19 June 2007

panda head interviews...

unsung designers is somewhat of a DC fashion anomaly - not only is the adams morgan shop known within the city for being a great place to score pieces by indie up-and-comers, but their well-edited collections have been causing a stir outside of the district, too. since august 2005, owners grace wang and alishia frey have run unsung as an online boutique, and in october of that same year they opened their showroom for walk-in business every saturday. if you haven't yet made your way to unsung, make moves! every designer they carry is, if grace and alishia have anything to do with it, barneys-, saks-, and neiman's-bound, and you'll want to be able to say you 'wore them when...'

how would you describe your personal style, and to what extent is that reflected in your store?
Grace: My everyday style is classic and easy. My ‘uniform’ is jeans (although this summer I’m so into shorts!), flats, and a cool (that’s temperature cool) top. I also wear dresses and jumpsuits all the time because if I’m feeling lazy, I don’t have to put together an outfit. I splurge on shoes, bags and really unique pieces to add to my wardrobe.
I would say Unsung is well influenced by our personal style. My closet has always been full of unknown but amazing designer clothes. Most boutiques carry a lot of mainstream and only a few great up-and-coming designers… you really have to pound the pavement or be constantly shopping. I want Unsung to be the place where people can say “I got a so-and-so before they got big.”
Alishia: I am always on the hunt for something different and I love the ‘high-low’ of my getups – new designer pumps mixed with a thrift store dress, stainless steel jewelry mixed with grandmother’s pearls.
I love the mix of what is available at Unsung – we don’t cater to one style but amazing pieces you can mix into your wardrobe for fun, work, special occasions...anything.
how do you go about choosing designers to represent? do people tend to come to you or are you out actively recruiting?
Grace: I am always looking for new designers that inspire me. I take a lot into account when looking for new designers: how unique and creative is the line? How trendy/timeless is it? How much do things cost? Is it well made? Sure, my taste goes into selection, but I would say I know my customer and I buy for her (or him!), not me. Yes, designers come to us now and we wish we could work with more of them. But we have a very hands-on approach and we’d rather have good relationships with fewer designers than just saturate our website with product.
any favorite spring/summer pieces right now?
Grace: There are always too many favorites to count. [From Unsung] I wear Gigi Favela’s Sonya Punkies all the time. They’re turquoise and studded so they’re an easy way to perk up an otherwise basic outfit. Onion’s striped Ava dress is so slimming and easy to wear. Basically any of our one-of-a-kind pieces by Jeannieus, Small City Jewelry, Onion… I want to buy them all as soon as they come in! I already own 2 new Belabunda bikinis because they’re so different and they fit really cute. And my favorite undies are the wing briefs by Angelrox. [Otherwise] I live in Steven Alan shirts. Ever since it got warm I’ve been wearing them with shorts and either metallic sandals (casual) or Chloe or Chanel flats if I have a meeting. High-low ladies! Make it work!
Alishia: My favorite Unsung pieces now are the retro dresses by Dear and pants by Boaz – they are so hot…..X Marks the Spot!
do you do more internet business than in-store?
Grace: Until this year, we did about half in the store and half online. We’ve worked really hard to build our brand and increase our exposure outside of DC and lately that’s been paying off. Everyone tells us it takes time but we’re so impatient! It’s rewarding to finally see something happening and know we were always on point and never got discouraged.
any events on the horizon?
Grace: We do several trunk shows in the warmer months. I think it’s good to let customers and designers meet each other. With all the mall shopping, people forget there are real artisans making beautiful things. At the end of summer, on Adams Morgan Day, we’ll celebrate our 2nd birthday! We have a big charity fashion event coming up as well. Everyone should get on our mailing list to get invited to our private events, parties, trunk shows, etc.
any local designers that you're excited about?
Grace: All of our local designers are exciting to us! Unfortunately, a lot of talented clothing designers end up moving away from DC. We recently started working with a label called JeannieUS — a lot of fun reworked vintage tops. One of the designers used to own an Adams Morgan boutique called Betty. I loved that shop! Needless to say, we “get” each other and the line is selling very well at Unsung.
Alishia: I love Realm based here in DC ….and I’m not the only one. We just recently started selling this great jewelry line and it has been selling like hotcakes.
how did you choose your location?
Grace: Our location was a blessing in disguise. We originally needed storage space and an office so we didn’t care about being in the alley. Since we opened, customers have told us they love our spot—“it’s so New York, ” “this would be huge in LA;” guys love it b/c it’s more like a hangout than a store — plenty of room to sit, great music. We certainly don’t get the foot traffic that other neighborhoods get, but we’ve always wanted to be more of a destination.
Alishia: We love Adams Morgan and are glad to be a part of the business community there. The retail scene is really growing and we’re happy to be a part of it.
any advantages to being in DC?
Grace: The main problem is DC doesn’t have enough good shopping. Unfortunately, malls and chain stores are the norm here. Our customers are starving for something unique so I guess you could say that’s an advantage. Looking at the bigger picture, DC has a lot of growing to do. We know there’s a demand for what we sell, we know there are a bazillion designers out there who need a place to break through. Independent retail has a lot of growth potential in DC. The interesting thing is, we have a lot of customers from NYC and California. I think [they], esp. New Yorkers, sometimes get information overload and they’d rather just shop a well-edited store where the buyer has a good selection, interesting choices, a variety of price points...If you do your homework it makes it easier for your customer.
what's your take on DC style, in general?
Grace: I’m a DC native so I take any opportunity to dispute the notion that DC is un-stylish. I think Panda Head does a great job at that, by the way. True, per capita, you don’t see as much risk-taking. A lot of interesting style choices are seen at live music venues, which DC has a lot of. I would say there is less high fashion and more of a music scene vibe here.
anything you're not ususally asked that you're dying for people to know about unsung designers?
Grace: Well, I’m going to speak for both of us here: We love cheeseburgers and vodka martinis. We hula hoop to stay in shape. Oooooh! Maybe we should do a hula hooping marathon in our alley!
Alishia: And Grace is very scared of rats - a hazard when you work in an alley in DC, but lots of fun when you feel like teasing your friend and business partner! Oh...and about Unsung – lots of fun stuff in store for our fans...stay tuned!

interview: morgan. photo by amy mullarkey. you can shop unsung designers online anytime and in the showroom (2412 18th st NW, alley entrance) every saturday from 12-6. befriend unsung on myspace HERE.


Blogger Candid Cool said...

that store sounds pretty cool.

1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say that Unsung is the best thing to happen to DC. It is the greatest!

3:11 PM  

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