While these individuals could rock any runway, their style is about more than their threads. We’ve chosen our visionaries because they are the pulse of the city – creating art, growing businesses and building community with an air of magnetism, individuality and flair. They’re setting the tone for innovation, artistry and expression, and they just happen to look great doing it. We’ve asked them what style means to them and how they define D.C.’s unique style identity.
Progressive Hip-Hop Artist
His Style: It’s just how I feel comfortable showing up. I love my hair texture, so I don’t cut it. I grow it out as an afro. It’s very reminiscent of the ‘70s with the Black Power Movement, where a lot of Black folks were redefining Black beauty standards, but really making a lot of advancements socially – similar to what’s happening right now. I love rockin’ hats, so I’ll rock a hat, a little fedora. Because I used to wear hand-me-down clothing growing [up] in the projects with my mom raising my two siblings and myself, all of my older brother’s clothing became my clothing. I like to put a little suit together, but with a little flair that’ll separate it from a Capitol Hill thing. So, I add different flavors to it with customized ties from RETHINK Tailoring mixed with different accent colors. It’s really minimalist, too. A big wardrobe isn’t necessary. It’s not about labels, name brands [or] money.
City Style: D.C. style varies so much because we have so many influences. You have the D.C. that I grew up in: Southeast, east of the Anacostia River-style. You have the uptown folks, and that’s with Black native Washingtonians, which pertains to my experiences growing up here, and that’s a whole different style guide unto itself. My folks from that era might remember Universal Madness, Alldaz Gear, HOBO, Solbiato Sport, etc. Then you have west of Rock Creek Park, which is a totally different vibe. You’ve got Capitol Hill, with their suiting. Then you have international communities and transient D.C. There are so many people from all over the place here contributing to what is now D.C. identity in 2020. It’s an international city, so you get a little bit of everything. It’s a potpourri.
Find him at www.christylez.com or @christylezbacon on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Elijah Jamal Balbed
Saxophonist, Composer + Educator // Founder, The JoGo Project
His Style: Style is an important part of my life. As a performer, looking and feeling good onstage impacts my overall performance. It’s a very personal journey. It’s all about colors and contrast. Sometimes, you have to break a few rules to discover something new. My style is a quirky mix between streetwear and GQ. In 2014, I saw one of the greatest jazz musicians – Roy Hargrove (1969-2018) – wear a tux onstage, but with all-white [Nike] Air Force Ones. I remember looking in awe of his swag. As an up-and-coming jazz musician, I always thought you had to wear a suit and tie onstage. Some situations call for that, too. But in that moment, I learned as an artist, you can do what you want. When I’m in my true element, my style is equal parts street and sleek.
City Style: D.C. style comes from the culture: go-go, jazz, mumbo sauce, Shooters Sports, Chocolate City, 51st state, DC Fray, “Beat Ya Feet.” The list goes on. If you’re here long enough, you gotta have some D.C.-themed shirts. I recommend Bailiwick and Crank Rock.
Find him on Instagram and Twitter @ejbjazz. Learn more about The JoGo Project at www.jogoproject.com or @thejogoproject on Instagram and Facebook.
Chef + Partner, The Daikaya Group
His Style: [I express] my uniqueness with what I believe in, with what I love, in what I wear, in what I do and [in] what I represent. I want to be comfortable [first and] foremost. [I] never know when I have to grab an apron and jump in the kitchen. So, I wear jeans and T-shirts a lot, [and] accessories with cool vintage coats and jackets. I love Stetson hats of all types, and I only wear Adidas Superstar sneakers. On my current bucket list: Adidas will let me design a kitchen shoe with them.
City Style: A wide range of ethnicities and ages makes up D.C. There are people very rooted here, but transitory as well. Khakis to dark suits and white shirts on the Hill, conservative downtown, cool and hip on U Street, young university kids in baseball hats and shorts in Adams Morgan. I’m generalizing here. But my point is, D.C.’s style is all over the place. It’s not like New York City where everyone is just cool.
Find him on Instagram @katsuya_fukushima and Twitter @chefkatsuya. Learn about his restaurants at www.daikaya.com or @daikaya1f, @daikaya2f, @haikandc, @bantamkingdc, @hatobadc and @tonaridc on Instagram.
Singer/Songwriter, Musician, Artivist (Artistic Activist) + Podcaster
Her Style: Style is self-expression. Style is confidence. Style is the freedom to be unapologetically you and wave your freak flag (a.k.a. individuality) proudly. My personal style changes from day to day, depending on my mood. One of my favorite quotes is, “What you are to be, you are now becoming.” I dress as who I want to be that day. It might be a sports bra or bikini top coupled with elaborate jewelry, [or] dress pants and platform boots. I might go for the more girly dress coupled with zombie heels, or it might be a bodysuit with kickass boots and my bra showing – because the world is still so scared of women’s bodies. Either way, my style will always encapsulate attitude, femininity and a whole lot of being unapologetic about who I am.
City Style: D.C.’s style identity is so diverse, and I love it. I think it’s one of the reasons I wanted to make D.C. my home. I’m originally from New Zealand, but I was a born dual citizen. D.C. is corporate with a little bit of sass, sexy with a little bit of fierce and funky with a little bit of go-go. Wherever I go, I always find myself complimenting – and being complimented by – women and men who just rock who they are through their style.
Find her at www.emmagmusic.com or @emmagmusic on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Content Creator // Manager of Accounting Operations, National Cooperative Bank
His Style: I think style is an expression of your inner self. It’s a way to showcase the best part of yourself. While I follow the trends, I don’t normally jump on the bandwagon of what’s new, now and next. I like to find pieces or wear things that I’ve styled in a way uniquely for me. I go by the adage “When you look good, you feel good.” I’m known for being the guy almost always in a suit. Going to events around town, the attire is usually business casual and I really enjoy a great-fitting, bold-patterned suit. I tend to gravitate toward the suit patterns and bold colors that D.C. men usually shy away from. If it’s a more casual setting, you will not see me in athleisure unless I’m going to work out. I tend to opt for an elevated casual look – think of it as preppy with an edge.
City Style: I think D.C.’s style identity is evolving. Those who are not from D.C. tend to think Washingtonians have no style. You have to go to New York for real style. But if you think about it, critics are generally looking to what they see most. That’s primarily what they see on the Hill. In reality, most of those people aren’t even from D.C. However, D.C. is much more than the government. D.C. has so much going for it outside of the government, and there’s a growing group of creatives showcasing different and unique fashion styles throughout the other industries in the city. I think this has started a movement and Washingtonians are starting to break away from the idea of cookie-cutter dress. What we’re seeing now is people are caring more about what they look like and showcasing their own individual style and uniqueness.
Find him at www.dcfashionfool.com or @dcfashionfool on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Jen Jean-Pierre Maull
Lifestyle Blogger // Social Media Manager, American Nurses Association
Her Style: Style is showing and expressing your personality through clothing on your body. I live by the motto “Inhale fashion, exhale style.” What this means is, take what the trend forecast gives you and make it your own. We are all unique and our style offers us a chance to show the world exactly who we are or how we are feeling at that moment. My personal style is relatable with an edge. I love high-waisted, wide-leg pants, anything leather, and jumpsuits are life. Because I tend to wear basic pieces, I look to my jewelry, shoes and hats to elevate my look and allow me versatility. I do love a good statement suit as well.
City Style: D.C.’s style identity is eclectic, trendsetting and full of personality, but unfortunately most media outlets have not done a great job in going to the right places to scope it out. D.C. has been seen as the land of the stiff suits, but take a moment to walk on Howard’s campus, U Street, H Street or Marymount’s campus, and you will see something completely different. D.C. is not solely Capitol Hill and society galas. There is so much more to this metropolis. Black people have been rocking the coolest gear and showcasing the most unique style in D.C. for the longest, but just not getting the limelight.
Find her at www.jenjeanpierre.com or @jenjeanpierre
on Instagram, @jennjeanpierre on Twitter and @jjpblog on Facebook.
Principal + Executive Wine Director, In Living Kuller Restaurant Group
His Style: I am one of those ultra-lucky people who somehow has personal style that largely reflects my literal birth name, and it’s honestly pretty surreal. My name is Max Kuller (pronounced color), and I’ve actually been called Mr. Color (or Colors) by a few people who hadn’t previously known my name. In my artwork, domestic dwellings, restaurants and daily outfits, I adore layering and juxtaposing a range of kaleidoscopic colors, rich textures, bold shapes, patterns, language, symbols, graphics and historical referents to sometimes inspire critical thought, but often to promote fun, diverse thought and bold personal expression from others. And of course, to express myself and my interests. There is a social element of my style as well, as I have found bold expression invites more ice breakers for conversation.
City Style: [It’s] always evolving, and in each moment unavoidably in some way reflective of the constant changes resulting from the ever-revolving administrations setting up shop in the city, and often speaking to whatever the political moment [is]. There is a lot of great, diverse personal style on display in an array of ways, especially in our neighborhoods. D.C. is truly one of those places where there is a bit of everything, even if on “normal days” it can seem a bit subdued. Coco Chanel once noted that, “A sense of freedom is always stylish.” When we reflect on the city’s history as the place to make our voices collectively, freely heard, it is clear that if indeed a sense of freedom is stylish, D.C. is perhaps the home of style’s most hallowed ground.
Find him on Instagram @maxkuller. Learn more about his D.C. restaurants on Instagram @estadiodc, @oysteroysterdc, @scrappys_bagelbar.
President, TAA PR
Her Style: Style is self-expression: a non-verbal depiction of who you are in a moment. My personal style is fashion-forward and bossy for work and more relaxed and creative otherwise.
City Style: I’m not sure that D.C. has a style identity, per se. There are so many different types of people, and D.C. is a powerful capital city, and one full of creatives and entrepreneurs as well.
Find her at www.taapr.com or @taa_pr and @abakwawu on Instagram and Twitter and @taapublicrelations on Facebook.
Executive Chef + Co-Owner, Thamee
Her Style: There are a few things about fashion and style that are entwined with my personality. I designed my own clothes and shoes in Burma. I picked out the fabric and had somebody make it – I was 10 years old. I still take those kinds of risks and initiatives today. I don’t have any limits. When I met Alice Cooper at his Cooper’stown [restaurant] opening in Phoenix, The Godfather of Shock himself came up to me, looked at my tiger print, studs and leather outfit, and said, “I don’t know how you’re gonna take this, but more people are gonna remember your outfit than mine.” The reason I’m drawn to these vibrant colors is that I was born a mile away from a massive golden structure, Rangoon’s iconic Shwedagon Pagoda, which is adorned with rubies, sapphire and jade. That vivid imagery has been such a big part of how I decide what makes me happy to wear.
City Style: What I see is that it’s like anything goes – from sports teams to high fashion – depending on where you are in the city. There’s a real sense that you can go as wild as you want, but the downside is that it gives the green light to people thinking, “I can just walk out in my pajamas.” Sadly, in the United States, style and fashion are very ageist. There aren’t very many styles, style icons, models or people of my generation who are sought after and celebrated. It seems that after a certain time, especially after retirement, people are not trying to be stylish anymore. They’ve given up their business suit and become drab and bland. That’s why I think people notice it more with me: I still make an effort. Why can’t a woman my age be stylish?
Learn more about Thamee at www.thamee.com or @thamee_dc on Instagram.
Food Blogger + Advocate
Her Style: Style means making your own lane – even when it’s not the standard. I feel like when you find a space where you really feel comfortable, then you settle into your style. And for each person, that space is a little different. [My style is] a mix of no-nonsense, get shit done energy, with a dash of sarcasm and lots of humor. I’m living to dismantle white supremacy, eat good food and do it with a cute top – and most importantly with comfy shoes. As a Black woman often in predominantly white spaces, I have enough discomfort. I don’t have room for that anymore in my personal style.
City Style: There’s a pull in D.C. between [the] east and west sides of the city, suited and super casual, young and old, etc. The stark segregation of D.C. makes it feel like there’s multiple identities, but they sometimes scrape up against each other instead of neatly weaving together like I hope they would. There’s also a pulse here I wish everyone could feel – of history, of Black excellence, of transplants’ dreams. [D.C. is] almost similar to New York City, but I find it to be a little less frantic, personally.
Find her at www.feedthemalik.com or @feedthemalik on Instagram and Facebook and @feed_the_malik on Twitter.
Photographer, Brand Strategist + Geospatial Intelligence Consultant // Founder, Walk With Locals
His Style: Style is a person’s way of speaking for [themselves] without having to say a word. [My style is] grandpa chic? Is that a thing? At the core of every outfit, I start with the idea of being comfortable. I can’t feel uncomfortable in any occasion if I’m comfortable with what I’m wearing. I also strive to give casual a really cleaned-up feel and look put together at the same time. Every aspect of my outfit is thought out, from how many buttons are undone at any given time to the amount of cuff my pants have. The day and occasion dictate that. That being said, one day I want to just dress exactly like Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris.
City Style: When I think of D.C.’s style, I think of tailored casual. There are so many well-dressed people in this city and it’s always done with such ease. My favorite thing about D.C. style is how tailored and relaxed everyone looks at the same time. To me, this city is not about the label on your apparel, but how you rock what you wear. No one cares if your tee costs $100. Also, wherever I go in the world, I will always see New Balance shoes and think of D.C. Sorry, Boston.
Find him at www.carlnardphoto.com or @carlnard on Instagram and Twitter. Learn more about Walk With Locals at @walkwithlocals on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Writer + Body Liberation Advocate // Founder, Plush DMV
Her Style: Style is self-expression. As a fat person, I grew up thinking that I couldn’t participate in fashion because I never saw anyone who looked like me wearing the clothes I loved. I’ve since spent many years unlearning those arbitrary fashion and style rules, tossing them aside and wearing things that bring me joy. My personal style is playful and feminine. I love florals. I wear them all year-round. I love different textures. Pleats and ruffles are a weakness of mine. At night, I like to switch it up and be vampier: lots of sheer tops and body-hugging outfits.
City Style: If I were to think of D.C. as a whole, I wouldn’t think of it as a super stylish city. But that’s only at first glance. When you look beyond downtown D.C. and actually take a look at the locals, we are super fashionable. One of my favorite things to do pre-corona[virus] was to go out and people-watch. I get so inspired by how others style their clothes.
Find her at www.mayraymejia.com or @badbadprettygood on Instagram and @mayratweeets on Twitter. Learn more about Plush DMV at @plushdmv on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Style Blogger + Retail Manager
Her Style: Style is art. It is an expression of who we are, who we hope to be and how we see the world around us. In many ways, it is our individual reflection of the world seen through unique lenses and angles. My style is classic with a bold edit. The shapes and cuts I wear are usually traditional, but I tend to style them in a way that feels powerful. A broad shoulder, a cinched waist and the color red will always sing to me.
City Style: D.C. is so interesting to me, style-wise. It is such a melting pot of transplants that it makes it hard to define. Oddly enough, when I think of D.C. style, I think about the people who play drums by Gallery Place, and the go-go music on 14th and U. They are part of the heart of the city.
Find her at www.9to5tohh.com or @addieohh on Instagram.
Trap Bob // Tenbeete Solomon
Artist, Trap Bob World, LLC
Her Style: Style is self-expression. It’s not just one thing – it’s everything about you. It exists naturally. My style is bold, loud, vivid and ever-changing.
City Style: D.C.’s style is loud, passionate and fun. It’s rich in culture, and you can’t copy it even if you tried. It comes from within and it goes far beyond clothing.
Find her at www.trapbob.com or @trapxbob on Instagram and @trapbob on Twitter.
Chef + Co-Owner, Stellina Pizzeria
His Style: To me, style is edgy, yet sophisticated, functional, slim-fit and spontaneous. My personal style is Italian with a French twist. My tattoos are an expression of my professional life, and my love for food and Korean mysteriousness and sassiness.
City Style: The preconception is that D.C. is filled with conservatively dressed politicos, but in fact the city attracts Europeans and young professionals in technology – all with
very distinct styles – from retro to hip, edgy to chic.
Find him on Instagram @matteo_venini. Learn more at www.stellinapizzeria.com or @stellinapizzeria on Instagram.
Her Style: To me, style is self-expression. It’s a way for me to convey my personality, my mood and my energy. My style is clean and functional. On top of running three businesses, I have a busy 15-month-old, so my wardrobe has to make sense and transition seamlessly from work to mommy life. Pockets are essential!
D.C. Style: D.C.’s style identity is evolving. It used to be extremely stiff and in some ways it still is. I think people are finally finding the courage to be themselves in a city where everyone wants to be taken seriously.
Find her on Instagram @chelseaxeron. Learn more about her businesses at www.nikosgelato.com and www.studio52dc.com, or @nikosgelato on Instagram and Facebook and @studio52dc on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
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