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Posted at 03:20 PM ET, 06/26/2012

D.C. storefront Walish Gooshe gives local women new sophisticated shopping options

Greg Gaten Taylor, owner of Walish Gooshe, makes adjustments to a dress that is part of his spring-summer 2012 collection. (Photo by Mark Gail/The Washington Post)
Walish Gooshe, a small women’s clothing storefront created by D.C. native and clothing designer Greg Gaten Taylor, sits on Georgia Avenue, past the former home of Walter Reed Army Medical Center and just south of the Shepherd Park Library. On the inside, visitors are in the full element of women’s clothing, from strapless patterned summer dresses to multi-pocket denim and crisp white button-down shirts, juxtaposed with suits and full-length gowns. Taylor’s talent runs heavily through the store, starting with the floor-length yellow strapless gown that greets guests. “I get so many people looking at that dress right there in the window,” he says of his creation, which has draw comparison to the types of clothes that first lady Michelle Obama might wear. “[They say] ‘I can see her in it.’ ”
Model Iris Walker in a black and white Walish Gooshe dress, designed by Greg Gaten Taylor. (Photo by Leonard Poteat)

Opening a storefront last fall during a down economy was an ambitious move on Taylor’s part, but he wanted his customers to be able to touch and feel his clothing — something he couldn’t always do when he sold clothes online in 2009.

“I thought it was important for the customer to actually see the lifestyle around my clothes,” he says. Being in Washington doesn’t hurt, either. “I’d definitely rather [be] here than New York,” says Taylor. “You can make an impact here.”

Born in Northeast, Taylor, 27, grew up attending school in Hyattsville. “I was always into fashion,” says Taylor, who gained an early exposure from the wardrobe of his sister, who died in 2003. “She always made me want to step out of the box and design something for her.”

He began sketching in elementary school but became serious about his talent when he chose to attend the Art Institute of Philadelphia for college. There, he was able to learn the technical skills of piecing together clothing, expanding upon his small-time knowledge of using bleach and safety pins for enhancement. He switched from design to marketing after four months.”I saved a lot of money and cut a lot of corners learning that marketing aspect,” he says of his classes, which taught him the ins and outs of running a business. He modeled his first clothing business after an idea for a pet store he created for his senior project. He opened an office and later a showroom space once he graduated from the three-year program in 2005.

Model Amy Stewart in a yellow Walish Gooshe dress, designed by Greg Gaten Taylor. (Photo by Leonard Poteat)
He began creating designs for local Philadelphia media personalities such as Sheinelle Jones from Fox 29 News and Angela Russell, formerly of CBS 3, and selling his clothes to small boutiques in the area. But when the recession hit, a lot of stores suffered and, in turn, couldn’t afford to buy from Taylor. “[I thought], ‘Before I fold, like everybody else did, let me save my money and wait.’ ” He sold the rest of his units online and decided to put his focus toward building a brand back home. “I always envisioned having a store in D.C.,” he says. “I thought it was important for the customer to actually see the lifestyle around my clothes,” he says of his self-described “classic aesthetic with a modern twist.”

Ellen Shepp, co-proprietor of the boutique Joan Shepp in Philadelphia, where Taylor used to retail his clothing, remembers the universal appeal behind Taylor and his designs.”I think he fills a void in his own way, because his designs don’t look like anybody else,” she says “I think he’s very in tune with what’s going on but not trendy. He has a wonderful personality, and it comes out in his clothes. There’s definitely kind of a happiness to them.” Taylor’s talent has taken him far beyond the showroom — his designs have been worn by stars such as singer Gladys Knight and boxing royalty Laila Ali, whom he created a red-carpet gown for on the TLC show “Who Are You Wearing?” in 2009. “We didn’t even know she was pregnant until we got there,” Taylor remembers. “I had never done a maternity dress before!”
Ward 4 councilwoman Muriel Bowser cuts the ribbon of store Walish Gooshe with designer Greg Gaten Taylor at the store opening in October 2011. (Photo by Melanie Joy Wilson)

Now that he’s arrived, he wants customers to know that you don’t have to head down Wisconsin Avenue to find a great look. “Everybody thinks that you have to go to Georgetown to find a really nice, well-put-together look, or to get that atmosphere. You can get that not far away from Silver Spring,” he says.

He moved into a space formerly occupied by Annie’s Boutique, which still stands next door, and opened with a ribbon cutting by Ward 4 councilwoman Muriel Bowser. “That was a great introduction,” he says. “I’m happy to be here.”

For now, Taylor, who offers personal styling and custom tailoring and design, is focusing on launching a trendier, lower-priced line (his other clothing runs between $150 and $350 ), “WG for Walish Gooshe,” in the fall. He would also like to get his clothes on the back of one woman in particular. “I think she’s a very fashion-forward woman, and there’s a lot of fashion-forward women in D.C.,” he says of the first lady. As the landscape of the Washington fashion scene continues to evolve, Taylor feels that his store, currently open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. and by appointment, is perfect for all Washington women. “I want the customer to know that they can get a full look within a reasonable price,” he says. “There’s a lot of personal style here now. I don’t think people are going by any type of code [any] more.”

“Consumers are wearing whatever they want to wear now, which is a good thing.”

As he continues to move forward with his business, Taylor continues to hold the memory and words of his sister close to everything he chooses to pursue. “I always hear her in my head when things get tough — she’s always telling me, ‘If it was that easy, everybody’d be doing it.’ That always keeps me going.”

By Erin Williams  |  03:20 PM ET, 06/26/2012

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