What the Trumps’ arrival in Washington means for a luxury mall


On an overcast January afternoon, just days before the inauguration of President Donald Trump, the scene was mostly quiet at CityCenterDC, a sleek open-air complex of luxury stores (Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Moncler, Dior and more), restaurants, office buildings and residences that opened in Washington’s downtown about three years ago to raised eyebrows and a certain amount of skepticism.

After all, in Washington, “fashion isn’t a top priority for people,” said Kate Andersen Brower, author of “First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies,” who has lived there since 2005.

Or at least it hasn’t been. But that could all be changing. “Glamour really seems to be coming back to the city,” said Trina Sams-Manning, the boutique director of Dior at CityCenterDC. “That seems to be a mission of this new administration. That bodes well for us.”

Could the Trump women, with their penchant for European labels and statement clothing, change the shopping habits of the capital?

“From what I saw, they all care about fashion,” said Nancy Pearlstein, the owner of Relish, a Washington fashion boutique, referring to the inaugural choices. “There’s a taste level there and a want to look good, to be fashionable.” She expressed hope that Melania, Ivanka and Tiffany Trump will, like Michelle Obama, influence Washingtonians to experiment with clothes.

Catherine Bennett, the senior vice president and managing director of IMG fashion, which operates fashion weeks around the world, was born and raised in Washington. She similarly noted that the family in the White House often affected the culture of the capital.

“The flavor of the city changes with each administration,” Bennett said. “There was nothing happening in the fashion and style space until Michelle Obama got there. She sort of made it acceptable for people in politics to talk about fashion and to be interested in it. I hope that trend continues.”

If it does, the best place for many to shop will be CityCenterDC, a more central and accessible alternative to the places Washingtonians have traditionally gone for luxury options: Chevy Chase, a sleepy neighborhood in Northwest Washington, or Tysons Corner Center in the Virginia suburbs, about 17 miles from Union Station.

It has not escaped store owners that the Trump administration is brimming with wealth. According to Bloomberg’s estimates (based on public disclosures and market performance), the combined net worth of Trump’s Cabinet is $6.1 billion, with two of his appointees — Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr. and Linda E. McMahon, who runs the Small Business Administration — worth a combined $4.1 billion.

Then there is the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, worth $890 million; the Treasury secretary, Steven T. Mnuchin, who rings in at $621 million; Elaine L. Chao, the transportation secretary, whose assets add up to $25.6 million; and the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, a former Exxon Mobil chief executive who is worth $385 million.

“You can fly your wealthy flag for the time being,” said Julie Khuzami, a former New Yorker who has lived in Washington since 2009, noting that previously the standard Washington style of dress leaned toward safe and homogeneous. “I think people are going to be a lot flashier. And I think CityCenter can cater to a segment that thinks it’s now OK to be a little bit flashier.”

The moneyed gleam of the Trump administration seems to be attracting the eye of businesses across the country, with corporations like Boeing, Chevron and others donating a combined $90 million, nearly double the record, for Trump’s inaugural celebrations. Companies like Amazon, General Motors and Wal-Mart have courted the administration with visits and announcements about hiring and investing in the United States.

Developers are hoping that representatives from businesses like these will carve time out of their trips to Washington to stop at CityCenterDC, which is within a 15-block radius of at least 17,000 hotel rooms as well as attractions like the National Gallery of Art, the White House and the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

“A lot of people come to Washington to do business with the government,” said Howard Riker, a managing director at Hines, the developer of CityCenterDC. “We have taken advantage of that. I think we’ll see more and more of that with the new administration, which has a pretty ambitious agenda, so I think there will be people coming into town to participate.”

If CityCenterDC does live up to its name, it will be reviving fashion in an area that was once known for stores like Woodward & Lothrop, one of the first department stores in Washington, and Garfinckel’s, which was frequented by the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy and Lady Bird Johnson over its 80 years in business. And it will happen just after the closing of a landmark Washington-area store: Saks Jandel, which, over the course of more than a century catered to Nancy Reagan, Condoleezza Rice and Elizabeth Taylor.

Bennett thinks it is entirely possible CityCenterDC will have its moment. 

“A lot of people, whether they’re supportive of the Trump administration or not, are getting engaged in life in Washington in a way they haven’t before,” she said. “There’s more activity, which will improve the economy, which hopefully will trickle into the fashion and retail space.”


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

With in-depth report, Austin mulls pros, cons of 8 sites for MLS use
With in-depth report, Austin mulls pros, cons of 8 sites for MLS use

The Austin City Council postponed action regarding the potential future home of a Major League Soccer club this week, but there is plenty to discuss after eight publicly owned sites were unveiled as possibilities earlier this week. The city released a detailed report Thursday, providing more information about the sites identified as having the potential...
Austin City Council to study demolitions’ effect on affordable housing
Austin City Council to study demolitions’ effect on affordable housing

The Austin City Council approved a pair of resolutions Thursday evening aimed at addressing a recent audit that found housing demolitions in Austin are on the rise and are happening with little safety oversight. Council Member Kathie Tovo brought both resolutions to the council. Tovo has called for tamping down on demolitions, which have been occurring...
PolitiFact: What Alex Jones got wrong about Alabama vote
PolitiFact: What Alex Jones got wrong about Alabama vote

Austin-based commentator Alex Jones of Infowars.com suspects foul play in the recent Alabama U.S. Senate race. Democrat Doug Jones won in one of the safest of Republican states in the country, defeating Republican Roy Moore by 1.5 percentage points, or about 20,000 votes. The next day, Alex Jones said his calculations told him Moore should have come...
DeVos hit with two lawsuits in one day over backlog of student debt relief claims
DeVos hit with two lawsuits in one day over backlog of student debt relief claims

Pressure is mounting on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to take action on thousands of federal student loan forgiveness applications languishing at the U.S. Department of Education.  On Thursday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra suedDeVos and the department for failing to process more than 50,000 debt relief claims submitted by former...
Ivanka Trump, her brand dropped by some retailers, opens her own store in Trump Tower
Ivanka Trump, her brand dropped by some retailers, opens her own store in Trump Tower

Ivanka Trump's fashion company on Thursday opened a new store in the lobby of Trump Tower, where it plans to sell handbags, jewelry and candles as part of broader push to bypass retailers and sell directly to consumers.  The store in Midtown Manhattan — currently the company's only bricks-and-mortar location — comes after a number...
More Stories