The Shopkeeper Stories series shares the vision and personality of New Orleans business owners. Locally owned businesses infuse New Orleans neighborhoods with their unique character, and are a big part of why we want to live, work, eat, and shop here. While drainage system improvements and road construction make “shopping local” a bit more challenging in the short term, the critical improvements mean our city will be safer and stronger for generations to come. We hope you are inspired and continue to shop small and shop local—even if it takes a little extra time!
The Shopkeeper Stories are brought to you by StayLocal, the Greater New Orleans independent business alliance, in partnership with Uptown Messenger. This series runs every first and third Tuesday of the month.
Featured Business Owner
What ignited the spark in you to start your business?
I grew up in New Orleans but lived in San Francisco for a while working in design and merchandising at Gap’s corporate headquarters. After Katrina, I decided to come home and help out. Those few months turned into much longer, and I ended up quitting my job out west and moving home. At that point I was trying to figure out how to do something good for the city—I went to local grocery stores and bought from local shops trying to help our businesses come back.
The following summer, I took a trip to the East Coast and saw many companies had these beautiful, iconic New England motif prints—sail flags, golf clubs, lighthouses. The only thing similar I could think of in New Orleans was the Perlis crawfish. There are so many iconic images in our city and I knew something similar could work here.
I started NOLA Couture in 2006. My friends helped with the graphic design, I found a tie manufacture, and used my savings to produce our first line of 10 ties that we pre-sold to Perlis and Feet First. The “spark” was wanting to do something fun for New Orleans that was memorable for people who had left and was a way to celebrate the city.
Since you started with ties, what led you to wanting to expand into different clothing markets?
Our customers! Always listen to what your customers want because they are the ones buying your product. From the beginning, I learned at Gap, you always listen to your customers. Even though I worked at Gap’s corporate office we would still go to the stores to talk to the customers and the managers.
NOLA Couture went from adult ties to kids ties to bow ties. Then we did ribbon items for belts and people started asking for dog collars. Our female customers kept asking for women’s apparel so we started with scarves and now have a whole clothing line. Our expansion has been very organic.
With adding so many different lines and pieces, what do you find is most helpful in keeping your brand consistent?
Always keeping it New Orleans inspired. Our pieces are vibrant and fun, and there is definitely a preppy aspect to it. We know our customers and keep them at the center of our designs.