The fashions of yesteryear will be reimagined by tomorrow's designers during Dress Fete at Canal Place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7. Dress Fete is the culmination of the yearlong Style Board program in which Canal Place matched 25 Louisiana college students with fashion professionals and mentors in areas including design, marketing, public relations and merchandising for meetings and workshops throughout the year.
In honor of the city's tricentennial, Dress Fete celebrates 300 years of fashion in New Orleans. Fifteen of the students each were assigned a decade from the past 300 years and were asked to design a dress interpreting New Orleans fashion trends and attitudes of that time. During the event Friday, the dresses will be judged by fashion professionals in categories including Best of Show, Most Creative and Best Representation of New Orleans. The public will vote on a People's Choice Award. The fete also includes music from the 1800s, 1900s and today played by a harpist, violinist and electric keyboardists. The event is free and open to the public.
The dress designs will be on display through December on the second level of Canal Place.
It's the inaugural year for Style Board, which Canal Place General Manager Lisa Manzella says was started as a way to help students succeed in the fashion industry and expand the customer base for Canal Place.
"We wanted to pull together a group of students who … were interested in the fashion industry … and help them understand the process of the design environment and to teach them along the way," she says. "In return, we wanted them to help us promote Canal Place. It was a win-win.
"These students were given lots of great opportunities throughout the year to meet with great influencers. They got a well-rounded series of presentations from a great group of community leaders."
Canal Place also got the exposure it wanted. "These kids became so excited about the presentations we were offering them, every time they were on site for these gatherings they were on their social media accounts, Instagramming about Canal Place, Facebooking about Canal Place, tweeting about Canal Place," Manzella says. "It allowed us to reach that younger demographic.
"Just listening to them and what they became excited about and learning their interests helps Canal Place … understand that demographic, so they taught us and we taught them."
Applications for the 2019 Style Board class will be available to Louisiana college students early next year. Manzella suggests interested students monitor Canal Place's Facebook page for a call for applications.
The next class will have a final project, Manzella says, but it won't be the same as this year. "Our intention is to always have a final project and to always have it center around fashion," she says. "Because we had students who are majoring in fashion merchandising, communications and social media … we will have other opportunities for students to focus on the PR side of it or the marketing side of it. We will change things up a bit."
Style Board is one of several programs Canal Place has initiated to better connect with the community. It also has partnered with the Arts Council of New Orleans to create an artist-in-residency program that provides free studio space at the mall to artists for six to nine months and in exchange, the public gets to watch the artists at work. The first of those residencies began in November. Canal Place and the Arts Council also plan to hold open houses, art programs and free public performances, including a summer series featuring the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.