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Wearing art: Stick to your style roots

Benjamin Azevedo sources fine silks from all over the world for his made-in-Louisiana bow ties.

A bowtie isn’t always just a bowtie. Benjamin Azevedo travels the world to source fine silks in a dizzying variety of patterns and weaves. Then he brings it all back to New Orleans and custom-sizes the tie to fit your neck.

At some point in the process, Azevedo’s product changes from an accessory into a work of art. In the end, it’s a bowtie any good Southern artist – maybe Tennessee Williams or Andre 3000 – could wear with pride.

Stylist Christy Lorio wants art lovers to focus on their wardrobes, not just their walls. She brought Azevedo and three other local artists together for the show “Objects of Adornment”  in order to demonstrate the value of wearable pieces.

“If you’re interested in art, it doesn’t really have to be a painting,” she says, standing next to a series of women’s hats by KC Thomassie Designs. Lorio bends down to touch the hand-stitched beads on the hem of a rosette on a flapper-style head band.  “It’s not just something that you whip out and throw on. There’s a whole process that goes into it.”

In addition to Azevedo and Thomassie, the show – which goes through the end of October at Jean-Paul Villere’s Du Mois Gallery on Freret – also showcases the swamp-inspired statement necklaces of Lacey DU and the fantastical Hair Dresses of Alicia Zenobia.

And yes, that’s Hair Dresses. Originally created for Zenobia’s Rhode Island School of Design BFA thesis, the dresses have transformed Du Mois’ back room into a solemn meeting of Stone Age matriarchs.

Lacey DU creates guilt-free accessories with fur from the nutria, a harmful, non-native species.

One piece, titled Strapless Fawn, uses hair extensions ranging from cream to burnt sienna. Hair spills out in a zigzagged form at the bust line and pools gently at the mannequin’s foot. It would have been the perfect dress for Karen O to accept a Grammy for the soundtrack to Where the Wild Things Are.

Zenobia started out as a sculptor, but the transition to designer came naturally, she says, because both are three-dimensional art forms. As a bonus, she’s found a wider audience with clothes. She recently showed a collection of ’60s-inspired dresses and jackets at the Eiffel Society, and on November 11 she’ll collaborate with NolaVie with a fashion showcase at Studio 3 in Mid-City on 11.11.11 (stay tuned for more info on that one). Zenobia will show three sets of designs, including an “astral dance party” on the stage, where 10 models will be “dressed in holographic body suits and just boogying.”

“I’ve found that wearable stuff in general can get out there more easily,” Zenobia says, adding, “It’s a very small audience when you show in a gallery.”

So what brings Hair Dresses and bow ties together? A stylist with an eye for detail, history and whimsy.

All of the artists in “Objects of Adornment” had previously been featured on Lorio’s blog Slow Southern Style. As a freelance writer, fashion consultant, blogger and retail manager, she is developing her voice and showcasing regional designers on several platforms. Her philosophy is all about having a style compass pointed toward home, a willingness to be fantastic, and a strong appreciation for craft.

“It’s kind of like the slow food movement,” she says. “It’s slow fashion.”

Lorio credits the broader Heritage Movement in America for elevating Southern fashion to national relevance. She points to designers such as Louisiana-born Billy Reid, who has won honors from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

“It seems like for a long time nobody has been talking about the South,” she says, adding, “We aren’t New York, and that’s part of the charm for me.”

American heritage fashion is often described as a throwback to country life and hunting, or as a reaction to our modern throw-away culture. The trend encompasses classic styles and long-lasting products, as well as outfits that combine prep with utility. Think well-tailored chambray shirts with a pair of duck boots built to last 20 years.

“It’s almost like we’re so far behind we’re ahead, because now you’re seeing all this stuff being showcased in GQ,” Lorio says.

Christy Lorio curated the collection of wearable art with Jean-Paul Villere at Du Mois Gallery.

But the difference between that broader trend and the pieces in “Objects of Adornment” is that Lorio’s selections literally tell a story, rather than simply implying it.

A fascinator crafted by Thomassie is an investment in the time she took to hand-curl the feathers. DU’s necklaces come loaded with a narrative of Louisiana’s lost tribes and invasive species. And when you order a bowtie from Azevedo, you’re also receiving the journey that the silk made from a centuries-old factory in London to his workspace in New Orleans.

Molly Davis writes about New Orleans for NolaVie. Catch her tweets about Southern art and politics at


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