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New design destination

Nova Fashion Week organizers hope to make D.C. a cutting edge hub 



Washington has never been known as a fashion town but there’s a movement brewing that wants to change that perception.

This weekend top designers and their models will unveil eye-catching new looks for their spring/summer 2011 lines ranging from elegant high-end evening wear for men and women to urban skateboard punk-chic hoodies.

It’s all on the high fashion runway at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center (5000 Seminary Road, Alexandria —note the location change from what was originally announced) through Sunday in Old Town Alexandria — and well worth seeing it up close. More than 50 top area models will glide, turn, vamp and pose.

It’s the second annual charities benefit Nova Fashion Week. Last year it drew a crowd of about 4,000 onlookers — including store buyers and lifestyle fashionistas — to check out the next big things in wardrobe and accessories. Organizers say a last-minute change in locale was required by the city.

This weekend’s event follows on the heels of Georgetown’s mid-September Fashion Night Out and features the bold-colored newest look from gay designer Ra’mon Lawrence Coleman, the Minneapolis-based “Project Runway” alum. Ra’mon shows his new collection “Give Them Grace” — built around the iconic and androgynous look of actress and performer Grace Jones — at 8 p.m. Saturday.

“A lot of people say that the D.C. area is not a trendsetter, but I beg to differ,” says Fashion Week executive director Andrew Roby. “Because we do have talented designers here. And we are also drawing designers from California and the Caribbean, so there’s diversity.”

“There are simply no set boundaries in this industry,” says Roby, at 28 an experienced event planner but also for several years earlier in this decade a model himself.

He got his own start in fashion in 2003 planning shows for — yes, it’s hard to believe — the U.S. Army, where he staged fashion events for BOSS (Better Opportunities for Single Servicemembers), which offers recreation and leisure activities for  unmarried soldiers who make up more than a third of those in uniform. Roby says D.C. can rival the other fashion centers like New York or Milan in time.

The high-end fashion industry has long defined itself as an art form as well as a commercial enterprise. Much of its cachet was rooted in its perceived “haute couture” exclusivity. The sky-high prices could therefore be justified. After all, creativity must be cultivated. Artists cost money. And the field comes also with an overlay of snobby privilege that can easily shade over into the snotty.

But that’s not the flavor of Nova Fashion Week, which Roby intends to be accessible and wide-ranging in its tastes. The designers will show their latest lines for spring and summer — and don’t be surprised if you see such styles catch on, eventually anyway. For what starts at the top of the fashion pyramid usually shows up later, knocked-off and displayed on mass-market mannequins.

This weekend in Alexandria locals can see some of each — the high-end and the low-cost — and pick out what works starting tonight at 8 with the high-end of true haute-couture (French for high-sewing) of the KAS Collection, and ending at 5 p.m. Sunday with the street savvy of the urban skater-punk of DURKL 2047.

This weekend’s featured designers are:

KAS COLLECTION — 8 p.m. Friday

These are the highly exclusive, upscale urban designs of D.C.-based Kenneth E. Flanagan, proprietor of the House of KAS. He has incorporated the names of his two daughters, Alexis and Sydney, into his nameplate. Since 1996, his specialty is sophisticated eveningwear and high-style business suits for both men and women. Self-taught, he designs for political figures and entertainment and sports superstars including hip-hop musicians and music video models.

NATALIA SANZ — 2 p.m. Saturday

Chic, modern and sleek and inspired, she says, by “architecture and geometry,” this is the signature look of Natalia Sanz. A Maryland native trained in fashion design at Miami International University of Art and Design, she then returned to the D.C. area and now produces two collections each year from her studio in Silver Spring. Her spring 2011 collection, she says, will show “vivid colors and feminine silhouettes, inspired by ancient Greek draping.”

AIDAH COLLECTION — 5 p.m. Saturday

Since the launch of the Aidah Collection in spring 2008, the designer Aidah Fontenot has proclaimed her fashion philosophy this way: “Be unique. Be confident. Be sexy.” And she sees her hand-made designs of one-of-a-kind pieces as “inspired by the organic beauty of nature within urban existence.”


Ra’mon Coleman, a gay, 32 year-old Chicago-born designer, vaulted to fame from his 2009 appearance on the reality TV “Project Runway” design competition. Ra’mon calls himself “the thinking man’s designer” and shows his work through the Mudd label for the giant mid-priced Kohl’s department store chain. But for Fashion Week, he will showing his newest designs for both men and women. His colors will be bold, he says, some inspired by the style of Grace Jones, and also featuring a futuristic spin, forecasting a look for then year 2033.

ELIZABETH ST JOHN — 1 p.m. Sunday

The daughter of a master tailor and a fourth-generation designer, Elizabeth St John apprenticed as a designer at age 5 in her mother’s workshop. But then at the University of Maryland, she turned to a degree in environmental studies and for more than a decade worked in rainforest preservation.

This led, last spring, to her Eco-Couture line of bridal and eveningwear, combining flirtation and femininity with classic elegance. By 2012 she hopes her Silver Spring studio with be completely solar- and wind-powered.

ANDREW HARRIS — 3 p.m. Sunday

Guyana-born and educated and now Barbadian-based, Andrew Harris Jr. has been labeled “the Prince of Caribbean men’s designs.” He established his men’s wear label in 2007, showing vintage cuts tempered with modern styling in cottons and linens. In 2008, he won the Carifesta X design competition in Guyana as “designer of the year,” beating out six competitors.

DURKL 2047 — 5 p.m. Sunday

Thirty-year-old Will Sharp is cutting edge urban punk. His label name “DURKL” is intentionally absurd and 2047 is simply another way to say 24/7, in other words, the designs are for around the clock, for “whenever.” The label is deliberately “flashy” and “inspired,” says Sharp, “by formerly hilarious trends and seventh grade dances,” with its mission proclaimed with a touch of irony as “high quality, low standards.” DURKL’s warehouse store is at 443 Eye St., N.W. and its distinctive look in street wear – hats, graphic T-shirts and sweats – can also be found at Palace 5ive, D.C.’s skater shop, also with a big collection of sneakers and a hip-hop funkadelic beat.

All the Nova Fashion Week events are at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center. Ticket prices for each show mostly range from $50 for front rows to $10 farther back. Proceeds will go to various charities, including the Lupus Foundation of America, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Baby Haven.

To purchase tickets and for more information on the event and designers, go here.

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Bars & Parties

KINETIC: Pride DC launches with 3 major events

Weekend kicks off Friday with UNCUT XL at BLISS



KINETIC: Pride DC will partner with Capital Pride Alliance to celebrate Pride month with three official events that will feature leading gay DJs: Abel, Ben Bakson, Joe Pacheco, Dan Slater and Alexis Tucci.

The weekend kicks off Friday, June 10 at 10 p.m. with UNCUT XL at BLISS Nightclub. Grammy-nominated DJ Abel will headline the city’s “most risqué circuit event of the year” at BLISS nightclub.

“Uncut is returning to DC Pride for the first time in four years so there will be lots of sweating, dancing, and men bumping and sliding into one another on the main floor as well as in the play zone,” said producer Jesus Quispe in a press release late May.

 KINETIC: Pride Galactic Edition will be on Saturday, June 11 at 10 p.m. at Echostage. DJs Dan Slater and Ben Bakson will perform back-to-back sets. DJ Joe Pacheco will open the night.

The series of events will wrap up on Sunday June 12 with DC Pride’s official closing party, “discoVERS” at 10 p.m. at SAX in Downtown D.C. Disco-diva Alexis Tucci will spin an open-to-close set with Disco, Nu-Disco, and Disco House music all night long. Special performances throughout the night will be integrated into her high-energy disco set as well.

To purchase tickets, visit KINETIC: Pride DC.

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Bars & Parties

Beyonce vs. Rihanna dance party

Music provided by DJ Just Different at Union Stage



R² Productions LLC and Union Stage are teaming up to host  R² Productions’ inaugural “MEGA Dance Party” on Thursday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. at Union Stage at The Wharf.

The event will be a night full of dancing to music by pop stars Beyonce and Rihanna. DJ Just Different will be performing at the event. 

General Admission tickets cost $25 and Premier Plus tickets cost $35. For more information about ticket purchases, visit Union Stage’s website.

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Bars & Parties

Kiki quickly becomes popular LGBTQ destination

New bar on U Street plans summer expansion, patio space



Kiki, at 915 U St., is already drawing crowds. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

After a New Year’s Eve soft opening, Kiki has become one of the most popular LGBTQ destinations in Washington, D.C.

The two-floor bar takes over the space vacated by Velvet Lounge and Dodge City on the 900 block of U Street. Both closed during the pandemic. The locale is directly adjacent to another gay bar, Dirty Goose.

Owner and gay man Keaton Fedak, a general manager at Dirty Goose, noticed that these two next-door bars had gone dark during the pandemic, and met with the owners of the two buildings, who are cousins. Plans quickly developed to use both buildings to craft an expansive, interconnected, inclusive space to transform the city’s gay bar landscape.

Fedak called the bar “Kiki” both after himself (it’s a nickname) and for its connection with the LGBTQ community. “The word wasn’t invented by the Scissor Sisters song,” he explains. “It’s been an important concept in the community for decades.”

The first half of Fedak’s vision has already opened. The ground floor of the 915 U St. building is open-plan space with bar stools and a color-block wall of rainbow panels. A bar sits in the back up a short flight of stairs. This level will feature music, but quieter than the second-floor space. There, a DJ booth presides over a large dance floor. Disco lights flood this space; there is a bar on this level as well. The elevated dance floor is set to hold drag shows.

In the spring, a small patio will open, strung with fairy lights. It will have a “backyard aesthetic,” he says, to be green, bright, and relaxing. “It’s a good place to chill on a nice day outside.” It may even be reminiscent of Town Danceboutique’s popular patio.

The second half, at 917 U St., is still waiting for permits, and Fedak hopes to open this section in the summer.

It will connect to the current space via the outdoor patio. This section will have more of a sports bar feel, given Fedak’s connection to D.C.’s Gay Flag Football League (he is a former board member). The bar will welcome Stonewall Sports and other LGBTQ sports teams, and will be replete with plenty of mounted TVs to show various games.

After the closing of Cobalt and Town, Fedak wanted to ensure that Kiki was “an inclusive space, so that there’s vibes for everyone,” he says. “It should be a place where regulars would just show up and hang out.” He made sure that he recruited staff from different professional and personal backgrounds.

Fedak began working in food and hospitality at age 17 in his hometown in Pennsylvania. After moving to the D.C. area for work, he continued to moonlight as a bartender. Fedak joined Dirty Goose as general manager in 2019 before starting his Kiki journey.

To stock the bar, Fedak has plenty of spirits to go around. There is a focus on the vodka offerings, but he ensures that local distilleries take center stage: He carries District Made Vodka and Rye Whiskey, as well as Green Hat Gin. The beer game is also a winning strategy: there are more than 25 bottles and cans available, with three beers on tap. Local options are first-string, including selections from DC Brau, Right Proper, and Anxo Cider. Finally, the bar comes complete with a house margarita on tap (“ it’s a homemade recipe,” notes Fedak, using agave nectar syrup instead of sugar). The 16-ounce marg is always on special for $10.

While Kiki doesn’t serve food, Fedak is exploring options for a small truck or stand in the backyard.
Moving forward, Kiki will host weekly events. The bar already hosts drag shows during “RuPaul’s Drag Race” viewing parties. Fedak plans to begin a “Cobalt-style underwear contest” as well. Once COVID cases decline, he also wants to resurrect the Sunday funday parties that Cobalt would host with sports teams.

Fedak’s mantra for Kiki is evident in the mural that will take up the backyard patio – a quote from “Schitt’s Creek”: “I like the wine and not the label.”

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