I was kinda surprised to learn that I live in one of the most affluent areas in the country. In fact, according to the 2009 American Community Survey, which uses US Census data, seven out of the top ten richest counties in the States, including the top three, are located in the DC suburbs.
So why do we not have a Barney's?
To be fair, we do have a Barney's CO-OP in Georgetown (what 5th / Madison Ave is to NY and Rodeo Drive is to LA - and yes, I know Beverley Hills is not LA, but I consider it the same region). But we all know it's not the same. And while a Last Call Studio (more on that soon), and Michael Kors and Gucci boutiques just opened in the area, we still lack a Marc Jacobs, a Chloé, a Prada... our Saks doesn't even carry Herve Leger or Rebecca Taylor!!!
Now I understand lots of money does not equate a high need for expensive fashion, but it certainly doesn't hurt. And while DC is more St. John than Comme des Garçons, there is quite a vibrant and diverse fashion community here - from the politicos on Capitol Hill to the hipsters on U Street! Don't forget where Tim Gunn was born, raised and educated - that's right, right here in DC!
So if there's the demand for fashion and the ability to purchase loads of said fashion, where is said fashion? Why must we take weekend trips up to NYC to get our Jill Stuart fix?
I think there's still a perception problem, which we can't seem to shake. There's no glitzy sex appeal to the city, only old men smoking cigars and arguing politics all day. No red carpets, no paparazzi, no socialites.obsess over her wardrobe choices. We finally had a "Real World" (which unfortunately filmed mostly in our popped collar, collegiate Adam's Morgan district). And we now have the "Real Housewives of DC," which helps fill our local celebrity needs! But I get the feeling designers still don't see the appeal in opening a boutique here.
No matter what we do, the majority of influential, powerful people in our area will be politicians. LA & NY will always have the monopoly on starlets, producers, models and entertainment executives. People will always try to emulate these "taste makers," including their wardrobe choices. But our taste makers must dress conservatively. Not only are women politicians given a hard time for dressing femininely, but even wives of politicians seem obligated to blend into the background (notable exception obviously being Michelle Obama).