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Sometime this winter, everyone (who’s anyone (?)) started buzzing about BUTLER + CLAYPOOL a DC fashion collective with a pedigree as good as it is going to get in this town. Holly Thomas of Washington Post, Kristin Guiter & Rachel Cothran of The Corcoran (and Cothran’s Project Beltway blog), Betsy Lowther, formerly of Post’s FW, Krista Haywood and US Royalty‘s Paul Thornley came together with the mission to provide a highly curated shopping experience that merges fashion with art, music, food and creative instruction.

As they slowly but surely step up their game, we caught up with the fine women of B+C somewhere in between mad re-arranging of vintage peter pan collars and pricing of the goods for their Saturday preview show @ American Ice Co.

For the BYT readers who are encountering Butler + Claypool for the first time, tell us a little about how it came about? The idea? The name? The mission, so to speak?
Holly Thomas:
Being surrounded by incredibly talented friends and loved ones really fueled the inspiration for a side project that would let us channel a love of thrifting, vintage goods and creative design into something unique and special. It started as a daydream; soon after, Krista and I were taking a coffee break during an epic thrifting trip and started brainstorming about what we could do together. This project really grew from those conversations; the name comes from the neighborhoods where Krista and I grew up. Our goal is to incorporate highly-curated, unique pieces from artists and designers alongside some great vintage, and to do that, we wanted Betsy, Rachel and Kristin on board. Ultimately, we want to add a social and educational element to the experience of shopping a carefully-selected array of merchandise — but you’ll have to stay tuned for more on that front.

How did you all pick the team that is now Butler + Claypool?
Rachel Cothran:
We all share a passion for style and a good find, and we wanted to form something that would allow each member to have the support of the group but allow for the freedom of individual fashionable pursuits, too.
HT: I like to think of us as kindred spirits. There’s nothing better for fueling creativity than to surround yourself with creative people, and these are the most talented ones I know.
Kristin Guiter: While we all have unique individual styles, as a collective, they work well together, which helps us put together curated collections that appeal to a range of aesthetic tastes.

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What does the B+C collaborative process look like? Do you meet? Email? Are there particular roles in the group and who fills them?
HT:
We meet as often as we can, given that we have six completely different, demanding schedules. Lots of emails get exchanged; we’d be lost without Google docs. We try to have regular craft/design project nights in front of the fireplace, too.
KG: Next B&C meeting: definitely a cozy hot toddy by the fire at Tabard Inn!

How did you source the clothes for your first salon?
HT:
We do a lot of our buying at estate sales and from private sellers, but we also have sources all over the map — Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Stockholm, Houston, New Orleans, Baltimore, small towns in Florida, Virginia and Iowa — who are collecting items for us. We make regular runs to thrift stores in the suburbs, too.

What are some of your favorite picks of the clothes we’d be able to see this weekend?
Krista Haywood:
I love the jewelry we’ve made, from braided jersey necklaces to grown-up twists on friendship bracelets.
RC: Classic-lady fur coats, a high-waisted houndstooth skirt and a bright pink silk DvF secretary dress, perfectly on-trend for spring.
Betsy Lowther: Pretty retro dresses with peter-pan collars, sparkly 60s clutches and tuxedo-style blazers.

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How did you pick American Ice Co. and is this the route you’ll go with future events or can we look forward to a variety of locations and types of locations?
HT:
We wanted a unique, somewhat under-the-radar venue that reflected an aesthetic that really appeals to us: rough-edged, rustic, distinctly American, with no airs and no feeling of exclusivity. If you’re not into shopping, maybe you’re into good music and whiskey — either way, we’ve got you covered. For future events, we’re branching out into bigger, more raw spaces, with that same feeling of comfort and community.

I am sure men will want to know what the ration of men’s to women’s fashion at one of your pop-up sales will be?
HT:
It’s probably about three-quarters women’s items and a quarter men’s. Menswear is something we really love, though, and we plan to make it a focus for our next event. This is a preview party with a limited selection of pieces, designed to give attendees a taste of what they can expect in the future. Early bird; worm; you know the drill.

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Also, price range…
HT:
Most of our items are under $50, which is a steal! We have a few big-ticket items: vintage fur hats from the old Garfinckel’s department store, some beautiful fur coats, some high-end designer items. But we really want everyone to be able to find something they love and can afford, so dresses are in the $30-$45 range, men’s tartan scarves are $10, and you can snag a piece of handmade jewelry for $20-$30. Custom wall art runs from about $65-$90.

Who is the ideal Butler + Claypool customer? (male & female)
RC:
There’s definitely no ideal customer per se. Some will be coming to find – and get advice on buying – a vintage piece for the first time. Some folks will be seasoned vintage shoppers. With every vintage-shopping hunt, the potential for finding a unique, wardrobe-shifting piece you didn’t plan to find is in the cards.
HT: We really just want to help people find something that makes them feel cool and special. That being said, we focus on good-quality, versatile, well-constructed pieces that you can incorporate into your existing wardrobe. If you’re looking for printed polyester-shirt-type vintage, there are plenty of other good places to find that; if you’re looking for old-school plaid button-downs, bomber jackets, beaded mini dresses and cocktail hats, then you’ve come to the right place.

You all are well known as being some of the best dressed people in DC- if you had Butler + Claypool best dressed awards who else would you nominate for them and why?
HT:
We tend to agree that best dressed lists are overrated, especially since they’re entirely subjective. Personally, I admire anyone who has a unique sense of style and a consistent look — being able to convey something about your personality and mood on a daily basis is a challenge.

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What are some of your favorite places to shop: both locally and online?
RC:
I’m personally addicted to Etsy, for the great prices and endless hunting potential. I’ve been looking at Asos a lot lately, too. Local shoe store Simply Soles carries smart-girl heels (ie, heels that are pretty but also wearable) in some of my favorite labels, like Bettye Muller and Frye.
KG: My shopping tendencies lean towards second-hand and vintage almost exclusively. Lately, I’ve been shopping a couple of sites — shopyovintage.com is one I’ve recently been turned onto, in addition to the daily Etsy troll — and love Vancouver-based Coquette Consignment, www.coquetteconsignment.com.
BL: I’m also on a real vintage kick lately and still love eBay for those stumbled-upon, super-inexpensive finds: poufy Victor Costa cocktail dresses; a hot pink velvet swing coat; an oversized patent clutch. If I’m going to splurge, I’ll head to Barney’s Co-op, Muleh or Hu’s Wear — though admittedly, I do more drooling than buying at those spots.

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Have you been following NYC fashion week? Some collection/item picks?
RC:
The Row for their precisely-cut menswear styles; cashmere TOMS and tassel earrings and Marc Jacobs! I want dots on everything for fall now.
BL: I’m still gearing up for spring, so I can’t even think about fall yet!

For springtime – what is the easiest way to refresh your wardrobe?
HT:
Accessories are the best quick fix when your wardrobe feels tired. I’m stocking up on vintage bed jackets — sheer black ones, silky neutral-hued ones — to throw over dresses and high-waisted pants, plus lots of awesome hats. My goal for 2011 is to wear more cool hats.
RC: Something in a bold color paired with a neutral shoe that has a substantial heel.
KG: For spring, I’ve recently scouted out vintage cardigans with colorful beading and embroidery to layer on and add detail and versatility to simple dresses or high-waisted skirts that I’ve grown tired of wearing through the winter.

Your blog has the tagline “a well curated life”-what would, if time/space continuum was not an issue be the perfect Butler + Claypool day in life?
RC:
All I know is that ideally, it would start with breakfast in bed, bed in a room open to the perfect breeze billowing through white cotton curtains to reveal a glimpse of the ocean outside. Obviously shopping for myself/others for an upcoming vintage sale with no price ceiling. Lunch with Colette, Joan Didion. Playing dress-up at Dita von Teese’s place. Naps.
HT: Breakfast in bed is a must. My perfect B&C day would have to include a motorcycle ride, a picnic lunch in a field somewhere, stumbling on an attic/garage/barn full of amazing old stuff to pick through, jetting to Paris to scour the flea markets, and unwinding in front of a fireplace at the end of the day.

What is next for you guys?
Stay tuned to our website, Facebook and Twitter feeds for details about a spring launch party that will include additional vendors, designers and artists, plus creative workshops, drinks and music.

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