Get An Insider's Tour Of D.C.'s Best New Bauble Boutique

McLean native Kyle Barber is a beading novice — she's only been at it for two years — but from the looks of her Georgetown shop, Duo, you’d never guess it. The newly opened boutique is adorned with sassy, personality-packed jewelry and clothing that feels like an extension of Barber herself.
After moving back to the area from Knoxville in September, the artsy entrepreneur left her pre-school teaching gig and picked up a pair of pliers and a box of beads. Setting up shop with her sister, Elizabeth (the other half of the dynamic duo), Kyle quickly filled the space with new and under-the-radar clothing brands, along with her wildly colorful, super-affordable collection of handmade jewelry that could energize any old white-tee-and-jeans outfit. Expect chunky neon necklaces, gotta-have-'em bangles, and jars stuffed with candy-colored finds perfect for playing dress-up.
Stepping into Duo feels half like you're visiting the best candy shop ever, and half like you're sneaking a peek at a really amazing walk-in closet: It’s a mix of whimsy and sophistication, just like Barber. To give you the real scoop, we spent some time with Barber to get the dish on her inspiration and snap plenty of crush-worthy pics. Click through for the full tour!
Where: Duo, 1624 Wisconsin Avenue NW; 202-652-0837.
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When did you open Duo?
"February 2011. I moved back here from Knoxville — where I went to school — in July, and then my sister and I started looking for spaces and learning about business. We were reading accounting books and really exciting things like that."

How did the store get its name?
"It’s a joint venture between my sister and myself. The name was actually 'Hippie Chic,' but when we found a space and it was next to Urban Chic, so had to change that name — otherwise it would’ve been chic street."

Photographed by Shira Karsen
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When did you start making jewelry?
"About two years ago. My roommate actually started making it and I thought, 'I can do that.' I’ve always been kind of crafty, and so when I started beading, people loved it. They were buying it off the streets, outside bars and restaurants in Knoxville. They were running to ATMs and giving me cash. That's when the reality of the store became something that we could do as opposed to just this dream we had. So, we just went from there. My sister is not crafty at all; she’s the opposite, actually. I’m the more artistic half and she is the business half, so we’ve got a well-rounded partnership."

Photographed by Shira Karsen
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What kind of customer do you have in mind when you’re buying for the store or making jewelry?
"A lot of the clothes are definitely things that my sister and I really like, so [they're] probably more our demo. The jewelry, though, appeals to everyone. It really depends on my mood. Sometimes I make very funky, bohemian stuff; sometimes I’ll make more classic stuff, but it all depends. I love making things that I’d like to wear, or pieces that feel missing from my wardrobe. So, if I want to make something for my grandmother I need to be like, 'Okay, think like your grandmother,' and then I look for inspiration from places she likes to shop."

Photographed by Shira Karsen
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How does it feel to make jewelry, possibly fall in love with it, and then sell it?
"Most of the time, it’s very humbling that someone wants to buy something that I’ve made. Sometimes, I’m a little upset to part with stuff — pieces I’ve made that day and really, really like and just haven’t seen enough of. [It] makes me feel like, 'Wait! Come back!' But for the most part, it’s exciting that I could potentially see someone wearing something I made."

Photographed by Shira Karsen
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Have you always wanted to open your own shop?
"Well, back in Knoxville, I was actually a pre-school teacher. So, not exactly, but we figured if we didn’t do it now, it’d never happen. And at some point, I plan to do rainy-day kids' activities and beading parties so I’m not totally cut off from kids, because that’s what I love."

Your jewelry is so youthful and fun! Has your love for kids been a source of inspiration?
"I definitely think that translates to my jewelry. I tend to gravitate toward unexpected combinations of colors, but I also try to do some black and gold and white pieces, so people who aren’t as adventurous can still wear something fun. I personally tend to like the more bohemian pieces that I make, but then again, I have days where I’m like 'okay, today I want to be a grown-up and wear heels and put on something very sleek.' It all depends on my mood."

Photographed by Shira Karsen
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What are some of your other design influences?
"That also so depends on my mood. I get inspiration from everywhere. I spend a lot of time looking at blogs and shopping sites. I really like Sincerely Jules, The Glamourai, and Atlantic-Pacific, but I haven’t found any local blogs yet, which I’m really looking for. Most are based in California and that’s not really helpful, since it’s not warm here. But sometimes, I’ll see someone walking down the street with a bright purse in a color I wouldn’t have expected, and I’ll snap a quick picture or jot something down. Oh, and Pinterest is the best invention in the entire world, because it organizes the photos for me."

Photographed by Shira Karsen
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What are your thoughts on D.C. style?
"In terms of style, everyone sees D.C. as very conservative, but the people who walk into my store are very interesting. And maybe that’s just because there aren’t enough smaller, independent boutiques offering unique pieces you can wear to work and also take with you to happy hour."

Photographed by Shira Karsen
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Do you think Duo brings something new to Georgetown?
"I think so. I’m actually making the pieces in here, so you can customize something and I’ll make it for you, same-day. You can make suggestions and I’ll do that — I’m very open to that kind of thing. I wanted to open a shop that you don’t find most places, where the jewelry is totally unique and the brands we’ve chosen are different and newer than well-established lines."

Why did you decide to do both clothing and jewelry?
"I don’t think I could make enough jewelry to sell in here myself. But also, it’s really fun to put together outfits and have everything in one place, for someone. If you want an outfit, you can come in here and get everything — besides shoes. You can go across the street for shoes… or go barefoot."

Photographed by Shira Karsen
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You obviously use a lot of beads, but what are some of your other favorite materials?
"I basically get all of my beads from a bead show that happens once or twice a year, and [it's] madness. Everyone is pushing to just grab the beads that they like, so once my beads are ordered, I’m usually like 'Wow, I didn’t know I picked that.' I also like to use a lot of repurposed or vintage materials, and one of the things I’d like to do soon is have people bring in the jewelry they never wear, or the broken pieces of other things, and I’ll make something out of them. I do that for my family and friends, and they love it."

Photographed by Shira Karsen
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Who are some designers you’d really like your customers to know about?
"The Addison Story is definitely my favorite in here. It’s a newer line — I’d never heard of it before I went to market. But the pieces are so incredibly cute and different — they focus on the special details. They make pieces that aren’t so trendy that the average person can’t wear them, but still have special details that really make them unique. Also, Clooney is Cynthia Steffe’s new line, and it’s really cute. It’s a little bit above our price point, so we don’t have any of the dresses, but we bought a couple of sweaters and tops just because we couldn’t resist. Nation LTD is [the only] T-shirt line we sell, and they are literally the softest tees in the world."

Photographed by Shira Karsen