You already know New Orleans as a food and music destination, now expect to hear a lot more buzz about the Crescent City’s fashion scene. Last week we attended the seventh season of NOLA Fashion Week, a twice-annual event focused on Southern design. What stands out about this regional fashion week is the designers and producers commitment to keep things local. Not to mention how quickly the brands showcased are growing—a result, locals say, of the city’s inspiring landscape and collaborative spirit. Here, some of the folks that are fueling New Orleans’ homegrown style.
NOLA Fashion Week
Powered by designer, blogger, shop owner, and Andi Eaton, NOLAFW hosts runway shows and workshops in cool locations like repurposed churches, opera houses, and museums. Headliners this year included Project Runway alums Anthony Ryan and Matthew Arthur, as well as Alabama-bred Smith Sinrod of By Smith. “We want the Louisiana-based designers to stay here, and we’d love to see designers outside of this market consider relocating here as the garment industry grows,” she says. With her own label, Hazel & Florange, Andi pulls in local pattern makers, sewers, and illustrators to make every piece happen.
Ohio native Lisa Iacono first landed in New Orleans during college for an internship with couturier Suzanne Perron. In 2012 she opened NOLA Sewn, a factory that handles manufacturing for 35 fashion and accessories labels, including Limousine, a line of affordable gowns, which Lisa debuted with former mentor Suzanne this year. “We’ve experienced a great response to our presence here. Because of the great history of garment manufacturing in New Orleans, there are highly skilled sewers that live here and appreciate the work,” Lisa says.
We were first drawn to this accessories line for its brass ID bracelets etched with the city’s coordinates. Further digging reveals the regional pride runs even deeper in Ashley Porter’s line. Look for details like alligator skin—sourced from local landowners and tanned in Lafayette—as well as teeth and backbones Ashley finds in the Bayou and uses in bags and jewelry. The designer shows love to her city by donating part of the proceeds to the area’s land and culture preservation.
Design Lab NOLA
Inspired by the city’s flourishing design industry, Louisiana State University grad Kallen Forster developed this organization that trains under-served women in the area in apparel design, empowering them with practical skills and a sustainable source of income. Kallen also connects with similar initiatives around the world such as Toto Knits, hand-knit by women in Kenya. The recent runway show at NOLAFW showed off the program’s success in the form of wearable and on-trend pieces inspired by New Orleans’ religious iconography.
Bats on Tees
Launched last summer, Bats on Tees is a line of T-shirts, handbags and accessories fast on the rise. Owner, Tiffany Napper, takes steps from start to finish to reflect the city’s culture—from the leather bags that are cut and dyed in Tiffany’s backyard to the alligator drawings local artist Erica Lambertson sketched for a tee. “I owe the entire line to the city of New Orleans, where I found my voice as a woman and as an entrepreneur,” she says.