Council Considers Creating a Link to City's Fashion World

By Timothy Wilson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 5, 2007

The District's fledgling fashion industry could get a boost from a group of D.C. Council members.

Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) and Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) have introduced a bill that would create a commission on fashion and special events to serve as a liaison between the fashion industry and the District government.

"I'm very excited about this particular piece of legislation," Barry said at a hearing in April. "We have a number of budding fashion designers here in our great city."

If enacted, the Commission on Fashion Arts and Events Establishment Act of 2007 would create a 15-member advisory commission intended to promote the District as a destination for fashion events, develop initiatives for city students to pursue careers in the fashion industry and recommend a site for a designated fashion retail corridor.

"Now is the time for [the District] to actively participate in the multibillion-dollar fashion industry and become part of the fashion vanguard," said Mariessa Terrell White, co-founder of the Washington DC Fashion Council, an association of local fashion designers and retailers.

The proposal may not have full support from the mayor's office. Derrick L. Woody, a supervisory project manager in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, testified at a public hearing last month that support for the measure would not be offered because the commission was not needed, saying that it would duplicate existing city services and that the District's fashion industry was still young.

"In time there may be a need to form a commission, [but] we believe it's too early to contemplate by forming a full-fledged commission as proposed in this legislation," Woody said.

To support and encourage the burgeoning fashion industry in Chicago, Mayor Richard M. Daley created a fashion advisory council last year consisting of local fashion designers, educators and retail professionals. A full-time staff member was appointed as the liaison between the fashion community and city government.

"I'm sort of shocked by [Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's] position on this," said Barry, whose staff authored the legislation.

A vote on the bill by the Committee for Economic Development must take place before it goes to the full council. The council begins a two-month recess July 15 and will resume hearings in September.

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