‘The Politics of Fashion: D.C. Unboxed’

Local industry insider Elaine Mensah is set to debut a new documentary about D.C.’s potential as a burgeoning fashion center.

The Politics of Fashion: D.C. Unboxed
Photo courtesy of Elaine Mensah.

Many of us know the Metro-D.C. area has the potential and promise of becoming a fashion hub, and now local industry insider Elaine Mensah, creative strategist and founder of SVELTE, LLC, has explored the likelihood of our region becoming just that. A new documentary “The Politics of Fashion: D.C. Unboxed,” premiering June 3 at at Mazza Gallerie in D.C., was a two-year journey for Mensah, interviewing over 35 of the most knowledgeable local and national names to discover the city’s fate in fashion.


Elaine Mensah
Photo courtesy of Elaine Mensah.

What is it about the Metro-D.C. area fashion industry that prompted the need for a documentary?

When I started my career in fashion, I was still working at my corporate job in D.C. I was left with little to no choice but to consider moving to New York or L.A. because the fashion scene was barely emerging [here]. I founded SVELTE, LLC and focused on building a career that would contribute to the development of fashion as a business here. This film is really just an extension of that goal. … In order to truly grow the fashion business in D.C., we need to let potential investors, buyers, manufacturers, producers, consumers and enthusiasts know and understand the fashion landscape, and how real and tangible it actually is.

What’s your goal with this film?

My ultimate goal in the creation of this film is to assist in the building of a viable economic platform for the business of fashion to be conducted in D.C. The fashion industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and with the talent, resources, political capital, and retail spending power that Washington has, there is no reason why we can’t find our niche within the larger fashion community and really build a strong fashion based eco-system. So getting as many people as possible to watch the film and learn more about D.C. fashion is critical to achieving that goal.

How were you able to interview over 35 of the biggest local and national names in the fashion industry and how long did it take to complete the film?

Well there are a few people I have to thank for that [laughs]. I was pleasantly surprised by how amenable everyone was to participating. It was really a domino effect. Once the first few people signed on, and everyone realized how serious I was about the project and how professional the filming environment was, word got around and the rest followed. I will say though that Aba Kwawu of TAAPR and Shawny Burns of Sorelle Group were two of my biggest champions. As a member of Fashion Group International DC, it was great to be able to reach out to them, share my idea and garner their support in securing some of the people I interviewed. In terms of timing, the film has taken me about 2 years to make. My first interview was in May 2012.


Update: The next summer screening of the film will be June 17 at the E Street Cinema. Tickets can be purchased here

Meet the cast of D.C.'s first fashion film. Photo courtesy of Elaine Mensah.

Post-premiere, the film will be available for purchase on DVD (you can pre-order at www.thepoliticsoffashion.com) and it will also be available via digital outlets including Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu.—Angela Bobo