10 May 2007

panda head interviews...

marshall thompson is owner of the district line, an adams morgan shop specializing in 'modern english fashion for the district.' it's worth a visit just to check out the space - he's transformed it with graffiti murals, slick display fixtures, and a seriously amazing tape sculpture by mark jenkins - but the clothes he carries are the real draw. he's put together (with a very specific eye) a collection of both classic and lesser-known british labels for men and women. but ladies, move fast - the womenswear will only be available until the end of the summer, at which point the district line will cater only to the male set. lucky guys!

how would you describe your personal style? to what extent is that reflected in your store?
My personal style can vary from day to day, I guess, but overall I'd say I'm mostly a t-shirt, jeans, and a pair of interesting sneakers kind of guy. Actually one of my hobbies is collecting cheap, kitschy t-shirts from all the corners of the world where I've actually traveled, not the fake ones from Urban Outfitters. Every now and then I like getting dressed up a bit with a blazer and a tie or even a suit on the right night. My friends that I've known the longest who really know my style, upon seeing my store for the first time, claimed it looked like a store-sized wardrobe for me! So I'd say it's pretty much what I like with a few pieces here and there I wouldn't wear personally, but I think are really great and should be worn by at least SOMEONE in DC.
how do you go about choosing lines to carry in the shop?
I started The District Line because of my severe case of Anglophila. I've been in love with British style and brands like Fred Perry and Ben Sherman since I was a teenager obsessed with ska and punk music. A lot of the great bands from the 60s, 70s, and 80s in those scenes wore the sharpest suits and polo shirts, and I aspired to one day wear them as well. I'll never forget the first time I bought my first Ben Sherman shirt from Marshall's in White Flint - so proud! After graduation from college, I moved to London for a while, and the fascination with fashion, music, and culture only deepened, to an almost unhealthy degree. Eventually I returned to DC and after working some other jobs, decided to open a store that just carried British brands that could barely be found in DC, if at all. I picked a few labels that I thought worked well together, but the average customer didn't need to know that they were British to get it. They just had to like the style of the pieces, which was important to me - that the brands could transcend a lot of styles and tastes in DC.
any favorite spring/summer pieces right now?
I'm pretty much always obsessed with Fred Perry polo shirts. I had to clean my closet out of the old ones to make way for some new ones. Other than that, the new Boxfresh t-shirts have a Jamaican dub/soundsystem feel to them, which I'm loving as well. For women, we just got in this label called Komodo, which makes some beautiful pieces out of organic materials. I think I love their Pop Art t-shirt the best for the women this season so far.
any events on the horizon?
We'll probably have another party in the store sometime in May after the success of the Black Friday party back in November. Our 2nd Anniversary party will be coming up in June, and last year's party with BLISS at the Black Cat was a load of fun. We'll see about doing it again with them this year.
did you always want to have a store?
The simple answer is no. I always had the entrepreneurial bug in me, but I was never quite sure exactly what I wanted to do with it. Other ideas for what I wanted to do at one point or another included starting a MapQuest-like company using public transportation instead of driving directions (now known as RideGuide for DC), opening a Vespa store (now open in Georgetown), and starting a software company that allows users to order pizzas online instead of over the phone (I think Domino's does this now). Yeah, I'm kind of a nerdy ideas guy, but apparently they're good ideas because other people have actually put them to use. I finally got an idea that I put into use before someone else did!
how did you choose your location? did you consider anywhere else in the city?
I really wanted to be somewhere on 14th or U Streets, and about a half dozen locations fell through before I found this space on 18th Street. While some of the regulars have been amazing here in Adams Morgan, I just don't get enough foot traffic here on a daily basis to make it worthwhile. Eventually I plan on moving the store to Georgetown, which has definitely garnered a lot of opinions from a lot of people! I like being within walking distance of my apartment here, but Georgetown just makes a lot more sense on a number of levels. I'll be sure to tell everyone exactly where and when the new store will open - it's going to be amazing. I have a lot of people working on the decor and build-out, so we think it will be something that DC has not seen in a long time.
any advantages to being in DC?
Certainly the lack of other independent clothing stores helps because men especially have a limited number of stores that carry interesting labels. Women have an easier time finding interesting clothing from a lot of boutiques in this city, but as for men - Redeem, Circle Boutique, Pop, and Universal Gear offer the best stuff in the city, I think. I've also heard from customers that they could only find the lines that I carry in New York, Montreal, or London, so they appreciate not having to travel as far to get interesting clothing.
what's your take on DC style, in general?
DC is still rather conservative when it comes to clothing, but I think it's definitely getting better. I'm not exactly the most innovative dresser, so I can't rag on the city for not being so fashion forward, but I do get tired of seeing so many Ralph Lauren copy-cats all over the city. I've found that a lot of people appreciate unique style, but are afraid or unwilling to try something different for themselves. I get a lot of "I think this shirt is really great, but I could never wear it," in the store, which is really unfortunate. Sometimes people will go out on a limb on something outside of their comfort zone, and will get so many compliments on it because everyone here is used to seeing the same thing over and over. I guess I could go on and on about style in DC, but overall I think it's definitely improving (thanks in part to certain blogs!) which is great.
anything you're not ususally asked that people should know about the district line?
I'm asked everything from "Why don't you have an accent?" (I'm from Pennsylvania) to "Who did the graffiti walls?" (8 artists in one night), so I think I've answered just about every question I can think of over these two years. It's been a crazy roller-coaster, so for anyone thinking of one day opening a clothing store, .... well, it just has its ups and downs, so buckle in for the ride.
interview & pictures: morgan. the district line is located downstairs at 2118 18th st NW. visit them online at the district line website or on myspace.


Blogger DC said...

How cool if I could buy a Vespa and a Fred Perry dress from District Line??? Okay, I'll settle for just the Fred Perry dress and some other fab accessories. Great shop!!

8:51 PM  
Blogger Candid Cool said...

nice interview

10:57 AM  

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