By Kristi Guillory Reid
Gossypia – Old Town’s Most Eclectic Boutique
When I walked into Gossypia to chat with the owner, Amanda Lasker, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I found the name “Gossypia” a bit different for a store and didn’t know what the name meant or referred to. Was it a play on words having to do with “gossip?” What I found out was that the name “Gossypia” is Latin for “cotton” so she chose the name because she sold clothing with all natural fibers.
There is an interesting array of clothing, art and jewelry that I hadn’t seen anywhere else and in some circles, if you were to wear or buy these items, it would surely lead to good “gossip” for the purchaser. You would be the talk of the town.
Lasker has operated a business on Cameron Street in Old Town for at least forty years. She describes Gossypia as a source for these types of items: Latin American folk art, “arty clothing,” one of a kind jewelry.
During high school and college, Amanda spent a considerable amount of time living abroad. After college, she moved to New York and served as a guide at the United Nations. In terms of the Latin American influence, she said that she has lived and worked in the region. She lived in Mexico at various times and her family lived in Guatemala at one time.
Many of Gossypia’s wares are imported from Mexico and Central America. Clothing remains her biggest sellerHer items commemorating the Mexican holiday, the Day of the Dead, are also big sellers as well. Surprisingly, men are the largest purchasers of the Day of the Dead. I also spied a lot of items with Frida Kahlo’s image on them. Amanda referred to those items as “Frida Mania.” Many customers clamor for items with Kahlos’ image.
Aside from the art and clothing, Gossypia also carries an array of unique pieces of jewelry. She has turquoise jewelry by a designer called Federico. She also acquires a lot of her jewelry from Israel which is a growing center for artistic jewelry. She has a huge selection of earrings.
Locally, she is active in her community and raises money for local organizations. She has been active in fundraising campaigns for Alexandria INOVA Hospital and was part of an effort to raise money for the TWIG Pavilion at the hospital, which is sixteen-bed single patient unit.
Over her forty plus years in Old Town, Amanda has witnessed many changes come to Old Town. Like an old pro looking at the new kids on the block, Amanda looks back at her time in Old Town with a wistful eye toward the past and a hopeful eye toward the future. She recalled both the positive and negative changes in Old Town. She noted that there is increased congestion and possibly a loss of small town appeal that has occurred. But, she has also noticed that Old Town has gained a more cosmopolitan feeling and become more nationally known. To her, a key factor in Old Town’s success is if it can manage to keep its individualism.
She remarked that one of the best things about Old Town is the Torpedo Factory. As she put it, the Torpedo Factory is a complement to Gossypia as both businesses feature hand-made art work. Gossypia carries art that is made by hand usually by someone in another country and the Torpedo Factory has artisans in house. She said that a place such as the Torpedo Factory doesn’t exist anywhere else in the United States which is a plus for Old Town. She noted that the creation of the Torpedo Factory is a really unique idea and “one of the best things to happen in Old Town.”
Lasker is particularly impressed with what she terms as the “new blood,” a crop of new female entrepreneurs who have opened business in Old Town. She said that they are “injecting life” into the area and “livened up the town.” She is grateful for what these new entrepreneurs have done for Old Town.
Amanda Lasker is bringing Latin America to Old Town. You may leave with a paper mache doll from Mexico, a picture of Frida Kahlo, or a linen dress