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Nation's Capital Nurtures Local Fashion

Gennet Purcell is one of four designers chosen for the DC Fashion Incubator, a program which mentors designers in Washington, DC.

The business of Washington, D.C., is government. However, as it seeks to diversify and create more jobs, the city is looking to build a new industry, one that is usually associated with New York - fashion. A new effort mentors local designers in hopes of nurturing and growing a local fashion industry.

Gennet Purcell has always loved fashion, but it wasn’t her career until recently. “I was a practicing attorney by trade for almost 13 years,” she says.

For much of that time, she was also designing and making clothing. A year ago, she decided she couldn’t do both. “I realized that this is something that makes me really happy, and I realized that it was a way for me to make a living doing it full time.”

Purcell founded her own fashion line, Maven.

Her designs were recently featured in a fashion show in the Washington area. And she was one of four designers chosen for the DC Fashion Incubator, a program that launched in January.

Christine Brooks-Cropper, director of the Washington, D.C., Fashion Foundation, is its driving force.

“We are here to nurture them and be mentors to them so they can go to market and be very successful,” she says.

Designers have 24-hour access to a studio space with sewing machines, mannequins, and a large worktable. They also consult with experts covering all aspects of the business.

Tatiana Kolina is hoping to launch a line of footwear with changeable decorations for her company, My Moody Booty. She had the idea four years ago, but hasn’t been able to get established.

“I went to different shoe shows in New York and Las Vegas. I was looking for different manufacturers who could create the shoes. And when I started talking to them, I ran into many obstacles,” Kolina says.

Although Purcell has already launched her line, she is excited to be part of the incubator.

“I think the next logical step for fashion in D.C. is to showcase local design in a way that is serious, in a way that is legitimate. And I think that being selected for the incubator is going to do that.”

For Brooks-Cropper it’s about the economy. “We want to have more production and manufacturing, so we can start to say we have an industry here.”

There is definitely a demand for fashion in the nation's capital. A recent study revealed that Washingtonians spend nearly twice as much as the average American on clothing and shoes.