When you think of Washington, D.C., one thing in particular comes to mind: Fashion.
Ok, so that may not be the case currently, but the fashion landscape is definitely changing in our nation’s capital. And in a city where suits rule (most of the time), menswear companies are seizing the opportunity to dress the men at the top.
Take Hugh and Crye, a DC-based online retailer of better fitting dress shirts. With a charming little showroom/office in Georgetown, they focus on simplifying the choices for guys starting with just one question: what type of body do you have? Depending on whether the guy has skinny, athletic, or broader build, they make the shirt to fit. Ah, sweet relief. Over the past few decades, we somehow managed to get away from a quality product that actually fits us and instead settled for a mass produced product whose price tag wandered far away from the quality that it reflected. Thankfully, a select few are offering up that possibility again.
I’ve been really impressed to see the way some companies have embraced technology. Sure, fashion has taken to technology on the production side, with the development of fabrics that wick moisture from the skin and dyes that activate with sunlight. But the guys at Alton Lane have found a unique way to use technology on the consumer/retail side. You schedule an appointment at their showroom– D.C. was their first showroom outside of NYC– and a lovely staff will guide you over to a 3-D body scanner. It’s a painless process– think of the scanner at airport security except in a living room-type environment and with a full bar complete with rye whiskey on hand.
Your exact measurements are sent to their factory and you receive your custom-made garment in 4-6 weeks. Overall, a pretty optimal experience for a guy, I would think. These type of bespoke offerings popping up around the US seem novel at first until you realize that it’s the way our grandparents used to dress. A return to our roots.
And while menswear suits and dress shirts have gotten the most attention lately, we can’t forget about the basics. One company in particular, based in DC, has sought to redefine the staple accessories for men, starting with shoelaces. Yes, shoelaces.
Tim Neill of Red Hand got frustrated last year when his shoelaces were 6 inches too long and coming untied all the time. He had had enough. So, armed with a marketing background, and the reassurance that other men were facing the same problem, Tim redesigned the structure of this little element that’s in each of our lives. But he didn’t stop there. Committed to rethinking all of the current offerings on the market, Tim is taking on the undershirt, socks, and belts– with buckles made from old American muscle cars and, yes, they are as awesome as they sound. He strives to be a brand that recognizes what came before, and one that insists on being a driver in the future. And the best part? He’s doing it all in the US.
From Detroit, where Red Hand’s design team is based, and where they find the metal for their belts, to North Carolina for fabric and trim, up to NYC for inspiration, and back to DC for the business, they’ve found a way to maintain every aspect of their production stateside. Tim makes it sound easy, which, being the owner of a women’s apparel company that manufactures a line of luxury robes in the US, I can assure you that it requires a commitment to wading through the at-times antiquated ways this industry has of doing things. Red Hand is mostly able to do this by selling direct to the consumer. So while you’ll only be able to purchase Red Hand products on their website, you can rest assured that the markups are minimal to bring you the best of men’s basics for a reasonable price. My hope? They open a retail shop in DC. But we’ll have to wait on that for now. Tackling the high rent in this city can kill a business and we definitely want this one to thrive.
Red Hand recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to finance the manufacturing of their first products. With rewards like the belt buckle, you can be the first to get your red hands on their products when you donate.
OS Fashion hosted a Town Hall Discussion last month in DC on the local retail climate. To attend similar events and join the discussion, become a member of OS Fashion’s DC Chapter here or follow us on Twitter.