Passion Lilie (3207 Burgundy St., 504-408-1279), a Fair Trade, eco-friendly women's clothing and accessory line designed in New Orleans by owner Katie Schmidt, celebrated the grand opening of its Bywater storefront this month. It replaces Bon Castor, a gift shop which occupied the retail space from 2012 through spring 2016.
Prior to opening the storefront, Schmidt sold her eco-friendly cotton garments at art markets, festivals and more than 50 stores throughout the U.S. "We had a small workshop in the back of a store but needed more room for design and inventory space," Schmidt says. "This opportunity came up in Bywater, and it was perfect."
[jump] Schmidt is a California native and former costume designer who moved to New Orleans in 2012. She has a masters degree in luxury and fashion management from SKEMA Business School in France, where she wrote a thesis on a Fair Trade business. From 2011 to 2013, she worked at a Fair Trade shop called IN Exchange, "I love New Orleans and was lucky to find a job here working for IN Exchange, and that pushed me further into the Fair Trade movement," she says. "When I left, that was the jumping off point of starting my own business."
Fair Trade businesses pay employees a fair wage - enough to advance their society and enable them to pay their bills, Schmidt says - while making products that don't compromise the environment. In Schmidt's case, that means eco-friendly vegetable dyes, handwoven organic cotton and hand-blocked prints. Schmidt designs the garments, patterns and prototypes in New Orleans, and the products are weaved, stitched and produced by about 50 workers in India. Most Passion Lilie garments cost around $29 to $82, which is less expensive than many Fair Trade brands.
"I wanted to purchase ethical garments, and a lot of them were $100 and more," Schmidt says. "As I got into the production, I realized it wasn't necessary to charge so much money. It is a challenge to make it affordable and keep the quality and design, but I want people to be able to participate in ethical fashion."