While Washington, D.C., might not be considered an industry hot spot for national and international beauty and style experts, some District entrepreneurs — with the aid of the Bowser administration — want to change that by offering residents job, education and business opportunities in the fashion fields.
“We know that Paris, New York and Los Angeles are known throughout the world as fashion centers,” said Lanaysha Jackson, the chairman of the D.C. Commission on Fashion Arts and Events. “Paris is the North Star. New York is the innovator and the launching pad for many fashion and beauty firms. We feel D.C. can play a role in the industry, too. D.C. can be the conceptualizer.”
The District’s beauty and fashion industry exists as a part of the creative economy in which 60% of residents are employed, according to city officials. Throughout the District in commercial strip malls and stand-alone buildings are barber, beauty and nail shops in addition to clothing concerns.
Jackson and other fashion and beauty activists such as Mariessa Terrell seek to grow their industry to become an entrepreneurial, consumer and manufacturing hub.
“We want to make sure that D.C. residents know that they can get a real job in the fashion and beauty industry,” Jackson said. “The industry can be an educational path and vehicle for creativity for many.”
Jackson said she realizes many people equate the District as a center for politics, technology and health care innovation.
“But we want people to know that they can make a living in fashion and beauty,” she said. “This industry is a segment of D.C.’s economy.”
Terrell served as a co-founder of the commission and as the vice chair during her time of service. Terrell said the District cannot compete with the likes of New York or Los Angeles in terms of being fashion centers, but can be viable to the industry in other ways.
“We want D.C. to be the center for fashion advocacy,” said Terrell, who works as a trademark and fashion attorney. “The work involving copyright and trademarks for companies and individuals in the industry nationally is here in the city. The goal of people in the industry here should not be to pattern after New York. We want to use fashion and beauty to become an economic resource.”
Terrell said fashion and beauty activists and entrepreneurs are working with the Bowser administration to become a larger part of the city’s creative economy.
“When the city is being promoted, why not include fashion in their portfolio?” she asked rhetorically.
Jackson agrees with Terrell the District could become the legal and political facilitator for the industry.
“We can affect legislation and have impact on bills and regulations regarding fashion and beauty,” she said. “Washington can be the brains of the industry and the place to go where decisions on it are made.”
On the creative side, Jackson said “there are a lot of designers in D.C. but they are low key.” Terrell agreed, saying “when people think of fashion, they tend to think of urban fashion such as hoodies and sweatshirts.”
“We have plenty of entrepreneurs in the city who sell their wares on sidewalks and street corners and in brick-and-mortar stores,” Terrell said. “Our goal is to get them to the next level as far as more support from D.C.’s Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD)in the form of grants. We also want to have more high-profile events such as Fashion Week to highlight what is going on in the industry in the city.”
The chairman said the commission will seek to engage institutions of higher learning to offer more fashion and beauty courses of study and push for more shows and venues so that entrepreneurs can showcase their work.
“We know we will never be Paris or New York but we want to make it so appealing here for fashion and beauty entrepreneurs that they can get big without leaving town,” she said.