The closed Rainbow clothing store on H Street NE will get a new life soon — the first night of D.C. Fashion Week will be held there.
The biannual celebration of Washington’s fashion scene will start with an opening night party at 823 H St. NE, in the largely vacant H Street Connection strip mall.
The party will transform the former low-cost clothing shop into a “designer fashion showroom” for H Street NE businesses and young designers, according to Ean Williams, executive director of D.C. Fashion Week Inc.
“The kickoff is about discovering the next generation of fashion talent,” he said.
The local nonprofit H Street Main Street helped coordinate Fashion Week’s use of the empty space, Executive Director Anwar Saleem said.
“We have vacant properties on H Street that are going to be revitalized,” he said. “Instead of letting these properties sit, we want to have creative uses to give people ideas of what can happen in the future.”
If interest from local businesses is strong enough, additional retail booths might be set up in the former Rent-a-Center space at 807 H St. NE, Saleem said.
The 1000 H St. NE shop The C.A.T.Walk Boutique will walk clothes down the runway, owner Carolyn Thomas said. Items in the store now that might make the cut include cotton jumpsuits and one-of-a-kind sweaters made from recycled clothes.
“We’ll be showing stuff you won’t see in the mainstream — that’s my niche,” Thomas said.
Fashion students at five area universities, including Howard and Marymount, will also show off clothes.
Standing-room tickets for the event previously hosted in a vacant retail space in Georgetown are free, and front-row VIP seats will cost $50 each.
The strip mall owned by Rappaport is set to be totally vacated in October in advance of redevelopment to begin in January, Saleem said.
Williams defended Washington as a fashionable city.
“Our main two industries here are politics and tourism. We dress for the occasion for work because that’s what we do,” he said. “But once we leave work … that’s where you’re going to see the fashion.
“Every successful fashion business in the world has a retail presence in D.C.,” he continued. “That wouldn’t be possible here if people didn’t want it and couldn’t afford it.”
Photo courtesy of D.C. Fashion Week Inc.