Finding Fashion at Home

Urban photo shoot by D. Carlyle Briggs, Photographer

Valentino says he knows what women want: “They want to be beautiful. They also want to be fashionable. I have been on a quest for remarkable style since grade school. My parents thought that Martin Luther King, Jr., Public Library was tantamount to an amusement park. So I spent many Saturdays peering over fashion picture books in the library’s art department. Not only did I develop a peculiar style all my own, but I also learned how to recognize and appreciate the other kindred spirits all around me. Believe it or not, DC has always been home to fashion mavens: pioneers who set the trends for everyone else. I take great pleasure in ferreting out super style stars in unlikely places. For instance, some of the trendiest fashion heroes I know live and work in Southeast.

Holeeta Cain, Fashion Manufacturer

Holeeta is a third-generation seamstress, a product of DC public schools who graduated from the University of the District of Columbia with a fashion design and merchandising degree. She recalls with a smile DC’s illustrious retail fashion past. Once upon a time, Holeeta interned at Garfinkel’s, Woodard & Lothrop and Lansburg (one of the first department stores to extend credit to African Americans). Soon thereafter, Holeeta opened a boutique in Georgetown featuring her bespoke designs. When she closed her shop in 2011, she founded Cain & Carlyle with D. Carlyle Briggs. Cain & Carlyle is an apparel manufacturing company that specializes in creating short runs (less than 100 pieces) for local designers and fashion aficionados. Holeeta is now resurrecting a silver mink jacket that I rescued from a thrift store bin. Thanks to Holeeta Cain and D. Carlyle Briggs, finding women’s clothing with a “made in DC” label affixed is a reality. Some of Holeeta’s notable celebrity clients include Omarosa of the Apprentice, Windy Raquel Williams (Regina of the Steve Harvey Show), Allison Seymore (Fox 5 News anchor) and Sheila Stewart (director of news programming/media relations for Radio One).

D Carlyle Briggs, Fashion Photographer and Graphic Designer

D. Carlyle Briggs grew up in far Southeast (Ward 8). In 1997 he joined the Army, and while attending Austin Peay State University in Tennessee he studied film and traveled across the globe on military business. A few years later he transferred to University of Maryland in College Park, switching his major to visual communication with a focus on graphic design. D. excelled in fashion photography. He learned to shoot runway presentations the hard way. Once, his boss placed him on a median strip facing on-coming traffic. His job: to photograph passengers in cars going over 50 mph. No problem! Like Holeeta, D. benefitted from wonderful apprenticeships with veteran fashion and advertising industry photographers. It was during an internship in Miami with fashion photographer David LaChapelle that D. decided to return home. He joined forces with Holeeta Cain soon thereafter.

Claudia Diamante, Handbag Designer

Claudia Diamante is from Argentina, but, for the past 20 years, she has lived on Capitol Hill. Claudia is co-founder of Diamantina, a DC-based leather handbag company. She is passionate about sustainable fashion. What is so sustainable about leather? Consider that Argentina is the third largest beef exporter in the world. Believing in the adage “Waste not want not,” Claudia uses all remaining parts of the animal. To that end, Diamantina products use the finest Argentine leather including full grain leather, embossed leather, patent leather, engraved leather and suede. Claudia designs for those of us who can identify superior products without a popular luxury label affixed. A Diamantina “Margo” clutch is luxurious, luscious, local and affordable ($200-$400)!    

Indigo Makong, Nail Stylist

DC’s nail game was legendary. Remember the late 1980s and early 1990s, when fly girls would actually cut up dollar bills to accentuate their acrylic nails? Sadly today’s pop-up, overcrowded and poorly ventilated nail shops have almost blighted out DC’s illustrious mani-pedi past. I credit Indigo Makong with almost singlehandedly resurrecting DC’s nail care industry, one satisfied customer at a time. A creative nail stylist from Richmond, VA, Indigo works in a darling salon (428 8th Street SE, inside Tracey & Company). Her customer service is legendary. Her nail designs are fantastic (think “caviar” embellishments, cool decals and crystals with staying power). And her rainbow bright color selection (Essie, Zoya, Gelish, Shellac, OPI) has inspired a cult-like following.

Makong is not only a local legend, she is a sought after celebrity nail artist who regularly works behind the scenes during New York Fashion Week as a team member for CND. Twice a year, she designs nail art for fashion houses like Jason Wu, J. Mendel, Donna Karan, Diesel, Calvin Klein, BCBG, Baby Phat, Luca Luca, Malandrino, MaxAzria, Tadashi Shaji, Badgley Mishka, Tory Burch, Mathew Williamson and a multitude of others. Book early and often; and be on time!

Jarmal Harris, Fashion Designer and Executive Director

Jarmal Harris was reared and still resides in Anacostia. He attended Duke Ellington School of the Arts and is a self-taught fashion designer, make-up artist and celebrity wardrobe stylist. Jarmal has styled for the Grammys and local celebrities and teaches modeling to local “glamazons.” He founded The Jarmal Harris Project, Inc. (JHP), a nonprofit, 501(c)(3), organization located in Ward 8 that provides learning opportunities for DC youth. For the past several years, JHP has served as a site for the Mayor’s summer youth employment program. Most recently, during the Congressional Black Caucus, Jarmal previewed his second fashion line, Regal Queen, a collection brimming with room-stopping statement pieces using exotic fabrics. Favorites include a shawl-collar, four-buttoned white peplum jacket with matching slim-fitting pencil skirt; and a floor-length silk and wool brocade kimono coat cinched with a Victorian tassel woven rope and paired with a gold-accent knee-length skirt. Cultivated drama is Jarmal’s signature!

Fashion abounds throughout the District of Columbia, darling. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Mariessa Terrell is a native Washingtonian reared in Southeast. She is an intellectual property attorney, brander and founder of SBC Law Group ( with over 10 years’ experience providing intellectual property law services to creatives. Prior to starting her own firm, Mariessa worked as a trademark examining attorney with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and helped to register fashion brands including Revlon, L'Oreal, Estee Lauder, Balenciaga, Chanel, Dooney and Burke, Avon and countless others.  n 2007 Mariessa drafted a bill to create a Fashion Commission in DC.  The bill became law in 2009. She contributes to the HillRag and East of the River and writes a fashion blog, Yoo Hoo Darling,

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