By Dot Johnson
Unless it’s about politics, Washington, D.C. can often feel like a revolving door. Politicos, academics stay, the rest seem to go away, but that idiom is changing with the emergence of D.C.’s own bustling fashion scene.
Designer Tashia Senn is a D.C. native who always knew she would return home to launch her line of high-end ladies evening wear.
Senn graduated from New York’s prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology in May and went right to work on her Spring / Summer 2010 line with a launch scheduled for Oct. 3 at the Studio Gallery.
“NY is saturated with designers, and fashion brands plus buyers and boutiques are looking at other sources outside of New York. D.C. has become really fashion forward and it’s a great niche market for new independent designers like myself,” Senn said.
Since returning home, Senn found that leadership among local industry advocacy organizations is a valuable asset for a new designer attempting to attract a buyer community still largely focused on the Big Apple.
But it hasn’t been easy for people like Christine Brooks-Cropper. She knew what she was stepping into when she decided to lobby for legislation creating the Greater Washington D.C. Fashion Chamber of Commerce.
“People called it the fluff bill to create the Commission on Fashion Arts and Events for DC Government,” she said.
Brooks-Cropper has worked hard to re-educate local designer talent about their own potential in an industry that has everyone brainwashed that New York and Los Angeles are the only places they can succeed.
“Mayor Fenty made it clear that he wants DC to be a world class cultural city, and we can not do that without fashion, art and entertainment. The creative economy is growing in D.C. and its time for the designers and creative people to be recognized.”
Yet Brooks-Cropper isn’t alone in the fight for DC’s fashion industry. Five years ago, when a group of equally committed local fashion advocates joined forces with the Style Network, the resulting Fashion Fights Poverty Gala was what the Post called “one of the largest fashion fundraisers in Washington, D.C.”
Since their first gala and fashion show, Fashion Fights Poverty Co-founder Kadrieka Maiden and President Chris Belisle have juggled their own full time careers with developing FFP as full fledged 501(c)3 non-profit. Their Annual Fashion Show has become DC’s premier fashion event and celebrated the organization’s newly acquired 501(c)3 status, which is no easy feat in a city where establishing non-profits is everyone’s favorite hobby.
“There are many that think fashion is frivolous and a luxury of the rich. However, FFP is showing that being fabulous is not necessarily being frivolous. It can be cutting edge yet beneficial, innovative yet charitable,” Maiden said.
Senn is passionate about both her own potential and that of the District.
“I came back to DC not just because its home for me but I saw the city changing before my eyes and I wanted to be apart of the new and exciting things that were happening,” she said.