New York Fashion Week kicks off … in DC?

D.C. is known for its museums, memorials, politics and pandas. However, few think of the nation’s capital as a fashion capital. 

But that’s about to change.

On Sept. 5, models, designers, buyers and the fashion savvy will meet at the Smithsonian American Art Museum for a runway show featuring spring and summer styles. A few hours north, a similar scene will take place in the Big Apple with one of the fashion industry’s most illustrious events. 

“We wanted to do a D.C. kickoff to New York Fashion Week to kind of elevate D.C.’s standing in the fashion industry because there’s so much talent here,” said Roquois Clarke, co-creative director of District of Fashion and a digital content and design associate at the DowntownDC Business Improvement District the organization behind the District of Fashion Runway Show.  

“There are a lot of amazing designers, models, stylists, hair and makeup [artists] … We want them to feel that they can thrive here and are supported here and that there’s a place for them here. We are a city that has fashion. Let’s elevate it; let’s give it a platform.” 

Most of the looks featured in this fall’s District of Fashion Runway Show which is in partnership with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Commission on Fashion Arts and Events and the city’s 202Creates initiative, and hosted by TV personality and stylist Paul Wharton come from designers, models and artists based in the D.C. area. 

Clarke said the aim is to provide local creatives with an outlet where they can sharpen their skills and showcase their brands. 

“The more D.C. can grow as a whole, as far as leveling up in general, then we all win,” she added. 

“I think everyone outside the area … sees government, they see all the political stuff, all the high-level business stuff. And I think that’s part of an issue that we’re trying to solve as well, because we’re both. You can do both. You can have your business/political oriented stuff and you can also see the D.C./Virginia/Maryland area as this huge melting pot of creative, amazing possibilities of talent and art.” 

The event, now in its third iteration, has nearly tripled in size since its 2018 launch, with audience members ranging from students to socialites. (Anyone can register for a shot on the curated list via District of Fashion’s website.) 

Clarke and District of Fashion co-creator Remi Wallace said their goal is to continue to grow the event in size and partnerships to the point where there will be more than one show in the D.C. area during both fall and spring fashion weeks. 

“The more this event grows, the smaller that gap is getting between D.C. and New York,” Clarke said. 

Wallace added, “And we’re not stopping here.” 

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