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How D.C. Can Encourage Local Boutiques and Entrepreneurs

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Prior to this morning's Think Local First fashion and retail discussion, Virginia Arrisueño of DeNada Designs and Lori Parkerson of Redeem spoke with WTOP about the challenges of nurturing fashion and retail in the nation's capital. Parkerson started the interview with an interesting and alarming thought about D.C.'s fashion landscape:

We've been plugging away for eight years, and definitely I feel like the retail environment is evolving. It's definitely shifting, but I just feel like there's not a lot of small, independent … There are a lot of chains that have been coming [to D.C.], so that's encouraging because we're getting things like Billy Reid and All Saints and these cool, smaller designers that have kind of become their own storefronts, which is really cool, but they're part of a bigger chain. So while we're evolving in that sense, I feel like a lot of independents are going away, unfortunately.

Why is it such a difficult scene for local shops and designers? Parkerson says that there are two factors: the fact that New York is so close and such a beacon for budding fashion entrepreneurs, and that rents are way too high.

"For actual retailers, it's really about the rents. For me on 14th Street, it's been great, but in the end, a lot of people have been priced out because you're getting the high rents but at the same time, not getting the daytime foot traffic because there isn't the diversity that's driving daytime, weekday business on 14th Street, that say Georgetown gets," she said.

Parkerson suggests that moving production facilities here and starting fashion incubators could help. It's not all doom and gloom though. Arrisueño said, "When I started out my business, the fashion scene was there, but it wasn't as evolved as it is now. Before, I remember the shopping district used to primarily be Georgetown and Dupont, and there's nothing wrong with that. But now it's spreading … it's growing, and that's what's kind of exciting. I love the fact also, being a smaller designer, it's easier for me to make a name for my business."
· Female fashion business owners talk D.C. retail, industry [WTOP]
· Redeem's Spring Uniform: Tailored Sweats, Rose Gold Everything [Racked DC]
· Bundle Up For Fall With DeNada's Cozy, Fierce Knitwear [Racked DC]