Cycling never has had a more fashionable advocate than Eric Channing Brewer, the organizer of the area’s popular Tweed Rides and Seersucker Socials and reliable source for our 2011 look at Washington men and their newfound fashion sense. So this week, with his River Ride to Crystal City just around the corner on March 10, we’re bringing Brewer in for our weekly Got Plans? chat; he’ll take your style questions, while your regularly scheduled Gurus tackle your nightlife, dating and what-to-do-this-weekend dilemmas. Submit your questions early here, and be sure to join us Thursday at 1 p.m., because we’re also giving away two tickets to an Intersections festival show. (To win, just join us and tell us what you think is the area’s most fashionable intersection and why.)
We caught up with Brewer to chat about the River Ride, fashion, and his favorite places in Washington.
Tell us about the next Dandies & Quaintrelles event, the River Ride, on March 10. Dressing for the Tweed Ride and the Seersucker Social was relatively straightforward, but how should riders interpret the “functional, contemporary and edgy” dress code this time?
Brewer: I’ve been wanting to organize a ride along the Potomac River for over a year. Over the span of six years, I would bike commute from my home near Takoma Park to Crystal City, when I worked there. Arriving to work after cruising along the Potomac was a very pleasant way to start the work day. When the Crystal City BID approached me with the offer to host a cycling event there, I thought it would be a good chance to expose people to the relaxed and scenic ride on the other side of the river. When people arrive in Crystal City, they are going to be treated to a very unusual event. We’re offering cool music, art, a funky lounge and an underground bicycle course that everyone should give a try. It’s all taking place in a parking garage. The experience will be a lot less buttoned down than the Tweed and Seersucker events. If you’ve felt unsure about stepping it up, sartorially speaking, for our events, this one is for you. You’ll get a sense of the fun we like to have regardless of the prescribed style.
I wanted to encourage people to create their own stylish looks for a Saturday outing on a bicycle. “Where functionality meets urban style” is the central theme because of the bicycle-related activities that are a part of the post-ride party and race event. There’s something at the Diamond Derby for every level of cyclist. There are a large number of area residents that bike every day to get where they need to be. A lot of them manage to look pretty hip while doing it. Urban transportation and style is being redefined.
What’s your take on where the city is at, sartorially?
When styles trends take root in D.C., they tend to stick around for a while for better or for worse. I’m happy to notice people expressing their personality and creativity in their dress with a sense of pride. Because there are so many online reference points on hand for people willing to build their sense of style, they can participate in trends that are happening outside of the city and not feel like an oddball. The result is noticeable. I often notice people developing distinct looks and not at all shy about expressing themselves here. With guys, I’m noticing subtle approaches to refine a look such as more attention paid to neckwear, shoes, the cut of clothing and uncommon ensembles. With women, I’m noticing them taking chances with looks that are more playful such as statement jewelery, the incorporation of vintage finds into casual looks and cool hair styles. I’m not noticing anything extreme here, but that’s fine. There is no real constant pressure to look super cool or trendy in D.C. and that’s a good thing. It allows for people to create a truly personal sense of style that is all their own without them having to force it. Obviously, there are many in D.C. who care little about their sartorial decisions. Comfort, practicality and convenience dictate the overall landscape here, so with just a little effort and basic knowledge of color, patterns and fit, one can stand out and in a good way. In NYC, you’ll need all that plus flair, striking looks and money to burn. D.C. can give any other North American city a run for their money when it comes to style. No question.
Are you following the fall runways? Any trends emerging that you think we could see here in Washington -- and which ones (ahem, head-to-toe mismatching prints) might not work here?
I really don’t follow the seasonal runway looks with any sense of dedication but I did take a peek at the 2012 fall menswear offerings by about a dozen designers just so I can offer my perspective on that here. There’s the usual ridiculousness but seemingly a little less of it. Things like deconstructed suits with unlaced hiking boots, re-interpreted trench coats, capes and cold shiny futuristic looking monotone ensembles instinctively make me wince. I did see some amazingly rich colors in blazers and coats from designers like Prada, Berluti and Corneliani that made me wish I had a trust fund. I noticed that a sharp, tailored and masculine look in menswear is still a dominant theme. This is great for D.C. because that look will always work well in this city. I hope that the rich color tones have a lasting impact because it’s a great way to allow for more options in staple menswear items that don’t need a wild re-interpretation. Most men will never even consider wearing a conceptual piece unless they have in a role in a sequel to the “5th Element.” That’s where it all made terrific sense in Gaultier’s vision of future fashion. We are nowhere near that level of exploratory style or interplanetary space travel, but I’m digressing. I cannot say much about the latest women’s fashions on the runway but praise any woman in this city who dares to establish her own sense of timeless style and elegance. It takes work, patience, research and an understanding of how to build a lasting wardrobe. I understand why it’s easier to just throw your hands up and cover yourself in denim and fleece. I get it. I do.
What are your favorite places in Washington to shop?
It’s difficult for me to walk by a vintage clothing shop without checking in to see if there’s something inside that has been waiting 40 years for me to find it. Dr. K’s vintage, Junction, Rock it Again, Ginger Root Design, Treasury. If I’m looking for something new, I like to visit Rue 14 and Federal. While the Benetton in Dupont may seem like an ordinary retail venue but their tasteful selection and the European sizing is enough to get me occasionally mistaken for a Sapuer.
You’ve been in the Washington scene for some time. Any new additions -- bars, restaurants, theaters -- that you love?
I’m still enjoying the newish Shakespeare Theater space [Sidney Harman Hall]. Seeing “Fela!” there was a blast. There’s not a bad seat in the place. Artisphere in Rosslyn is now constantly on my radar. The opening of the Frida Kahlo photo exhibit last Thursday was a madhouse. See the photos before it’s too late. I really can’t speak too much about the newest places to experience drinks and food while out and about. I’m rarely out these days, and I tend to hibernate over the winter. ... I did manage to find myself at Black Jack a few times over the winter and enjoyed the decor and found the music playlist surprisingly funky. I’m am interested in checking out Boundary Road at 414 H St. NE. It’s next door to the old Dissident Display art gallery I helped run.