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Women of Style

BY Michael McCarthy | September 9, 2016 | Feature Features National

Fall brings out fanfare for fashion, along with the local disciples of all things stylish. Our class of 2016 represents a range of professions—from culinary to business consulting—and they have one thing in common: exceptional taste.
ON VENN FREDERIC Dress by Zoe Arku Designs; ring by Dani Barbe; vintage bracelets.

Desirée Venn Frederic
Desirée Venn Frederic is the great transformer. Watch her at a gallery opening or a midweek soiree around town. Her presence, akin to Hollywood glitterati, instantly changes a room. It’s not merely her 5-foot 10-inch frame. Nor is it her voice, at once soft and commanding. Instead, no matter the occasion, Venn Frederic showcases some of the most remarkable vintage couture and custom dresses in the city. The Sierra Leone native and owner of the boutique Nomad Yard Collectiv is drawn to works by Zandra Rhodes, Selro, Ossie Clark, Pucci and Gianfranco Ferré. “As an African woman, I’ve always found it necessary to create space for myself in this world through the way I dress,” she says. “[I’ve] developed an approach that appears impractical to the observer, yet whole and self-assured. That’s my understanding of fashion.” Venn Frederic has plenty of fashion heroes, including Dera Tompkins, Leigh George and Leandra Medine of Man Repeller fame. But it’s the woman who understands herself in relation to fashion that draws Venn Frederic’s loudest praise. “I applaud women who dress for themselves and make the choice to engage and participate in crafting their own narratives. Fashion attests to the human capacity to change, and a woman who is self-aware possesses an irrefutable confidence,” she says. “I’m particularly drawn to women with stories to tell. The world wonders how she does it because they expect—and some want her to be—weak and destroyed. But even in the face of adversity, she’s put together and stands tall. Those are the women who inspire me. On my worst days, I must look good. It makes the seemingly bad more tolerable.”

Courtney Banks Spaeth
Courtney Banks Spaeth knows the buttoned-up world better than most. She sees the proper suits, the conservative heels and make-no-aesthetic-waves accessories. And through it all, the CEO of growth[period], which provides tailored business-development and strategic-merger acquisition support for clients in commercial and federal markets, has been a beacon of style. She wears lots of Giambattista Valli, Alexander McQueen and Michael Kors, but Dolce & Gabbana is her designer of choice, especially for big events (“They really design well for my figure,” she says). “I’ve always loved fashion,” says Spaeth, who has also worked for the Clinton administration and holds a master’s degree from Georgetown in national security studies. “My grandparents used to watch old movies from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, and I always loved the clothes the women wore, especially anything Edith Head designed.” Accessories, while not an obsession for this auburn-haired entrepreneur, are certainly a passion. “Maison Margiela has made a great leopard-pattern pony-skin bag I’m eyeing for fall. For jewelry, my accessories tend to be classic: always my wedding rings, a small vintage diamond bracelet during the day with diamond studs. At night, the jewelry really depends on my outfit and what the event is. If we’re going all out for black-tie events, I get more adventurous. Lately, because I have a 5-month-old baby, I find a lot of pacifiers in my purse. I’m not sure if they count as an accessory or not!”

Photography Courtesy Of: