If you’ve noticed an increase of fashionistas downtown this week, you are not alone. Closing out a successful inaugural year, NOLA Fashion Week set to ignite dialogue and establish New Orleans’ voice alongside fashion capitals such as New York, Miami, and Los Angeles. A series of educational workshops, social events and runway shows brought the local fashion industry together this week to showcase the creative energy and growth of New Orleans’ fashion scene.
As NOLA Fashion Week comes to a close this Saturday, local buyers, media and tastemakers will converge on the Ogden Museum of Southern Art for the Fall 2011 collection premier of six local designers. Saturday runway shows are closed to the public, so here’s a few of the participating local designers premiering their collections this weekend.
Kelli Cooper of Loretta Jane
Loretta Jane is a burgeoning ready-to-wear clothing line designed by Kelli Cooper. After graduating in 2002 from Middle Tennessee State University, Kelli went on to work for a local designer and a luxury fabric boutique. It was there that she broadened her knowledge of quality clothing construction as well as her love for beautiful textiles. A self proclaimed “fabric snob,” Kelli refuses to settle for anything less than the best when it comes to choosing the materials to create her designs.
The Loretta Jane customer embodies both a playful spirit and a sophisticated eye for fashion. Cooper strives to make Loretta Jane a name you can depend on for the perfect party dress or a fun and flirty top to go with your favorite pair of jeans. You can be sure that with the style and quality of a Loretta Jane piece it will be in your wardrobe for many years to come.
Amanda deLeon of Amanda deLeon
Amanda deLeon is a Louisiana native residing in New Orleans, LA. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, Amanda moved to the East Coast shortly after receiving her degree. After living in Wilmington for several years, Amanda relocated to Austin seeking a larger market, and has finally settled in New Orleans. Amanda is an avid surfer and draws inspiration for her clothing line from architecture, music and nature.
As a fashion designer, Amanda deLeon’s mission is to engineer clothing that breaks the boundaries of traditional beauty. Due to her architectural background, deLeon’s designs are structural in nature. Her pieces have precise detailing, but remain feminine and fun to wear. deLeon’s goal is to give women confidence in finding their own way to express their point of views about design, art and life.
Courtney Bourgeois Plauché of Coco Bourgeois
Courtney Bourgeois Plauché was born and raised in South Louisiana, just 30 miles outside of New Orleans. Growing up in an area rich in art and culture, Courtney was drawn to the arts at a very young age and began in painting, watercolor, and sculpture, but found her true love in designing and creating fashion.
Courtney Bourgeois Plauché obtained her B.S. degree in Fashion Design from Louisiana State University. She interned with the leading luxury brand Nordstrom and Texas top designer, Abi Ferrin. Courtney has also been creating custom designed garments for many occasions since 2004. She has designed for Utarian brand and some recognitions include Viewer’s Choice Design for Rock N Wear 2007 and President of Hemline and LSU en Vogue Fashion Show.
Courtney established her own line in Dallas, Texas, where she shares her heritage and love for the arts of New Orleans in her stylistic creations. She brings the true feeling of the elite ‘bourgeoisie’ into a modern day style fit for the fashion forward woman.
Isabel Varela of Varela + Brooks
Isabel Varela is originally from Southwest Louisiana with a mix of cultures from Panama and Honduras. Her love of fashion began at a very young age sifting through fashion magazines, browsing through her mother’s closet, and traveling the world. Her way of dressing was always an outlet for her individuality and artistic point of view.
She graduated from Louisiana State University with a B.S. in Apparel Design. She was granted the “Outstanding Student Award” for 2008 and was chosen as on of the top 6 students to be interviewed and featured in the statewide newspaper as a “designer to watch” Varela interned at the prestigious BCBGMAXAZRIA in Los Angeles as an assistant designer and also took a master class at the Miami International University through the Art of Fashion Foundation. There she was taught by Laurent Edmonds, first creative assistant to Martin Margiela, and Tony Delcampe, who is the director of the fashion department at La Cambre in Brussels. She also attended a Global Fashion Field Study in China and Hong Kong and was also chosen as one of 20 international students to attend the Ecole Duperré, Ecole Supérieure des Arts Appliqués in Paris, France for an intensive master class.
From 8 years in retail, to wardrobing for several movies, to producing several fashion shows, and to even being a semi-finalist for Project Runway Season 8, Isabel has developed into a well-rounded fashionista. Taking her artistic ability to the next level, she produced her womenswear line and debuted her Fall 2010 collection at the Pin Show on February 25, 2010, which is a platform for emerging designers to display their collections.
Jolie Bensen of Jolie + Elizabeth
Jolie Bensen, born and raised in New Orleans, graduated from Mount Carmel Academy, and went on to LSU where she was a member of Delta Gamma sorority. After graduating from LSU’s fashion program, she immersed herself in the NY and LA fashion design industries, beginning as an intern with Betsey Johnson, 3 years with BCBGMAXAZRIA and after a short stint with Alice + Olivia, eagerly returned to sweet home New Orleans to diversify her accomplishments in fashion.
As a stylist, she used her love of vintage fashions and architectural eye, inherited from her father, to the windows of Magazine Street and pages of Vogue España. As a designer, Jolie aspires to create fun, feminine yet functional dresses, a balance of sophisticated and spirited, while focusing on the importance of a good fit. Through her fascination with fashion, Jolie remains determined to take her experiences from different levels within the fashion industry and evolve them to help structure and invigorate a stronger path for the young and talented generation that will ensue.
View an Arts Council interview with Jolie Bensen and Sarah Elizabeth Dewey by clicking here.