Have you heard about Butler & Claypool? The District’s blogosphere is atwitter about this fresh-off-the-press retail and design collective. Founded this past fall but currently gearing up for a full launch later this month, the D.C.-based “collective” (more on what that means in a moment) was established by seasoned fashion commentator Holly Thomas, analyst Krista Haywood, and musician Paul Thornley.
The talented trio has set out to “create a wholly unique retail experience with a focus on originality, sustainability, and community.” Put differently (i.e. in lay terms), they’re planning to curate a series of pop-up shops featuring the wares of local artists and designers, organize performances and workshops by D.C. artists and musicians, and host “salon-style” discussions on fashion, art, and all things cultural. (Not sure what those sessions would be like; I can’t help but envision an 18th-century Enlightenment-era set-up, with ladies in full dress reclining on chaise lounges as they read Moliére, a la this Jean Francois de Troy painting.) As a self-professed shopaholic, I, of course, am delighted at the prospect of frequenting pop-up boutiques filled with vintage goodies, local crafts, and an assortment of fashion and jewelry finds from the collective’s eponymous label. But even more exciting? The serious, thoughtful way in which Butler & Claypool intends to promote the District’s homegrown artisanry and cultural profile. “One of our main goals is to promote and support locals who are doing inventive, inspiring things,” says Betsy Lowther, one of the start-up’s contributors. “There are a number of really talented people who are mostly unknown to local shoppers, and we’re hoping to help bring them together.”
The initiative sounds like something Mrs. Obama would get behind, based on her track record of fostering cultural and artistic cross-pollination. (Under her purview, the White House’s East Room Stage has showcased plucky young talents from Duke Ellington, a scheduled series of dance performances, and the stylings of jazz singers, cellists, and a medley of other musicians — among other artistic presentations.) Is D.C. in the midst of a cultural renaissance of sorts? There’s certainly something in the air, and Butler & Claypool is embracing (setting?) the beat. Thomas observes that “style bloggers, independent designers, and brands…are choosing to establish themselves here, which says great things about the cultural climate” — and promises great things for D.C.’s aesthetically-minded constituents, who are in for a treat if Butler & Claypool has anything to say about it.
Lucky for us, the start-up is particularly well-poised to find success by virtue of its plugged-in team of contributing members. Aside from the trio of founders cited above, Butler & Claypool (so named according to the neighborhoods in which Thomas and Haywood grew up) counts local lifestyle bloggers Rachel Cothran of Project Beltway and Betsy Lowther of Fashion Is Spinach (quoted earlier) as well as the Corcoran Museum’s Kristin Guiter amongst its contributors. Thomas muses: “The six of us share a passion for creativity…and we each have separate interests and talents to bring to the table. More important, we all embrace meaningful consumerism — we want to provide our clients with pieces that are unique and special.” A refreshing concept that after the holidays’ in-your-face BUY-BUY-BUY shopping imperative.
For those of us bound to our desks or otherwise unable to attend the events Butler & Claypool has scheduled for this winter (Thomas mentioned that a debut event with live music, shopping, and an artist workshop is in the works for late-January), the collective has made it easy to stay in the loop. Check out their blog-style website for daily aesthetic inspiration, or purchase featured goods via their just-launched Etsy storefront. Thomas assured me that more items would be stocked and available for sale via the e-boutique by the end of this weekend, but I’m already eying the vintage Chloe-esque pair of 70s luxe shades they currently have available. I’m eager to see what else they’ve got up their sleeves: operating according to the principle of living a “well-curated life,” the start-up seems set on presenting only the coolest insta-heirloom treasures imaginable. Lowther, for example, is quick to shine the spotlight on D.C.-based haberdasher Hugh & Crye, purveyors of fine shirting, or — to borrow the shorthand of the company’s tag-line — “shirts that fit.” She notes: “They have a strong community outreach focus…that’s exactly the kind of innovation we want to support.” Well-heeled and well-intentioned? Anyone else eager to see what Butler & Claypool will do over the next few months?