Take the Plunge Into Karla Colletto’s World

May 22, 2015

You’re on a beach. The sun sparkles on water the deep blue color of lapis lazuli. Palm fronds flap softly in an ocean breeze. These descriptions are the backdrop, but for Vienna, Va.-based swimwear designer Karla Colletto, it’s the women and the swimsuits they wear that bring an idyllic summer setting to life.

Colletto grew up in the town of Wrentham, Massachusetts, on the Rhode Island border. Her grandmother was a seamstress and her grandfather was a tailor. Both inspired her from a young age. She went on to study fashion design, and after graduation was introduced to couture designer Alfred Fiandaca.

“He gave me invaluable hands-on training, taught me the many intricate details that go into creating a couture piece and inspired me to start my own label,” she says. In the beginning, Karla wasn’t drawn directly to swimwear. Rather, she wanted to approach the fashion industry in a smart, progressive way while utilizing the fine dressmaker techniques passed onto her.

In 1981, Karla and Lisa Rovan, her sister and business partner, created a custom design company with pieces ranging from sportswear to bridal gowns. “While I was designing custom pieces for clients, I became intrigued by stretch fabrics and realized that swimwear was overlooked in the world of high fashion.”

Colletto learned to design swimwear through “trial and error,” using the skills of pattern making, grading and sewing to piece a garment together. Rovan had apprenticed with a swimwear contractor in the past, and, together, they honed in on the world of aquatic couture. By 1987, they sold a small collection to Saks Fifth Avenue. The following season, they made additional sales to Bergdorf Goodman.

From the start, Colletto sought to give her designs an innovative edge. Undoubtedly, one of the distinctions of a Karla Colletto swimsuit is the fabric. “Textiles are always evolving,” she says. “Right now there is a push toward 3D digital printing on fabrics to give an illusion of depth and texture.” Colletto has experience with this technique, and with the use of bonded microfiber, laser-cut details and NoSo technologies.

Colletto imports most of her fabrics from Italy. “We are able to buy in smaller quantities, important to our brand since we try to be as ‘green’ as possible by cutting to order and generating little waste,” she says. For 18 years, she has been working with Eurojersey Sensitive microfiber. Combining the best in eco-friendly manufacturing and fabric longevity (not to mention comfort), this fabric offers up to 10 times more chlorine resistance than traditional swim fabrics, plus UV protection and quick-drying fibers. Additionally, many of the fabrics Colletto uses are made with Xtra Life Lycra, a fiber that resists degradation and has notable recovery performance.

“I like to combine fabrics and components in an out-of-the-box way. I pull, stretch, drape and slice the goods to discover unique textures and patterns,” she says of her approach. She adds that technology has revolutionized the industry. “Fiber and textile technology has transformed swimwear fabrics. They are technical, functional and fashionable, making the design possibilities endless.”

Colletto’s design process is an intricate one and her attention to detail and artistic originality has earned her a name in a competitive industry. “I design with a mix of form, function and high fashion in mind,” she says. “For me, the fit of the swimsuit is just as important as the style.”

She starts with inspirations and concepts, then chooses fabrics and the components for each garment before sketching and draping. She does this until she’s entirely satisfied with the garment’s overall concept.

After that, she creates the pattern and the first sample of several is made. “Throughout the process, the swimsuit is constantly evolving. And usually what I initially set out to do transforms into something completely different and even better than what I envisioned at the start,” she says.

After she has approved the samples, they go to production. All Karla Colletto swimsuits are made in-house and rigorously inspected, ensuring the best quality control. Colletto uses dynamic fabrics and tests different patterns and constructions to ensure the best fit, with comfort and durability in mind. “We even continue our quality trend in the smallest pieces of our swimsuits using the best eyelets, underwires, zippers and other components,” she says.

Colletto finds inspiration in myriad places, from modernist paintings to old movies, in classic architecture and the intricate details of a dahlia. Ever the artist, textures and colors in the surrounding world can trigger moments of stimulation and creativity. “It could be a coral dress in a magazine or a piece of coral I find on the beach,” she says. As a Virginia resident working in close proximity to Washington, D.C., Colletto is also inspired by the region’s multicultural landscape and the strong women she designs for.

Who is the Karla Colletto girl? She is “a modern, confident woman who wants to make a fashion statement with her swimwear, whether it’s in her own backyard or while on some exotic getaway,” she says. “She appreciates good quality and is smart when it comes to the best fit for her body.”

Most people abhor the process of bathing suit shopping – that is, magnifying their own bodily insecurities before mirrored walls and fluorescent lights. Colletto aims in her designs to counteract this tendency.

“It is so important for us to make swimwear that women feel absolutely confident in,” she says. “It’s about finding the right swimsuit for your personality and your body. We like to think our swimwear offers the best of both worlds.” The team constructs each garment with progressive patterns and innovative techniques, while incorporating details such as silent underwires and ruching (gathering or pleating) to enhance the silhouette. Over the years, the designer has noticed swimwear’s burgeoning place in women’s wardrobes, a stylish intertwining of swimwear with ready-to-wear.

“My goal with each swimsuit is to create an innovative, fashion-forward piece without degrading the importance of a tailored fit,” she says, adding, “A swimsuit should be more than just a beautiful piece. It should be a reflection of the wearer herself.”

Colletto’s artistic talents are well known, yet she’s also business savvy, with a shrewd awareness of the marketplace that’s changing around her. “Marketing and advertising have changed incalculably over the years, especially with the advent of social media,” she says. “Our social platforms give us a firsthand connection with our admirers.” Though Colletto’s brand is not currently in the e-commerce game, the designer has plans to enter the online market over the next year or two.

“We want to take the time to do it right and ensure any online shopping endeavors match the quality of our brand,” she says. And when that time comes, Colletto believes that people will confidently buy her swimsuits online, even though that means not trying them on in a dressing room. “Because of the consistency of our fit, once the customer knows their size, it’s easy for them to buy online,” she says.

In addition to social media, Colletto uses stylish, retro-chic video campaigns to promote her collections, working with Pum and Jake Lefebure, co-founders of D.C. based Design Army, and the talented director and cinematographer Dean Alexander. “Their input and unique approach is a huge part of our brand success in collaboration with our social media platforms,” she says.

Colletto’s branding has an air of whimsy and nostalgia to it, a faint reminder of the past coupled with a strong sense of the future. Her swimsuits manipulate modern fabrics to achieve silhouettes that are unflinchingly fashion-forward, even when influenced by past designs.
“Although my designs have changed over the years, there are some distinctive Karla Colletto details that make our suits recognizable,” she says. The Colletto design team often looks to their own archives for designs that could be taken in a fresh, contemporary direction.

“I continue to experiment, challenge and innovate,” she says of her process. Colletto has been a pioneer in the swimwear industry, utilizing the best of today’s fabrics and manufacturing processes, while defying the limitations of design. This drive and steadfast commitment to originality has garnered recent attention from Elle, InStyle Spain, Glow Magazine and Trillionaire Magazine, to name a few.

Colletto works with retailers both large and small. She recently designed an exclusive swimsuit for Everything But Water in honor of the retailer’s 30th anniversary. The bold red one-piece, triggered by a 1960s photo of model Peggy Moffitt in Rudi Gernreich, features a plunging V-neck with cutouts, crisscrossing bands and strong structural details.

Like the swimsuit, Colletto’s brand is bold, strong and structural, and there’s much still ahead for the company. In addition to adding e-commerce to the business model, Colletto hopes to expand her brand into active wear and sportswear in the future. In the meantime, however, Karla Colletto’s swimwear offers women everywhere the opportunity to suit up in style this summer. Go ahead – take the plunge. [gallery ids="117765,117782,117778,117773" nav="thumbs"]

Tour Couture: 84th House Tour

May 6, 2015

This issue’s cover celebrates a contemporary take on the Georgetown House Tour. The photo of models Alessa Fisher and Leanne Mayo (of THE Artist Agency) by Svenja Herrmann was taken at 3425 Prospect St. NW, sometimes called Quality Hill-Worthington House. Hair ad makeup were done by Lexi Martinez for THE Artist Agency while styling and set design were completed by Lee Will. The dress worn by Fisher is designed by Jason Wu, and the pants and top worn by Mayo is designed by Yigal Azrouël. [gallery ids="102059,134542,134544,134546,134540,134548,134551,134550" nav="thumbs"]

The Wedding: A Work of Art

March 11, 2015

A wedding is a momentous occasion where couples celebrate their love in a grand fashion, at the venue and in the clothes of their choosing, surrounded by friends and family with music, flowers, gifts, style and other niceties. The celebration requires extensive planning, not to mention forethought and creativity. A wedding acts as a personal expression of the couple, so why not curate your wedding into what it could be, a work of art?

As modern weddings are increasingly incorporating the arts through dress, flowers, setting and photography, art galleries and museums are becoming popular venues that frame beautiful works alongside your marriage festivities.

Charlotte Jarrett, a D.C.-based wedding planner, says couples should pick personalized venues for their marriage ceremony. “The Newseum at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, is great venue for a journalist or lover of modern architecture. For the history buff, consider the elegant City Tavern Club at 3206 M St. NW, in Georgetown, a favorite hot spot of our Founding Fathers.”

Local wedding consultant Andre Wells weighed in with some venue recommendations of his own.

“Andrew Mellon is one of my favorites,” he said. “It is so representative of Washington in many ways with the columns and steps, it’s very grand, its stature has a lovely outdoor terrace, and great views of the monument.”

“For a little less traditional and more rustic or artsy, Long View Gallery is a great industrial space to work with outdoor options and works well for weddings,” Wells added.

The Long View Gallery at 1234 Ninth St. NW, boasts 15-foot ceilings and an abundance of natural light. A 2,500 square foot gated outdoor patio is also available for events. The view opens to the historic Blagden Alley.

Other inventive venues include the Belle Vue Room at the Dumbarton House at 2715 Q St. NW, with 13-foot white coffered ceilings and tented outdoor space, or the Meridian House with an welcoming limestone façade with two large oak doors and a stone wall that provides intimacy.

The Heurich House Museum at 1307 New Hampshire Ave. NW, is another, intimate local venue, with a conservatory and gardens that are perfect for receptions. In addition, guests can explore all three floors of the museum with a docent as guides come with event rentals.

Tudor Place at 1644 31st St. NW, would make for an elegant wedding setting with the potential for couples to get married in a living “garden room” or in the manor’s historic interior. But the Newseum, with its massive glass windows and sweeping views of D.C.’s towering architectural monuments (pictured in this feature) would be better for a more modern-themed wedding.

On general trends of the day, Jarrett says, “Weddings took on a very DIY and shabby chic approach after the recession. We are finally seeing a return to formal, glamorous weddings, sparkle, bling, glamour and black tie are back in vogue.” Nothing brings glamour to a wedding like an original, elegant and personalized setting that reflects a couple’s tastes and creativity. [gallery ids="101999,135280,135267,135272,135276,135287,135284" nav="thumbs"]

Haute Holidays

The fashion shoot took place in a meticulously restored Kalorama home, which melds classic period architecture with a cool, contemporary aesthetic. Our team worked to highlight the timelessness and opulence of the home with elegant, tasteful selections in fashion, makeup and accessories. The exquisite Maggie Parsons brought classic beauty to the scene, lending polish, grace and allure to The Georgetowner shoot. The home, at 2411 California St. NW, features six bedrroms, seven and a half bath, four fireplaces, parking for up to ten cars and more. It is listed by TTR Sotheby’s International Realty at $4,990,000. Contact Michael Rankin or Michelle Galler at (703) 217- 9405.

Photography by Yvonne Taylor YvonneTaylorPhoto.com

Model Maggie Parsons at THE Artist Agency

Hair by Darrell Thompson at THE Artist Agency

Makeup by Lauretta J. McCoy

Styling by Pamela Burns, PAMShops4You

Lighting Assistant Angie Myers [gallery ids="101921,136183,136186,136179" nav="thumbs"]

D.C. Ushers in Fashion Week

February 23, 2015

D.C. Fashion Week is happening now and is the largest exhibition of fashion apparel in the District of Columbia. The designers are an electric group of talent who come from all around the globe.

From the high fashion capital of New York City, from New Zealand and from Belgium, designers are taking the nation’s capital by storm. D.C. Fashion Week started Feb. 18 and will continue showing Fall/Winter collections through Sunday, Feb. 22.

The Opening Night with Pop-Up retail shops, NextGen Designer fashion show and live entertainment is at 823 H St. NE. The admission is free and the event starts at 6 p.m.

During the second day of D.C. Fashion Week, Fashion Industry Networking Party featuring a Jewelry & Accessory Fashion Show will be held at Dirty Martini, 1223 Connecticut Ave. NW. The admission is free and the fashion show starts at 7 p.m.

On Friday, the Haute & Modesty Fashion Show will start at 8 p.m. Modest fashions from around the globe will hit the runways of D.C. Fashion Week. Tickets are required. Located at District Architecture Center at 421 7th St. NW.

M.E.D.I.A (Metropolitan Emerging Designers & Indie Artists Showcase) with emerging fashion designers from the U.S. will be showcased together at fashion week. Special music guests will perform. The doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are on sale now.

International couture collections will be presented at D.C. Fashion Week’s finale event on Sunday, Feb. 22 at 5 p.m. Tickets are required.

For further information, registration and to buy tickets visit their website.

Kate Spade Spinoff Stores in Georgetown Set to Close

February 5, 2015

Kate Spade & Co. is closing all Kate Spade Saturday and Jack Spade store locations. These brands feature lower prices than their counterparts.

The Kate Spade Saturday Georgetown location — at 3034 M St. NW — opened recently on Aug. 16. The store, along the with Jack Spade location at 1250 Wisconsin Ave. NW, is expected to the close in mid-2015.

The Jack Spade brand sales will continue online and through other retailers, according to a company statement.

Kate Spade & Co. has four other Washington area stores. Kate Spade New York will remain open in Georgetown, Pentagon City, D.C. City Center and Tysons Galleria.

Redskins and Fashion Go Together: NFL Fan Style Tour Comes to Town

December 19, 2014

The hometown team may be up or down, but fans always want to have a winning style. So, the NFL Fan Style Tour is pulling into town — just in time for the Washington Redskins — after traveling to different stadiums throughout the 2014 season.

The Washington Redskins will host two NFL Fan Style Tour stops, Dec. 19 and Dec. 20. The first is at Tysons Corner Center and the second before the Saturday game between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.

On Friday, Dec. 19, there will be a VIP Teens Apparel Event where fans will have the chance to meet Tanya Snyder, wife of Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, and be styled by her daughters, Tiffanie and Brittanie Snyder. It is at the Washington Redskins Team Store, 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., at Tysons Corner Center, McLean, Va.

For the second NFL Fan Style Tour stop, fans can join the Snyders at FedExField Hall of Fame Store (located between Gates A & H), Saturday, Dec. 20, 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m, and experience the NFL Fan Style Tour’s 2,000-square-foot truck, where they can check out this year’s top fashion pieces from NFL Men’s, Women’s and Tweens/Junior’s apparel, as well as NFL Homegating products. The truck will also include authentic NFL Auction items, a Virtual Dressing Room, a Photo Mosaic, NFL Trivia and EA Madden Gaming Stations, giveaways, special appearances and more.

The NFL Fan Style Tour experience is free and open to all fans.

FAD Georgetown Ramps Up the Town’s Style

November 19, 2014

The Georgetown Business Improvement District kicked off its second annual Fashion Art Design Georgetown, also known as FAD Georgetown, with a brunch at the historic City Tavern Club Oct. 25.

Fashionable Washingtonians and media sipped mimosas and sampled sweet and savory crepes from Cafe Bonaparte, duck hash from Paolo’s Ristorante and shrimp rolls from Luke’s Lobster with energetic music spun by John Thornley, a member of the local band U.S. Royalty.

After remarks from Georgetown BID leadership, Lina Plioplyte, director of the newly released film “Advanced Style,” which documents the lives of seven stylish New York women, ranging in aged from 65 to 92, and the movie’s star Debra Rapoport welcomed guests to screenings later that day and evening at AMC Loews movie theaters on K Street at the Georgetown waterfront.

The day-long FAD Georgetown celebration carried over to more than 50 neighborhood retailers and featured store promotions, trunk shows, art displays and street-style photographers capturing the fashion handprint of celebrants. Into the evening, Grammy-nominated artist Christylez Bacon offered a performance in the court yard next to Dean & Deluca.

For those who missed it, look back on the day using the hashtag #FADGeorgetown on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

[gallery ids="101900,136470,136479,136476" nav="thumbs"]

What Brides Should Know

November 13, 2014

From the venue & caterer, to picking out the perfect apparel for both you and your groom, finding the hottest trends for weddings can be a duanting task. We’ve gone to the biggest names in the industry to answer your toughest questions all in one place!

Mary Bird

What are three things you look for in a wedding venue?

Mary: It should accommodate the right number of guests, inside or outside, depending on the season. You also have to think about accessibility. If you’re having a reception at a hotel, you have the added convenience of being able to put guests up there.

What are the top wedding venues in DC?

Mary: There are the obvious ones like the Willard, the Hay-Adams, and National Arboretums. The Anderson House on Massachusetts is a beautiful location, and the Fairmont Hotel Colonnade does a lot of weddings, which is very pretty because you have the interior patio there too. The Womens Museum does weddings as well, and they have the most beautiful staircases to come down. Also in the Middleburg area there are beautiful places, with country inns, etc.

What’s your favorite thing about attending a wedding?

Mary: Weddings are just so special, it’s a wonderful time. It’s the start of a new life for people, and I think its always so special because you have all these people that come together that wouldn’t otherwise at one big party. Its just such a happy time, and a magical occasion.

Walter Nicholls
Former Washington Post Food Editor

Do you prefer a buffet or fully catered meal?

Walter: I like a meal because I like being able to stay in one place. I think it’s more elegant to be seated and have service since it is such a special occasion, rather than work a table.

How many options should a bride offer her guests?

Walter: I would say that three options would be appropriate. I would stay away from lamb. Offer filet, the ever-popular salmon, as well as a vegetarian option. You want to have something that people are familiar with and not get too crazy.

What type of food do you like best when you attend a wedding?

Walter: Personally, I would love ethnic food such as Indian or Asian, rather than salmon, but that’s what people have.

What is the biggest tip you could give about finding a caterer?

Walter: I would highly suggest finding a caterer with a really well trained staff, because that makes all the difference in the world. Things can definitely go wrong, but if you have a good wait staff they will know what to do.

Barbara Crane & Kathleen O’Meara Abramson
Executive Travel Associates

What are some current popular travel destinations?

Barbara: Tahiti, Bora Bora and Bali are in great demand. They have so much to offer those seeking a fantasy escape: privacy, beautiful beaches and incredibly luxurious accommodations, like over water bungalows, which are so exotic, romantic and decadent, combined with the ability to experience dramatic and mystical scenery. Another fabulous destination that comes to mind is Mauritius with a side trip to Africa for a short safari.

Kathleen: For those without the time to travel as far but still wanting locales with fantastic architecture, turquoise water and powdery, private beaches, Anguilla and The Turks and Caicos come to mind.

What tips do you have for couples looking for a deal in finding honeymoon accommodations?

Kathleen: I would be very careful using the term “deal” when referring to your honeymoon – especially if you want to make it to your first anniversary! It’s probably best to think of in terms of value. An experienced travel agent that works with honeymooners is your best bet for getting the most for your money and the best experience.

G: How early should a couple start planning their honeymoon?

Kathleen and Barbara: It is never too early to start researching the destinations that you are considering, and it is best to be on the same page, or at least in the same chapter, as your partner. It is also really helpful if you can make a list of your preferences, and then we can help you sort it out. We have excellent ground contacts worldwide so we can usually get what we need in terms of amenities, guides, access to local events, etc.

Carine Krawiec
Carine’s Bridal Atelier

Do you see a trend in brides picking a color while allowing bridesmaids to choose their own style of dresses?

Carine: You are always going to see that but I think what they do is pick the color and then the bridesmaids pick the style, all from the same designer. It’s definitely a trend that is a becoming bigger. I think brides are realizing that everything isn’t going to look good on everyone, but they still do have a bridal opinion, they aren’t going to give them full range.

What are the biggest styles in wedding dresses this year?

Carine: Dresses with a lot of tulle giving it a lot of the ballerina feel. You are also seeing a lot of crystals, not like a heavily embroidered ball gown, but cascading down the dress. Peplum is also becoming very popular, giving the dress a soft wave. Some brides are also opting to stay more traditional with lace. For Spring 2012 we’re anticipating a lot more modest designs for Kate Middleton to wear in her wedding. With a lot of emphasis being put on after parties, women are very interested in having a short dress they can change into for the reception in order to get more comfortable.

Carin and Julia
Hitched Bridal Couture

How long does it typically take for a dress to be made after the initial fitting?

Carin and Julia: We generally advise our customers to order their dress no less than 6 months out. A lot of designers take 12-16 weeks so we like to build in a little extra time.

What are the current trends in hair accessories and veils?

Carin and Julia: I think we still see a lot of people using veils, but it depends on their dresses. We see veils that are short with a lot of volume as well as longer more traditional veils. The venue and personality of the bride are what really affect those things.

Louis Everard & Jennifer Nygard
Everard’s Clothier

Instead of a traditional tux, how would you suggest a groom dress up a suit?

Louis: A suit is perfectly acceptable for a wedding, and when a groom makes the decision to wear a suit, it is the accessories which become of utmost importance in defining the look for a wedding. Absolutely the groom should wear a white shirt, which is most formal, and he may wish to try a cutaway collar. The other accessories, such as a tie, bowtie or pocket square should be chosen in a more formal fabric or color but can also be coordinated to the bride or the bridesmaids dresses to give a coordinated look for the wedding party. A nice option is to wear a silk vest that picks up the wedding colors and also gives a nice look when the groom takes off his jacket.

What are some ways the groomsmen can stand out?

Louis: The groomsmen should never outdress the groom, so the groomsmen attire should be chosen to complement the groom. For example, if the groom is wearing a suit vs. a tux, then the groomsmen should also wear suits or jackets, but not formal attire. We have done many weddings where the groom wears a suit and the groomsmen wear navy blazers coordinated to either a gray or khaki pant. The pants may even be a color such as Nantucket red if this coordinates back to the wedding colors. As with the groom, the groomsmen accessories should pick up the colors of the bridesmaid and the overall wedding for a coordinated look.

Adrian Loving
DJ About Town

What should a couple look for when seeking a DJ for their wedding?

Adrian: They should look for someone professional and responsible who has good taste in music, but they also need to be very clear about what they want. It’s hard when I’m approached by the couple and told to play a certain type of music and then friends and family request something different, because then there isn’t much I can do.

What song would you rather not hear at a wedding?

Adrian: The cupid shuffle, or electric slide. Yeah, I don’t play them, but people ask for them. Any line dancing song…so 80s or 90s.

How do you entice the guests at a wedding to get up and dance?

Adrian: I usually ask the bride and groom their favorite song and then get on the mic and invite people to come dance with the couple, and they usually do.

Heidi Kallett
Dandelion Patch

How long does it typically take for custom invitations to be printed?

Heidi: We suggest that you allow 4 weeks for production of your wedding invitations from date of proof approval. For some people that means that you should begin looking six months before your wedding, and for others that means to start looking eight months before your wedding. It completely depends on your decision-making process and your ability to trust your stationer to create your vision.

Would you recommend sending out save the date cards? How far in advance?

Heidi: Absolutely. It happens all too often that brides have friends and family that can’t attend their wedding because vacation plans were already made for that year. Typically we suggest to mail a save the date announcement the minute you confirm your date and location. Usually we see this happen around month nine.

What styles of invitations are most popular?

Heidi: Today we are seeing a throw-back to vintage. Tons of damask designs and ornate fonts are the rage right now. We’re also seeing paper being printed everywhere! Think backsides of invitations, envelopes and tags– nothing is off-limits! And for color, think rich aubergine matched with platinum and peacock blues and greens and you won’t be far off.

Via Umbria to Pop Up in Former Tari Space

September 29, 2014

Authentic culture and cuisine from the Umbria region of Italy is coming to Georgetown in form of Via Umbria, which moved into the old Tari space.

Via Umbria will open its doors Sept. 27 initially as a pop-up shop with the full store and gallery experience to occur this spring.

Located at 1525 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Via Umbria will feature four main businesses, the emporio (the shop), vino (wine), casa (the rental villa in Umbria) and galleria (events and gallery space).

Owners Bill and Suzy Menard spent a semester in Umbria, when they were students, and fell in love with the region. They have returned dozens of times since. Inspired by their trips to Italy, the couple opened Bella Italia, a shop in Bethesda, that offers authentic Italian products.

Then, the Menards decided to relocate to Georgetown with a new name to develop their concept even further.

“We closed on the purchase of a new home for the new Bella Italia. . . . 1525 Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown,” the Menards wrote on their blog. “The purchase has been months – nearly a year – in the making. To say we’re excited would be an understatement worthy of Guinness.”

In 2008, the Menards purchased a rustic farmhouse villa in Cannara in Umbria, starting a rental and tour business. In 2013, the couple began importing wines from vineyards near by the rental villa.

The second floor of Via Umbria will be a gallery event space to expand the store into a cultural center. Guests are invited to attend events, such as tastings, classes and exhibits and to join book club. Friends of Bill and Suzy, such as chefs, winemakers and artisans from Umbria, will frequently be invited to host demonstrations, hands-on workshops and tastings.

Also, there are plans for a cheese counter, an area for cured meats and coffee bar with tasty dry goods.

Via Umbria’s website is still under construction and will be up and running in early October.