Written by Zach Hardy Photographed by Natasha Magino
In a world filled with Grubhub, 2-Hour Amazon Prime Delivery, and sweatshop-produced fast fashion it can be easy to feel disconnected from the things we use on a daily basis. We can simply click a few buttons and get anything in the world shipped to us in an instant. But just as we crave authentic interactions with those around us, we also desire to know the story behind our clothing, food, and household goods.
Steadfast Supply aims to counter empty, unethical consumerism by offering a collection of gifts and wares crafted by Washington D.C. area artists and artisans in a sleek, funky retail experience.
Steadfast occupies a spacious storefront in The Yards, a trendy developing community on D.C.’s Southeast Waterfront. The space feels at once homey and cooly industrial; exposed vents and light fixtures balance with the warm, natural tones of wooden shelves and tables. Simply put, the objects on display throughout the store beg for careful examination and appreciation. During my visit, I left no stone unturned: I flipped through the poster prints of D.C. neighborhoods from Cherry Blossom Creative, finding the streets of my friends’ houses and my favorite restaurants; I felt tempted by a collection of sleek rain gear by Ducktail Raincoats, regretting I spent money on Black Friday just a week prior; I speculated just how spicy the ‘YOLO’ hot sauce by ShePepper might be; and I left the owner of a handmade keychain crafted by Stitch & Rivet at their workshop in Brookland.
Other products available in the store include a range of handcrafted jewelry and watches, greeting cards for every occasion, political signs and t-shirts with a decidedly #resist flavor, and a range of candles and incense. Virginia Arrisueno, the owner and visionary behind Steadfast, picks all of Steadfast’s items and says she asks a crucial question when deciding if a brand is ready to be sold there: “Is there a good story behind it?” Virginia sowed the seeds that would become Steadfast when she launched DeNada Designs, a label devoted to Alpaca knitwear ethically made in Peru, in 2009. Once DeNada was off the ground she sold her knits at outdoor events like D.C. Meet Market.
"It’s all about activation. Activation, activation, activation.”
After years of working alongside artists in and around D.C. Steadfast first popped up as a brick-and-mortar location in the space now occupied by eclectic "new-American" restaurant Chloe in October 2016.“I was approached about activating a space and at the time because I knew all of these small businesses they always expressed to me this need for a retail space so I just said let’s go in on it together, I’ll develop it and create it and you guys will organize your merchandise so that’s how Steadfast Supply was born,” Virginia said. “For me it’s all about activation. Activation, activation, activation.”Though she was initially uncertain about the potential success of her retail concept, shoppers sent the clear message that there is a true desire for authentic, honestly-made gifts and wares in the District.
After just a few months in their first location, Steadfast moved to another location before finally putting down roots in their current storefront. Virginia’s success with DeNada Designs and Steadfast Supply has not gone unnoticed by D.C.’s local press either. Elle featured DeNada in a piece on D.C.’s fashion scene, Washingtonian featured Steadfast in their annual Best of Washington issue, and Virginia has made appearances on local news networks. In response to the continued success of DeNada and Steadfast Virginia plans on opening another location in Ballston this coming year.
If producing a line of clothing and accessories and managing an ever-growing retail space, along with spending time with her husband and son, sounds like a lot to handle- it is. “For me balance does not exist, but boundaries do exist,” Virginia said half-jokingly while she explained that she never works on Sundays and keeps email off of her phone.“I’m such an introvert, so I’d much rather stay in and work on my projects than go out socializing, but working with artists and chatting one-on-one with customers is so fun and what keeps me going.” Because of the great demands and uncertainties associated with a creative path Virginia says she would tell young artists to be cautious before starting a side-hustle or moving a hustle to a full-time gig. Despite the difficulties, however, she says she wants to be an example to other creatives- particularly women- and lifts up the creative path as an opportunity to live life with true independence and passion. “Even if you major in something like Art or Psychology or whatever you should be able to keep your mind open to everything- to basically create your own path and figure out what you want to do.” Virginia said. “Make your life your own life.” You can shop Steadfast Supply at www.steadfastsupplydc.com and follow it on Instagram @steadfastsupplydc.