If there’s such thing as a fashion capital in the nation’s capital, Georgetown is arguably the winner. With plenty of shops, both high- and lower-end, there’s a wide array of options — but even with such variety, the district is missing a truly designer offering. Barney’s, on the upper portion of M Street, got the job done — but the chain closed long ago. Only a few blocks away from there is Relish, a women’s boutique that’s flourished in the District for two decades. Now, the shop is expanding its offerings to include menswear — and filling quite a hole in the process.
Upon walking into the bright and inviting space, I met with owner Nancy Pearlstein to talk about the initial set of brands for Relish’s menswear collection. She said the idea to branch out is two-fold: She started her career in menswear and loved the product, but didn’t bring men’s clothing into the store until downtime during COVID made her reflect on the number of men who would walk into Relish and ask about men’s offerings. The more she thought about it, the more she was determined to give it a shot.
Sporting a multi-color fuzzy knit and a stylish set of thick, round-framed black glasses, Pearlstein’s own sartorial sense reflects Relish’s cultivation-first approach. Their men’s offerings will include brands like Dries Van Noten, Marni, Song for the Mute, Sunspel and more. “When I go into a department store, they buy the loudest, weirdest piece that I see,” Pearlstein tells me. “When I go into Dries, for instance, I try to buy things that have some fashion to them but [are] definitely relatable and have some classic use to them, so a guy can relate to it. In that sense, our vision, our eye and how we look at things might be a little different than some of the other stores that might have carried this stuff in the past.”
When in Doubt, Gift Her Athleisure From AloYou can’t go wrong with any of their workout gear, wellness products, cold-weather staples or athleisure
Brands like Dries and Marni are harder to find in the DC area, typically included as a small offering in places like Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue — i.e., places that are slightly more of a hassle to get to, rather than just walking to Georgetown. Relish is positioning itself as an inherently accessible option — both in terms of location and its range. As such, the Dries selection I saw — a white and green-ish leopard-print cardigan that looks like someone ran it through an x-ray machine — has a pattern that wouldn’t be out of place at an H&M. Yet, because it’s Dries, it’s made from an inherently luxe material and done in a way that’s familiar yet different. That subtle tension describes what Relish is stocking, which includes a handful of knits, jackets, pants and shirts.
Looking around the bottom-floor space where the menswear is displayed, you’ll notice it’s a tight edit. It’s sparse but by design, as Pearlstein notes: The men she knows don’t want to come in and wade through a bevy of different options. Instead, it’s a soft launch all about selling a certain vibe. “If his aesthetic is similar to our aesthetic, he will be drawn to everything in here because he’ll like the more understated yet exciting view,” she says. “We’re focusing in on this group, this question that, hopefully, we will find. I think it takes time to cultivate that kind of person.”
The initial selection of menswear is a bit of an aperitif, a taste of what Relish aims to flesh out if the offerings resonate with that particular crowd. “Coming into spring, we’ll definitely be at a broad range of selections,” Pearlstein states. “I bought very small at the beginning because I want to see the reaction — what guys think about what we have here, what they like [and] what they don’t like.” She hopes the collection will grow and evolve over the years, just like the womenswear side of the business has.
Despite DC not being the most fashion-forward city (despite a handful of strong retailers), Pearlstein is optimistic. “I do see fashionable guys here in Washington — there are some guys that I see that I think would definitely relate to this kind of stuff,” she says. “It’s not outrageous. It’s maybe a bit less conservative than what you normally see. But I don’t think we’re stepping out to the point where they don’t relate.”
This article was featured in the InsideHook DC newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Beltway.