Best Retail Doing Runway Shows

Rosies and Rockers
2001 13th St. NW, (202) 328-7625
Photograph by Darrow Montgomery

“What are you doing with all of these handcuffs?” On one end of the phone was the police department, according to Rosies and Rockers owner Mateen Khan, who had placed an online order for police-grade handcuffs for a runway show. She says quickly explained to the police that the purchase was made in the name of fashion rather than for nefarious means.

Those handcuffs became statement accessories in the shop’s Crystal Couture fashion show in 2015. Models wore rockabilly- and pinup-style clothing from the U Street NW boutique, and their style stood out in an audience of conservative fashion enthusiasts.

For their next runway show, Khan and partner Ally Crane decided to take on the concept of censorship. Their store has unwittingly courted its share of controversy for simply carrying apparel that’s different from the typical D.C. uniform. Khan edited together a loop of angry messages collected from Rosies and Rockers’ voicemail in which people deemed clothing in their windows “inappropriate” and left streams of curse words. “I get that you are trying to be cool, but really? We live in Washington, D.C. Come on,” one caller said.

This was the inspiration for their 2016 show, which featured models wearing black-band eyewear. The result mimicked censor bars that are often seen in photographs (think Kim K’s latest naked photo). The result was edgy. It was cool. It was different.

Rosies and Rockers’ message is big, it’s bold, and it isn’t remaining neatly tucked into the four walls of the brick-and-mortar store. Its founders are thinking in a way that’s bigger than their home market, while still embracing and loving the D.C. misfits that perfectly embody their esthetic.

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