New Orleans Style for Men & Women:
Fashion Week New Orleans
Tracee Dundas and Chet Pourciau
Occupationally and otherwise, Tracee Dundas is fashion-oriented—an unlikely career path for a “Creole country girl” raised with three brothers in St. Martinsville, Louisiana. While her first consideration of the fashion industry had to do with being “tall, skinny, and [with] people telling me I should model,” her inspiration to create Fashion Week New Orleans was more deliberate. She moved to the city fifteen years ago, involving herself with the local fashion scene and picking up a gig as fashion editor for New Orleans Magazine, a position she’s held for more than ten years.
Dundas watched as Hurricane Katrina smote the city, and as the city recovered, she saw the stylish side of New Orleans seep away: Even the local department stores stopped hosting large-scale fashion shows after Katrina. “We lost a sense of appreciation for the fun of dressing stylish or being over the top,” she says. So, using her degree in fashion design and merchandising from the University of Southwest Louisiana, she researched fashion events for two years in other cities with the intensity of a scholar, ultimately devising an event tailored for New Orleans.
The city couldn’t produce fashion weeks like New York, Milan, Paris, London, or even Atlanta, says Dundas; these established events are primarily geared to buyers, media, and celebrities, while Dundas craved the involvement of the general public. “I knew that strategically an event like this couldn’t survive on just fashion designers. It had to have a retail component.”
The event, then, sought to provide designers a platform to show their collections as it connected them to potential buyers. After the inaugural Fashion Week New Orleans, Dundas’s staff surveyed participating designers and found that forty percent experienced an increase in sales to stores that carried their designs. And interest didn’t stop there: Dundas was flooded with inquiries about the Fashion Week New Orleans designers, including one from the casting director of Project Runway. Several designers auditioned, and Anthony Ryan Auld, of Baton Rouge, became a season-nine cast member.
Dundas also scouts for a local talent agency and works as a costume designer on movie sets. Somehow, she has found the time to turn fashion week into a year-round celebration, strengthening the brand with public events that also give back to the community. And while Fashion Week New Orleans’ name is very nearly twinned in NOLA Fashion Week’s—an organization founded by Andi Eaton and Nick Landry—the two groups are friends, not rivals. “Both events have been successful,” Dundas says. “We’ve created a buzz, and people are excited about fashion.”
Scenes from Fashion Week New Orleans 2012
Scenes from Fashion Week New Orleans 2011