When they open their boutique near Eastern Market this July, Pat McCarty and Javid Mahajan will be coming home again. That’s because the founders of women’s boutique Kashmir got their start as Eastern Market vendors over 21 years ago, selling their fine embroidered wares from two tents every weekend. That market continues to take place on the plaza right outside their doors. Kashmir is slated to open July 1 at 760 C St. SE.
A 500-Year-Old Tradition
Mahajan named the boutique Kashmir for the region of India where he was raised and where he sourced the hand-embroidered coats, jackets and shawls for which it is known.
It is a family business both on Capitol Hill and in India—Mahajan’s brothers live in the Kashmir Valley of India. They still work directly with the master weavers, seeking them out in their homes high in the Himalayan Mountains.
The craftsmen practice a tradition of hand-embroidery brought to the region from Persia more than 500 years ago and passed down from generation to generation., McCarty said. Patterns and techniques are closely-guarded secrets. “Hand-embroidery is really a dying art,” said McCarty. “They’ve started using machines, but it doesn’t have the depth —or the stories.”
Their work is of such high quality that Kashmir has sold pieces to museums and art galleries, including the Smithsonian Institution, the Textile Museum, the Boston Museum of Art and the Maryland Historical Society.
After five successful years at the weekend market, Kashmir made the move to seven-day a week retail in 2005, taking over a large kiosk in Union Station on the recommendation of other vendors who had taken the same step.
The shop was tremendously successful. It relocated several times within the station, each move taking them into larger spaces until Kashmir settled in their last and largest shop, located across from the New York train.
A Full Fashion Boutique
Expansion to a brick-and-mortar store allowed Kashmir to grow into a full women’s fashion boutique, adding lines of chic, modern and classic clothing designs, jewelry and accessories. “Each side of our business complements the other,” said McCarty, “mixing clothing, casual or dressy, with the exquisitely embroidered shawls and wraps for which we were known.”
Something unique was born. For many, Kashmir would be their first stop in the District. Customers would disembark from the train, walking through the shop to select a new outfit. Packing what they’d worn on the train, executives and politicians would emerge freshly wardrobed, many heading directly to meetings on Capitol Hill.
In March 2020, finding themselves in-between leases and unable to open due to restrictions on non-essential business, Kashmir hit the pause button on boutique operations —until they learned of the opportunity on the C Street Plaza.
The Eastern Market shop is actually smaller than the one that was at Union Station, meaning that offerings there will be even more intensely curated, McCarty said. There will be similar offerings, but fewer of them. The focus will be on garments over accessories: from the finely-embroidered coats and jackets they are known for, to stylish garments a woman can wear to a meeting, a date, girls’ night out or to look polished and ready for anything.
Kashmir has built personal relationships with clothing designers, having collaborated together for years. They work personally with the designers to bring in fashion that is, McCarty said, “edgy but classy, forward-looking but never trendy.”
Those familiar with Kashmir Union Station will be pleased to hear that Robyn Jackson will be coming to C Street as store manager. Jackson was a sought-after stylist at the Union Station location, with customers coming to ask when they could see her in particular. “She was honest, and she is good,” McCarty said, noting that some customers would seek Jackson’s help in choosing an entire seasonal wardrobe, confident it would not only actually look good on them —but that every piece would coordinate.
They’ll be ready to plan your autumn wardrobe and meet your summer needs.
Kashmir Eastern Market is slated to open July 1. Planned hours are Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Call 202-789-8880 or check out their website for updates: kashmirboutiques.com