Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in Scandal
Craig Sjodin—ABC
September 24, 2014 7:01 AM EDT

We denizens of Washington, D.C., catch a lot of flack from those outside the beltway. Congress polls roughly on par with any given non-lethal STD and the only people less popular than our national representatives are the lobbyists that stalk the corridors (and watering holes) of power. A favorite nickname for this town is Hollywood for Ugly People and the rest of the country calls our main annual fancy event, the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, “Nerd Prom.” Such is the state of things that the mere phrase “DC Fashion Week” works as a punch line all on its own, no set up required.

Some of the criticism is warranted. We’re a city prone to over statements and flat out lies, like “Mission Accomplished,” and “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

But as the best dressed man in Washington, I’m proud to report that DC Fashion Week, which kicks off Wednesday for its 10th year, is no joke.

“DC, of course, is known for politics and tourists,” DC Fashion Week Executive Director Ean Williams told TIME. “The fashion itself doesn’t make the news as much because the fashion is very conservative.”

This is true most of the time. By day much of central Washington is a sea of meandering fanny packs and Segways, with power ties and pantsuits darting through the crowds in a display of urgent purpose.

“However, our nightlife is extremely vibrant,” Williams said. “There you’ll see everybody really showing their fashion side. Every major fashion label has a retail presence in DC.”

As a former New Yorker, I feel compelled here to underline the point that DC’s nightlife is, actually, a blast/crunk/off the chain/really fun and if you come here looking for that and don’t have a good time it’s because you have boring friends. Sorry not sorry.

And what may distinguish (dare I say elevate) Washington’s fashion scene is that DC is a uniquely international city. A rotation of diplomats from all over the world is endlessly replenishing the international scene here while our well-traveled American diplomats similarly return here before heading back out. Heaps of NGOs with a global footprint call the city home.

Which is why, far fetched as it may seem to some, DC Fashion Week’s mission, Williams said, “is to make DC a center of international fashion.” In keeping with that mission, DC Fashion Week will mark the American debut of Dian Pelangi, an Indonesian Muslim designer well established in Asia and the Middle East for her modest but vibrant, hijab-friendly designs. And from other designers don’t expect a parade of dark suits with red/blue ties, skirts and sneakers, or seven different shades of khaki. Whether DC Fashion Week is the height of high fashion is not for me to decide but it’s the real deal, more Olivia Pope than C.J. Craig.

JAKARTA, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 14:  A model showcases designs on the catwalk by designer Dian Pelangi during Jakarta Fashion Week at Pacific Place on November 14, 2011 in Jakarta, Indonesia.  (Photo by Leonard Adam/Getty Images) (Leonard Adam—Getty Images)
JAKARTA, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 14: A model showcases designs on the catwalk by designer Dian Pelangi during Jakarta Fashion Week at Pacific Place on November 14, 2011 in Jakarta, Indonesia. (Photo by Leonard Adam/Getty Images)
Leonard Adam—Getty Images

In our conversation, Williams mentioned another nickname for DC I hadn’t heard before: the Brook’s Brothers city. “It’s not fair at all,” he said, reminding me that, though by day we may dress for the important business of running the country we also dress to the nines for a night out.

That got me thinking. What’s so wrong with a city that separates its fashion day in two distinct parts, morning and evening, business up front and party in the back? I say nothing at all.

Should be a fun week here in Mullet City.

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