May 30, 2002 - Washington Post: Namibia RPCV Toddre Monier opens Wild Women Wear Red shoe boutique in Washington DC

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 05 May 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: May 30, 2002 - Washington Post: Namibia RPCV Toddre Monier opens Wild Women Wear Red shoe boutique in Washington DC

By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, May 30, 2002 - 2:35 pm: Edit Post

Namibia RPCV Toddre Monier opens Wild Women Wear Red shoe boutique in Washington DC

Read and comment on this story from the Washington Post on Namibia RPCV Toddre Monier and the fashion shoe store she recently opened at:

Something Wild on U Street *

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Something Wild on U Street

By Patricia Dane Rogers Washington Post Staff Writer Thursday, May 30, 2002; Page H01

There's nothing timid about the Wild Women Wear Red shoe boutique, the latest arrival to the vibrant retail scene springing to life along the U Street corridor in Northwest Washington.

Tucked into a neighborhood of gray stone rowhouses, the shop declares its individuality with a scarlet gate, a glossy red door and a flame-licked fuchsia loop of billboard lights illuminating the display of equally colorful shoes in the window: strappy espadrilles, rhinestone-encrusted sandals and floppy mules as yellow as buttercups.

Things are just as brave inside: Walls blaze in shades of orange, pink and lilac. Shoes pose on curvy frosted glass and steel shelves, near towering trapezoidal mirrors in hand-forged frames. Red velvet curtains, feminist posters, drifts of feathers and silk rose petals sprinkle color around the space. And that's not even counting the shoes: A bright red sandal perched in a bird cage is the same shade as the sales counter.

"I didn't want drab," said co-owner Toddre Monier, 28, whose husband and business partner, Bill Johnson, 33, designed the shop. "I wanted a striking environment, more New York than D.C. . . . If I'd had my way, I'd have bright red and purple walls."

In the end, Johnson talked her into a somewhat more subdued -- but by no means shy -- palette of "Barcelona" orange, "Desert Edge" rose and "Violet Villa" lavender (all colors from Duron). "Toddre," he said, "people don't want to look at too much strong color when they're shopping."

Johnson, however, is not exactly a voice of conservatism. A decorator and furniture maker, he designed and crafted all the furnishings in the shop, right down to the curtains and curtain rods. This includes the purple synthetic suede bench with red and yellow leather polka dots and wrought-iron legs going every which way -- sort of a postmodern take on a ladybug.

When it all came together, the shop, which opened in mid-April, proved a perfect showcase for the sassy shoes and clothing the couple sells, as well as their considerable combined talents: her business savvy, his design expertise.

U Street seemed fated to be part of their future. The couple met there, just a few doors up from their new venture at No. 1512. A recent graduate of the University of Denver Law School, Monier had been studying for the D.C. Bar exam and decided to take a break. She emerged from the vintage clothing store Meeps & Aunt Neensie's just in time to run into Johnson delivering sculpture stands of his own making to Zawadi, a nearby African arts emporium.

Their next meeting, months later, was at another U Street institution, Ben's Chili Bowl. By then, however, Monier was about to head off for an assignment as a Peace Corps volunteer in Namibia.

It was during her time in Africa that she decided her career trajectory would entail opening a shoe shop. "I vowed to myself I'd never work at any job I didn't love, and that I'd never wear uncomfortable shoes again," she said. That was two years ago. That very night, she dreamed she had opened a store in the District. She knew exactly what she wanted to sell, she says, and even what she wanted to call it. The shop's name was inspired by the Clarissa Pinkola Estes bestseller inviting women to unleash their creativity: "Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman as Archetype."

"I had it with me in Africa," Monier said. "A friend had given me the book on tape."

When her two-year Peace Corps commitment was cut short by war in Angola, she returned to Washington and married Johnson. She also went to work for a nonprofit and began developing the concept for a store that would sell "functional, funky footwear for women."

The most important thing "was to do market research and come up with a business plan," she said. They hired a financial adviser and started rounding up vendors.

The couple rented the grungy ground floor of a former locksmith shop, just a few doors down from the spot where they'd met. "The store had to be on U Street. Everything is happening there. You can feel the winds of change," said Johnson.

If Monier had the business savvy to make the store work, Johnson had the artistic know-how to make it memorable. A graduate of Marymount's interior design program, he's also a professional blacksmith. "I can create furniture, and I can create an entire environment for it," he says. He launched the Bill Johnson Studio in '95, showed his distinctive hand-forged creations at the prestigious International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York the next year and won kudos from Essence, USA Today and The Washington Post. Today, his clientele includes home furnishings stores and collectors of art furniture. "He does lots of unique, custom metal work for us, wall-mounted shelving in brushed steel or metal ottomans you won't see anywhere else," said Janice Kanter, the buyer and lead designer for Theodore's, a contemporary furniture store in Upper Georgetown.

The same sure hand can be seen at Wild Women Wear Red, where Johnson's furniture is for sale along with the shoes and caps and pocketbooks crocheted by his wife. But neither will own up to the sign that goes up in the window during off-hours: "Sorry, we're closed," it reads. "Your shoe experience will have to wait."

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