From Government Energy Policy to Classic Italian Design – and Opening an Amina Rubinacci Boutique

MERRIBEL AYRES In front of her Amina Rubinacci Boutique 2822 Pennsylvania Ave., NW in Georgetown

Merribel Ayres, a seasoned professional in Washington’s energy and environmental policy community, is spreading her wings on the Georgetown retail scene. Ayres opened an Amina Rubinacci boutique this month on Pennsylvania Avenue, a few doors down from the Four Seasons.

Her passion for the designs of Amina Rubinacci began 12 years ago, when Ayres was in Rome for a business trip and wandered into a boutique selling some of the designer’s line.
“I instantly was fascinated by the fit and fabric of her clothes and wondered why there was not a greater presence of these Italian heritage family brands in the U.S,” said Ayres as she sat in her simple corner office on the second floor of the boutique.

The boutique is all white and very airy. The narrow floors of the Georgetown row house are filled with natural light, allowing the clothes – which are simply displayed on long racks along the wall – to be the main feature in each of the rooms.

Amina Rubinacci began creating her collections in Naples in the 1970s. She is often referred to in the Italian fashion community as “the queen of wool” for her knowledge and use of the fabric. Her designs are well known in Italy and France as well as in the U.S., where there are three other boutiques: in Palm Beach, Charlotte and Greenwich.

After spending 36 years in D.C., Ayres knows quite a bit about its residents’ fashion preferences. She believes that Rubinacci’s attention to detail regarding color, cut and fabric supports the needs of the Washington woman, who often wears many hats – in a single day having to be a wife, a mother, a businesswoman, a philanthropist and many other things. Rubinacci’s designs are appropriate for several different types of occasions, according to Ayres.

Ayres is also the president of Lighthouse Consulting Group, which she founded in 1996 to put her government experience to use. Lighthouse provides knowledge-based government and public affairs services to clients focused on energy and environmental policy issues. After spending more than three decades in that world, Ayres felt it was the right time to explore a new – and very different – business. Since October 2013, the boutique has become almost a second full-time job and a major investment for her.

“I am lucky to be able to share my love and passion of Italian design with local Washingtonians and visitors from around the world,” said Ayres, noting how varied the customer base has been in the few weeks the boutique has been open. She has seen students, professional women and men buying gifts for their wives coming in and discovering Rubinacci’s designs.

Personally, Ayres loves Rubinacci’s jackets and her sweaters trimmed with linen. They are just some of her go-to pieces when getting herself ready for the day. She is very pleased with the store’s initial reception and looks forward to integrating herself into the Georgetown business community, having already joining several neighborhood and business associations.

The Amina Rubinacci boutique in Georgetown is located at 2822 Pennsylvania Ave., NW. The store is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m.

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