Designer, Avid D.C. Advocate, and Style Icon, Chris Clayton | Retrospec Community Series


Chris completely dispels any preconceived notions you may have about Washington D.C. Get to know the unassuming cultural hub, explore his favorite spots, take a ride down the best bike paths, cop some style tips, and browse this up-and-coming designer's collection

R: Describe yourself, who you are, and what you do

CC: I would describe myself as a creative, curious, hardworking, scattered brained guy with an abundant sense of humor. I grew up in Miami, FL and moved to D.C. about 7 years ago. I’m an east coaster with west coast sensibilities. As far as work I am a Designer/Maker/Entrepreneur and owner of CHRiS CARDi iNC. House of Design.

R: You have a great personal style, where do you draw your inspiration from?

CC: The past is a strong influence especially athletes from yesteryears' off the court style. Following Instagrams of vintage shops and thrift shops make for great inspiration too. People watching and seeing how individuals out there put there own twist on fashion is a great resource. Most importantly art. There’s so much art in D.C. from the installations to the murals, to the museums. This place is visually culture-rich! Go to any No Kings D.C. art exhibit and you will see great fashion that isn’t dictated by a mannequin in a window or the latest fashion magazine. Hangout at Diet Starts Monday on 14th Street NW and you will see an amalgamation of streetwear and the latest in kicks that would make the snobbiest of sneakerheads spazz out. H Street NE has an edgier hipster culture of workwear and thrifted finds as an aesthetic. City Center has that tailored, high end, luxury brand appeal where you will likely find the likes of fashion bloggers and their photographers snapping away under the art installations that have become an attraction there. D.C. is becoming more and more of fashion scene that is setting its own trends and no longer following.

R: What's your favorite trend in menswear right now? What would you like to see gain popularity? 

CC: I’m digging the fuller leg renaissance in menswear especially with slacks, trousers, and chinos. Pants with texture and pattern are becoming more and more the centerpiece of building a great look. Look at the wave of guys mixing up plaid pants with graphic tees and cool sneakers. I’m a fan of the fuller leg pants with the higher hemlines too. Best of both worlds. Another one of my favorite things to see is menswear getting a bit more feminine or gender neutral. Clothes are clothes. If you can put it on and carry it well, who cares what section you got it in. If it speaks to you it speaks to you. I have slowly adapted to experimenting with a more feminine approach to accessories especially with bandanas as neckerchiefs.

R: D.C. is known for a lot of things, but what would people be surprised to learn about it?

CC: The industrious undercurrent of creative culture now bubbling up to the surface creating an amazing social scene. There has always been a great appreciation for live music and great musicians here, but now it’s being supported by a rapidly growing fashion scene, photography scene, bloggers, influencers and creative sets of visual artists who have taken over the landscape painting murals on building facades, alleyways, and hosting art exhibitions that draw crowds of cool kids.

People will be surprised to learn about all the hidden gems tucked away in our local neighborhoods. Get out of the museums and Duck boat tours and truly explore. Venture off the beaten path for a day and come experience life like a local. You’ll have a better appreciation of what this city has to offer culturally from the music, fashion, food, and architecture.

H Street Corridor is one neighborhood where this amalgamation of culture is prevalent. I just so happen to call this wonderful place home. The neighborhood situated just over the ramp from Union Station was once long forgotten. This area was devastated by the riots in 1968 after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 2004 D.C. government adopted a strategic plan of action to revitalize the neighborhood. 

I’ve been living here since the summer of 2012 and witnessed so much change. H Street Festival which celebrates the sights, sounds, and taste of the neighborhood culture is now one of the largest street festivals in D.C. The festival happens in September drawling over 150,000 attendees for the one-day celebration. 

Beyond the festival, H Street on any day is an awesome place to be. You could catch a fledgling band on tour play at Rock & Roll Hotel or at The Pie Shop which is situated on the second level of Dangerously Delicious Pies. If you want to dance the night away like no one is watching Little Miss Whiskey’s is where you do it. Copycat Co. has the tastiest of skewers and potstickers to partner with any of the many amazing signature cocktails. Smith Commons which is my favorite place to unwind at the end of the week is a great spot to catch up with friends for dinner and drinks. Avery’s on the weekends has a drummer that plays along with whatever the DJ is spinning. It’s an amazing experience feeling the percussion hits in your chest while Wale’s “LoveHate Thing” blast through the sound system. 

If you are hungover from a late night out on H Street grab breakfast at Tony’s. There’s 2 of them right across the street from one another on 14th N.E. Long story, just pick one. Both are fantastic! Sospeso is a solid choice for coffee and breakfast too. I go there often now to get design work done or take in a photo exhibit. Fare Well is the spot to drop by for vegan pastries. I’m not vegan but when they have the doughnuts you've got to go! Maketto, which is very much a destination on H Street, brings the culture and retail therapy. The latest in streetwear drops, cool happenings, and tasty treats all under one roof. 

This is a side of the city that tourist and visitors are starting to discover. While I mentioned a great deal, I only scratched the surface of what H Street is all about and I am still discovering things here myself after 7 years. (If anyone reading this plans on visiting H Street, hit me in my DMs!)

R: Where are your favorite places to bike to or around in D.C.? 

CC: The Metropolitan Bike trail starts in NoMa [D.C. neighborhood, North of Massachusetts Ave] and ends in Brookland is a nice ride. The NoMa area is filled with murals by Pow! Wow! D.C. artist and so is the bike trail. Start by grabbing a coffee and breakfast bite at Union Market before hitting the trail. Take the trail up and explore the grounds of Catholic University as well as the Brookland neighborhood and then grab a drink for happy hour at the Dew Drop Inn. Another nice ride is through Barracks Row where stopping at District Doughnut is a must! Take the trail down to The Yards and sit by the river for a bit before heading over to Nats Park and having a beer at the Bardo beer garden. You can venture from there over to the Wharf in SW for dinner and people watching. D.C. is an incredibly bike-friendly city. 

R: We’d argue that the best memories are made while adventuring outside. Is there a certain outdoor experience that stands out as the greatest memory for you?

CC: Washington, D.C. Monument bike tour at midnight. It’s incredibly amazing and indescribable to do with words. You’ll have to experience it for yourself!

R: Which would you choose for a weekend getaway? Tropical beach, mountain resort, or city, and why?

CC: CITY! There’s so much to explore in a city. Plus being a small business owner growing a burgeoning brand it’s hard to unplug.  I have to stay connected.

Now back to exploring. [The] best way to see cities on the east coast is by bike. You don’t have to look for parking or get stuck in traffic, etc. Think about all the culture you can take in of any city vs. what you can take in lounging on a beach or a mountain. For me, I want to experience people, food, music, style, culture, for me that best done in a city. After a day of laying out on a beach, I am ready to get back to business.

R: How do you take your coffee?

CC: Two creams, two sugars, a touch of cinnamon, and a little honey. I have a bit of a sweet tooth.

R: Best place to grab pizza in D.C.?

CC: Best place? I have place(s)!

We The Pizza on Penn. Ave SE is the best to get a great slice and garlic knots. My favorite is the Butcher’s Block with a side of 2 garlic knots.  &Pizza is a great option if you are feeling creative and want to eat everything, especially after a night out on H street or where ever in D.C. You pretty much build your own pizza.

If you want to get together with friends, have drinks, and catch up, All Purpose is a great sit down establishment. They just opened one across for Nats Stadium on the Riverfront.

R: What are 5 things you can’t live without right now?

CC: 1. Electric toothbrush

2. iPhone - got to stay productive and get that daily photo for the Gram!

3. My CHRiS CARDi Brookland Bag. You can rock it as a tote or a weekender. Versatile AF!

4. My Puma all white Match sneakers. Damn things go with everything. Can't take them off.

5. My Harper. My best memories in D.C. have been experienced on my bike. Gives me the freedom to explore.


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