In early January Nola.com hosted a live chat about whether or not New Orleans is a good place for young people to begin a career and a life. The discussion, which prompted over 200 reader comments, originally began as a response to two opinion pieces on the subject, one of which was entitled “Why I chose to live in New Orleans,” by guest-writer Sally Hartman.
As a twenty-something laying down roots in this city, Hartman took the pro-Nola stance in this discussion, saying that it was the creative openness that first drew her to live here. “[New Orleans] has a longstanding tradition of welcoming artists, thinkers, and iconoclasts who set the precedent for creative risk taking,” she wrote.
So who are these artists and creative thinkers? And why have they chosen to live here? With these questions in mind, NolaVie will be running interviews that will profile the young artists who have been attracted to New Orleans and who help add to the creative authenticity of this city.
Name: Katie Schmidt
Hometown: Fresno, California
Occupation: Fashion Designer and Head of Operations at Passion Lilie
Katie Schmidt is the designer behind Passion Lilie, an ethical and affordable clothing line that imports all textiles from India. Her fabrics are all hand-painted with vegetable dyes by artists who are paid fair living wages. The philosophy behind Passion Lilie is centered around creating quality clothing that promos sustainable living overseas.
Katie, a California native, studied costume design at the University of California Irvine, before earning her Masters of Science in Luxury and Fashion Management at SKEMA Business School in Lille, France. Her designs combine vintage silhouettes with the lightweight fabric and organic designs of India. Her new line will be available to the public on March 1 and can be found online or at Green Serene on Magazine Street.
NolaVie: When did you first decide to pursue fashion design?
Katie Schmidt: I started sewing when I was, like, 8 years old. Then I studied drama and costume design at UC Irvine. After college I worked as a costume designer for a few different theaters in California.
NolaVie: What originally brought you to New Orleans?
KS: I first visited New Orleans to go to Jazz Fest. I had so much fun; it felt like a blur to me. I guess I wanted to return to see more of the city. I came back looking for a job and was lucky enough to find one [working at In Exchange, an ethical clothing store on Tulane’s campus].
NolaVie: What are the benefits of working in this city?
KS: This city is very welcoming to entrepreneurs. Starting a business is a scary thing, but, here, I’ve felt like there are a lot more resources — like The Idea Village, Propeller, and NOLA Fashion Week — that have created a nurturing and supportive environment for me. The New Orleans fashion industry is small but growing , and I’m excited to be a part of that growth.
NolaVie: What are the difficulties of working in new Orleans?
KS: If I was a designer that was sourcing fabrics locally, I might run into some problems and want to vein New York or L.A., but since I’m sourcing fabric from India, it’s not an issue for me. If anything, I’d like to see the fashion industry here continue to grow and stay united as a group that supports each other.
NolaVie: Where else can you imagine living?
KS: If I lived anywhere else, it would probably be San Francisco. It’s similar to new Orleans with its own quirky aspects, and, being from California, it could be nice to return to my roots.