‘Inside the Wardrobe’ Takes Visitors Through a Fashion Experience

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As so many businesses continue to chase experiential opportunities for consumers, the just-opened “Inside the Wardrobe” installation in Washington, D.C., could offer some inspiration.

Located in a 20,000-square-foot space, the installation features 20 interactive vignettes that play up the fun and tactile nature of fishing through your closet. Created by events company Design Foundry, the ticketed experience is meant to be a fashion fun house where visitors stroll through interactive vignettes that amplify the power of dressing up. Mulling over what to wear post-lockdown is a recurring thought for consumers and the designers and brands that dress them. Another sign of the times is the installation’s location: a vacant DSW store in Georgetown Park.

The whimsical Instagram-friendly installation is expected to be open through Labor Day. The plan is to allow 20 people in every 15 minutes so that they can experience without a crowd. The power of patterns, the origins of textiles and the importance of sustainability are a few of the subjects that visitors will learn about.

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Design Foundry chief executive officer and creative director Annie Senatore explained how the project came together this spring. “We’ve been doing things but it’s a bit slow. We were looking for a project that could a, reinspire us and b, that would allow my people and other people to have work at a time when there wasn’t a lot of work,” she said.

Visitors are meant to be inspired by fashion and to embrace it without rules. 
Courtesy of Design Foundry

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Before getting into the events business, she earned a degree in fashion marketing and worked in fashion in Paris for designer Daniel Hechter and later in London for a public relations firm that worked with such European lines as Karl Lagerfeld. But it wasn’t her past that inspired “Into the Wardrobe.” It was an article in an issue of The New Yorker “with a cartoon of a baby sitting on a chair with a pair of sweatpants outside her closet sort of saying, ‘Hi there, old friend. It’s been a while,” Senatore said. “At the time, we were all sitting on the edge of coming back out. I started to think about what it’s going to be like after a year and a half to go back to the office, to go out in person and taking your sweatpants off and putting on real clothes again.”

The aim is “that people will walk away feeling inspired by the colors, the prints and designs, and knowing that fashion is pretty much whatever they want it to be. You don’t have to follow any rules or guidelines, if you don’t want to,” Senatore said.

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Having been “a fiend” about drawing, cutting out and designing paper dolls as a child, she acknowledged how paper dolls have fallen into “the annals of history at this point.” Despite that, they have been reimagined in life-size forms. There is also a Barbie doll runway in the installation. Knowing that during a pandemic no one wants to try on clothes or put on a hat that others have worn due to germ concerns, the creative team developed other ways for visitors to try new looks. The paper doll outfits, for example, are on plastic forms that are wiped down after each person holds them up to themselves. “But they can change their appearance in front of a camera in a very quick and COVID-19-friendly way. The same goes with the hats and ties and everything.”

Creating “Inside the Wardrobe” was put together in such a short time that Senatore didn’t reach out to any fashion labels. Although all things experiential are a quest for many fashion companies, Design Foundry’s motivation for the installation was not predominantly to woo new clients from the sector. “This was more about, ‘How do we reinvent ourselves? How do we keep ourselves mentally engaged and physically busy?” she said.

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