptu, he says he always asks to be seated by a window with natural lighting. He inquires about the best items on the menu – although he usually researches options in advance – and proceeds to order both what he wants to photograph and what he wants to actually eat. This of course begs the question: how much of what he photographs does he consume?

“I’m actually very healthy, so I don’t necessarily eat every single cake or whatever it is that I post,” he says. “I do prioritize my health. If I can bring someone along with me to help eat the food and be an extra set of hands, that’s always great. I’ll usually take a couple hundred photos at each restaurant. Then I’ll eat a little bit, pack up a ton of leftovers and bring them with me.”

When he’s not saving a ton of money on groceries and eating like a king from his couch, Schuble strikes a balance between promoting hip spots he likes and maintaining a visual aesthetic. He often has to make a Sophie’s Choice between a dish that photographs beautifully but is lackluster in comparison to an unphotogenic plate of nosh that piques his palate. Another crossroads he frequently encounters is whether or not to post about an amazing spot where the food is off the charts but doesn’t have Instaworthy presentation, or the interior is void of any decent lighting options.

It’s evident he takes the role of accurately representing DC’s food scene very seriously, and as a fellow local who has watched the District transform into a burgeoning foodie city, I truly appreciate that. He makes an excellent point that while the DMV has long been home to a myriad of authentic ethnic cuisines, the ambiance was often less than optimal for foodies back in the day. But with a trendier, more millennial-driven food scene on the rise, ethnic flavors are becoming more approachable as they’re being presented in hipper locales.

“I think it’s a lot easier now for people to be exposed to so many different things while still staying in their comfort zone. I also think it’s great that people in other cities actually see DC as a real food scene. It’s been cool to grow @dcfoodporn during that same time that DC has grown. When I started, my list of places to check out was not nearly as long as it is now just because every day, something new is popping up.”

ULTIMATELY, Schuble wants locals to recognize his brand. He’s proud of his DC following, and even notes that someone recognized him in the LINE’s lobby while he was waiting for our interview and asked if he was “that

@dcfoodporn guy.” On the flipside, he says he never takes advantage of that recognition when stumbling upon a new spot; instead, he prefers to fly under the radar as a paying customer.

When we start chatting about the road ahead, he says he’d love to reach a million followers.

“I think it’s nice to have huge goals that you can strive for. And if you don’t get there, don’t beat yourself up.”

In the meantime, he’s been expanding his brand to include more lifestyle and travel content.

“I posted a photo at the airport the other day and it got more likes than any of my food photos this week. I think people are hungry for different types of content and for me, it’s about playing around with that and figuring out what people want to see, what I want to post and how it relates to @dcfoodporn. How can I elevate the brand?”

As for how long he wants to stay on the influencer career track, that’s TBD. While he loves having a profitable outlet for his creative side and enjoys the perks of frequent travel and friendships formed with other media personalities, he’s also realistic about the burnout rate of this type of gig and says that at some point, it’d be nice to settle down and keep a normal schedule. He’s even toying with the idea of starting another media company – something related to food, but the next step.

“I do love the food scene, but for me it’s more about full experiences and being creative. I think food lends itself to that, but there are other areas I’d be interested in.”

For now, Schuble is committed to growing the @dcfoodporn brand, even leading social media workshops around the DC area to teach local Instagrammers how to tell their stories in a more engaging way. Don’t miss his next class at Rosslyn-based pop-up The Alcove (19th and N. Moore Streets) on Wednesday, September 11 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25. Learn more at www.rosslynva.org/pop-up.

If you aren’t already following @dcfoodporn on Instagram, you should be. Learn more about Schuble and his media company at www.dcfoodporn.com.

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