Monday, July 28, 2008

Muleh Gets its Close Up: A Modern Minimalist Washington DC Boutique with upscale fashion and Charm

Text & Images, Casi Densmore-Koon
Edited by Vivian G. Kelly

After much anticipation, we attended a trunk show for Colombian jeweler designer, PAULA MENDOZA, at MULEH, DC’s trend setting boutique. Not only did we get to discuss Paula’s line of earthy, organic baubles, we had the opportunity to meet Muleh’s storeowner, Christopher Rieter.
When sitting down with CHRISTOPHER REITER, we would have never guessed he was a previous savvy vintage thrift store shopper or a Stock Broker in Asia; we have never met someone with such passion for what they do. Walking in Muleh feels as if you are being invited into a beautiful home and that you’re shopping in dear friend’s closet; the vibe is cozy and welcoming. The building has a lot of history, it was a car dealership in the fifties as well as the former home of The Black Cat, a well-known nightclub.
Muleh (Moo-Lay) means, "to come home" in Javanese. The store opened in 1999 and became a go-to destination for those shopping for modern Asian interiors. In 2004, women's fashions completed the lifestyle concept of Muleh.
The store concept: to weave design as well as style throughout your home and wardrobe.
As the crowd began to pour in, we were able to take some time with Christopher Reiter, who looked fabulous in a white button down shirt, jeans, and gray blazer.
LYRA MAG: Who is your dream customer?
CHRISTOPHER REITER: My dream customer by definition is someone who leaves in Wash DC but wakes up in the morning and thinks to dress as if they could be waking up in any city in the world.
LYRA MAG: What do you want us to know about Muleh?
C. REITER: A lot of what we sell isn’t available everywhere. It sounds cliché, but it’s really true. All of the materials I get directly from sources, from designers that I meet, that I shake hands with, that I get recommendations from. A lot of this stuff, in the home category, you don’t find anywhere else, and it goes somewhere else after it comes here. Although you see Philip Lim at Barneys – what we do differently, when we select a designer, we go really broad. For example, if you go into Barneys and see five styles of a big designer, do you really feel as if you’re getting your time’s worth – is it worth your time doing that? If you come here you will be rest assured to find a broad selection – a real representation of what a designer has to offer – that’s very important.
LYRA MAG: What can you say about the concept of your store?
C. REITER: The merchandising is true variety with one style, one size. It has an exposed, raw palette – let the merchandise be the color of the palette – it’s polished but it’s rough.
LYRA MAG: What designer should we look out for? A favorite?
C. REITER: Rozae Nichols - she is very international. She has a way of mixing modern with a global viewpoint that is very personally me. It fits multiple body types and still exudes this sophisticated sexy vibe, and she is consistent.

Christopher is really trying to cultivate the style barometer of the city, which he assured us is growing. Since having carried Philip Lim, when he was designing for development, Muleh is the only boutique to carry Vivienne Westwood’s Anglomnia. Christopher says, all you need is self-confidence, expression, and personal style. We can get behind that!

Flannery, who handles sales and media relations for Muleh gave us some advice on trends that will be fun for fall.

- Classic pieces like Autumn cashmere sweaters that are fabulous basics
- Mixing and intermixing designers & layering styles
Hottest items: One of a kind Phillip Lim Party dresses
PAULA MENDOZA JEWELRY: powerful AND feminine
Talking with the owner wasn't the only high point of the evening. We were finally able to catch up with the guest of the evening who’s been featured in Lucky Magazine and Radar -- Paula Mendoza. Her Gala necklace and Rocket ring are just two of her one of a kind statement pieces. She describes her 5-year old line as "very organic".
WHERE TO GET IT: In North America - Saks Jandel, Keith Leppert Gallery, Tabandah and Zipa Jewlery Anna Cerrintelli and Lisa Ho in Austrailia and New Zealand.
To read more about Muleh, visit the official website,
ENDNOTES: Muleh is a store worth frequenting, and one to watch in Washington, DC - worth the trip.