"In a world where business formal is required everywhere and every guy dresses relatively terribly, the well-styled man is king; well, that world is the District of Columbia, and its king is Grant Harris. Grant is founder and owner of the image consultancy company Image Granted, as well as one of the most prevalent thought leaders in the male fashion industry. Widely regarded as one of the Washington region's foremost experts on men's style, Grant's clientele list ranges from corporate organizations to individual guys seeking his guidance on how to properly style themselves. Grant has contributed as well as been featured on numerous international publications such as The Wall Street Journal, TIME Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, CNN,  AOL, Men’s Health and others.

Suffice to say, this man knows how to dress."

I was able to catch up with Grant and talk to him about how he got started in fashion, where he plans on taking his company, and of course, pick his brain on what D.C.'s style landscape is like for men.

Here are the highlights of our discussion:

So Grant, what got you started in the fashion game?

In the grand scheme of fashion, I'm a late bloomer.  Growing up I had no affinity for fashion itself.  I always took pride in my personal appearance but GQ and Esquire weren't on my reading list.  I did have fresh pair of Nikes for the first day of school and kept them meticulously clean, but only because it's my nature to take care of my appearance, not because I wanted to keep up with the Joneses.  Growing up, my sisters were the creative minds with the dreams of going to fashion school and becoming designers and hairstylists.  I remember one sister having books upon books of sketches and drawings of dresses and skirts and such.  I admired her for her talent and skill because I can't draw stick people.

My introduction to fashion, style and menswear didn't come until after college when I already owned and operated two businesses.  One of which failed, and the other I sold.  Neither of them I was passionate about or saw as a longterm career opportunity.  The third time around I knew I wanted to do something I was passionate about, whether or not I made money right away. Personally, if I ever did make money at some point doing it, that would really just be icing on the cake.  I actually consulted a business coach who gave me the advice to create a business and potential revenue from the positive things that people around me noticed about me.  In my professional career, which has spanned several corporate jobs, people always complimented me on how I presented myself.  My socks, my shoes, my color combinations etc.  I naturally took them as compliments, said "thank you," and kept about my business.  It didn't occur to me that I could get paid--a lot or a little--to write, speak, and consult on fashion and clothes, and travel the world doing it.

While researching potential careers I came across the description of "image consultant" and the notion hit me that I could easily do this for the men of D.C.  Of course, over the years my business has evolved to be much more than just an image consultant, which is the idea.  Business and entrepreneurs should always grow and evolve to be bigger and better than their original dream.  When I first started, I had no idea that anyone would want to take my advice, listen to me speak, invite me to different countries, or ask me to take part in an interview.  It's all been a blessing and I look forward to what's next.

Who inspires you the most in terms of style?

There are lots of ways to be inspired by style.  Style extends far past your clothes.  It is an amalgam of life experiences, travel, language, culture etc., and all of these things combined are what actually go into your personal style which is just displayed by clothes and accessories. The people who inspire me most are those who live a stylish life whether they have money or not, or whether they're famous or not.  Regular everyday people inspire me.  I've never been much for celebrities and athletes. Old men walking the streets. Individuals inspiring communities. Communities inspiring individuals. My close friends and associates. I learn more about style from these sources than I ever have from a rapper, superstar athlete, or politician.

In the grand scheme of men's fashion, how are D.C. guys "doing" would you say?

D.C. will never be the fashion capital of the world and it doesn't need or have to be.  However, it can always be better than it is today.  D.C. men are just like all the other men across the country. They are showing a higher appreciation and acumen of style and how it equates to happiness and success in their own lives. There's definitely this trend of more men caring.  In the last 2 years alone, the growth of the menswear scene in DC has grown exponentially with the influx of tailors, retailers from outside the region, as well as a heightened awareness from those inside the community.  I've had the pleasure to be at the center of this phenomenon and enjoy the ride with many of my colleagues in the community who share my enthusiasm and appreciation for presentation.

Are there any big plans for Image Granted in the near future in terms of big articles, collaborations, or any new client work?

Image Granted is a labor of love. It takes time to build a brand and I would be lying if I said it has been easy over the last 4 years.  However, I'm blessed to be in a position where my brand has the ability to help other brands and individuals achieve their personal and professional goals.  Getting to this point has been scary at times, but the challenge is fuel for the journey. This fall will be packed with international travel, new clients coming on board, speaking engagements, and the launch of a new retail showroom.  Needless to say there is plenty on my plate but I'm hungry and ready to take it on.  I'll be traveling to Ningbo, China to attend the Ningbo International Fashion Fair as a guest of the Ningbo government, Camellia Universal Limited Investment & Business Advisors and Henry Bailey Bespoke Savile Row Tailors.  It will be an honor to join this delegation at this prestigious event to continue building my footprint overseas and to foster business relationships between China, the UK, and the US.  I'll be announcing the details of my trip soon and would love for the DC community to follow my journey to Ningbo and back.

What are you favorite stomping grounds in D.C. in terms of shopping?

I'm an avid thifter. I'm not into labels or brands.  There are definitely brands that make good products, but I'm more concerned with quality than with who made it. The majority of wardrobe is thrifted or gifted.  This is partially due to the inconsistent income of an entrepreneur, but mostly because I don't like to buy anything new unless its already old.  It's hard for me to pass a thrift shop and not stop in.  Its definitely a lifestyle.  I like TARIDr. K's and Rock it Again for their selection and quality of vintage menswear.

Other than thrift shops, most of my wardrobe is custom built.  I spend a lot of time with tailors talking fabrics and cuts.  Each tailor is different but good options are Michael Andrews BespokeWilliam Fox & Co, or Field English Tailors.  Online resources and discount retailers like Marshall's and TJ Maxx are great options.  Shopping really isn't difficult. The difficult part is getting to the point where you understand fit, fabric, and function.  Once you understand these components and how they relate to you, shopping becomes easier because you can pinpoint items which meet your needs and discard ones that don't.

What are the best spots in the city to see the most sharp dressed people?

D.C. definitely has pockets of style.  In each pocket there is a unique range.  H Street for hipsters, Capitol Hill for suits, U Street for the ethnic and vintage vibe, Georgetown for the label lovers, and Dupont for the homosexual flair.  Looking for sharp dressed people shouldn't be the goal.  Instead it should be to appreciate the effort and individuality every person puts into their personal presentation no matter what part of the city they live or work in.  Once we begin to look at style this way versus focusing on the few who make it into a magazine or newspaper, then the city will grow leaps and bounds.

photos via Rachel Couch (A Muse Photography)

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