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Biochemist by Day, Fashion Designer by Night: Spotlight on L-Shandi

Beltsville, Md.-based business is among 80 designers and boutiques represented at this year's Crystal Couture.

A Beltsville, Md., woman who is a biochemist by day and fashion designer by night is among 80 businesses represented at this year's Crystal Couture fashion show and sale.

Lara Akinsanya, who owns the online business L-Shandi, designs, creates and sews custom clothing and is promoting select pieces at the Crystal City event.

Her clothing will be on display from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, wrapping up a five-night exhibition at the annual Arlington fashion show. This year, it's on the 12th floor of 251 18th St.

Akinsanya typically has 500 pieces of clothing ready at any given time, and takes about 60 pieces with her to shows. She also makes a handful of custom creations each month.

“I know every single one of my designs,” Akinsanya told Patch. “For me, the fabric is really what drives me to design. Sometimes I see fabric, I see food items, colors in the environment, and at that point, I decide I’ll make a skirt from that. It’s very organic for me.”

Akinsanya sews her clothing in her basement at night, after working during the day for the Food and Drug Association and taking care of her 3-year-old son and daughter.

“Right now I only sell on my website and at shows,” Akinsanya said. “I would like to open a showroom so boutique owners and buyers can come and see my range and collection so they can order for their stores.”

Akinsanya said much of her clientele is in Georgetown, the U Street area of Washington and Old Town Alexandria. She said it was a dream of hers to have a Georgetown boutique carry her line.

Akinsanya moved to America from Nigeria in 1994 with her parents. Upon arriving to the states she found she wanted to continue to wear Nigerian-inspired clothing while still fitting in with American culture.

“I wanted to blend in at parties and look just different enough for people to take notice,” she said.

In 1995, she started to make her own brightly colored clothes. 

“(Designing clothing is) about emotion, it’s about how I’m feeling, it’s about fabric,” she stated. “I design as I feel and I don’t follow trends.”

Moreover, Akinsanya has a new goal. In the fall she will produce her second fashion show, Runway Moms for a Cause. The event will showcase L-Shandi designs with local moms as models. Some proceeds from the event will go to small nonprofits focusing on orphaned and disabled children.

Read more:

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