Dionna Dorsey, creator of District of Clothing (Courtesy photo)
Dionna Dorsey, creator of District of Clothing (Courtesy photo)

First of a three-part series

In 2009, Dionna Dorsey’s career as a fashion designer took a hit with the downturn in the economy, but after moving back home to D.C., she found inspiration to start again with apparel that pays homage to the District.

Dorsey created District of Clothing three years ago with the idea to push positive messages.

“I knew that I wanted to create something that was really cool and that would push positivity back out into the universe,” she said. “I had an idea for starting something for passive income because I’m a full-time entrepreneur and one day in early January 2014, I had this idea for District of Clothing, but life happened and work was crazy so I was putting it off and saying I’ll come back to it.”

Before she knew it, months had passed and she still hadn’t begun the work, but after meeting with other doers in the District, she found her inspiration.

“You can go to lunch with someone in Washington, D.C., and they’re sharing with you some of the ideas that they have, then the next time you see them they’ve already moved on that idea,” Dorsey said. “I was really encouraged by my network and people who were constantly dreaming up ideas and then doing them.”

District of Clothing features T-shirts, pullovers, hoodies, accessories, hats and, for the upcoming holiday season, mugs for gifts. Soon, the line will expand to leggings and apparel for children.

“I really wanted to do something that paid homage to Washington, D.C.,” Dorsey said about the name of her company. “I moved back here in 2009 and the city has been so supportive of me as a creative person. I wanted it to be something reflective of where I was from but also other communities as well.”

Dorsey, a graduate of Istituto Marangoni in Milan, spent six years in New York City as a fashion designer before deciding to return home.

“The economy collapsed in 2008 and I was able to hold on to my job through 16 rounds of layoffs,” she said. “Finally, on the 17th round, I was laid off and remained in New York for that next calendar year until I moved home to D.C. in November 2009.

“I was very blessed to have a home to come home to that was not as affected with the economy as my life and world were in New York,” she said. “As a fashion designer, our industry was one of the first to go.”

Since then, Dorsey has bounced back, making a new space for herself in the fashion industry and local economy here in the District.

District of Clothing is one of the 24 featured businesses in the city’s Made in DC store, a concept that provides local entrepreneurs a brick-and-mortar space for their products.

“I was invited to the very first roundtable for the Made in DC initiative,” she said. We all offered our hopes, wants and needs on how our city could support us as creatives and artists. Once they approached me about a being a partner in the retail shop, I gladly accepted and here we are today.”

With popular shirts such as the “D.C. Dreamer Doer,” Dorsey wants to expand her positive affirmations to other markets.

“In my travels, I noticed that this was very intrinsic to the culture of Washington, D.C., but not necessarily as intrinsic to other areas,” she said. “I wanted to bring that ‘dreamer, doer’ mentality to other communities, especially communities that just don’t have a constant reminder every single day that you can think of something, dream of it, then do it.”

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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