New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Milan… New Orleans is not the first city that comes to mind when it comes to high fashion. But recently, the local fashion scene has been exploding with both the introduction of NOLA Fashion Week and the crop of street style bloggers overtaking the Internet. Bloggers from New York and other major fashion hubs snap pictures of street fashion all over the world and post them online to inspire fashion junkies and trend watchers. New Orleans is slowly becoming a part of that community. And why not?
We have a very distinct flair for unusual costumes and getups, but there is also a market for the unique southern style we possess as well. Local brands that premiered at NOLA Fashion Week are popping up in Magazine Street boutiques and are helping our city to toe the line between completely wacky and avant-garde, and the city's own fashion mavens are making a statement to the rest of the world through the World Wide Web.
Andi Eaton has only been here for three years, but as the blogger behind Sweet Heart Social Club and one of the founders of NOLA Fashion Week, she has become an expert at juggling projects. She and her partner Nick Landry are the brains behind NOLA Fashion Week, a platform for local fashion buyers, sellers and designers that has exploded in the past year and a half. Her love for fashion started at a young age, when she began reading Vogue magazines. "When I was growing up in 1991, I began looking at Vogue magazines," Eaton says. "Now I have every single issue going back to 1999."
The blog Sweet Heart Social Club is a product of fashion week itself, when events brought together all of New Orleans' fashion bloggers, and they all got to know each other.
"It's totally a community," she says of the other bloggers, who also encouraged her to start her own blog in the first place. "It's not competitive at all, we're all great friends."
Her posts are less about her daily outfits and more about lifestyle and local happenings that inspire fashion in her life. "My blog is about who I am and what I love about the city," Eaton says about her Tumblr. "It's just about finding inspiration wherever you are. In New Orleans, you walk down the street and everyone looks fun and amazing. When I moved here, I felt like this was home."
This is what really separates this crop of New Orleans-style bloggers from others all over the country - the unifying love of the Big Easy and how it influences everything from what we eat to how we dress.
Juley Le of Swank Heights blogs about eating and dressing, as an explorer of New Orleans who writes about her culinary experiences while wearing long pleated skirts and Prada bags. After discovering style blogs in college, she decided there was room for a Southern voice in the fashion blogosphere. "I think New Orleans sets its own fashion statement and has a natural sense of swagger," Le says. "We don't take things too seriously and are still in the experimental stages of defining ourselves."
Although bloggers in bigger cities like San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles have had bigger full-time career opportunities, like book deals and endorsements, Le admits that she has had some fun opportunities open up to her. "I won a trip to New York with Armani Exchange and have established partnership deals with several national and local brands," she says. She gets the most excited about using her blog to support local businesses though, like her most recent project, a T-shirt design for Tiny Buffalo T-shirt Company on Oak Street.
Think Twice Style was started when Sarah Barnett fell in love with international fashion blogs but couldn't find any here. "The blogging community here is scarce," she says of the niche. "Because it's so small, it makes it that much better when you meet other bloggers." Barnett blogs from Baton Rouge and provides readers with a southern college town take on fashion that you don't quite get in the crazy carnival madness of New Orleans. But while Ralph Lauren and sorority T-shirts can be great, Barnett also feels it is sometimes muffling. "It's difficult to wear certain items here because people simply don't understand it," she says.
Through her blog, she has been encouraged to express her personal style a bit more in a big-city way. "I always choose my outfit according to my mood," she says of her daily style choices. "I don't like to be the same person two days in a row." She draws from the '50s, '60s, and '70s, and if all else fails, she asks herself what one of her style icons Barbra Streisand would wear. Barnett wants everyone to take fashion risks, and truly believes the scene is growing here in the South. "I think Louisiana is on its way to making a big mark on the fashion world."