By Kathleen J. Whaley
For 20-somethings Jolie Bensen and Sarah Elizabeth Dewey, who met while working for fashion label BCBG in New York, a customary catch-up lunch of messy shrimp po’boys turned into a surprise planning session. Both exhausted by the trend-focused industry, the New Orleans natives found themselves envisioning a label of their own—one anchored in Southern values of inner strength and timeless appeal.
“We wanted to show a different kind of beauty,” explains Jolie. So working out of Jolie’s house on St. Charles, the pair began to shape their line with clean silhouettes and a wholehearted devotion to seersucker. They wanted their dresses to appeal to a range of ages and to suit all of life’s sweet moments, from bridal showers to church luncheons to picnics in the park. Feminine yet tasteful, sophisticated yet fresh, a Jolie & Elizabeth dress is exactly that.
The darling designers were also determined for their apparel to be 100 percent American made. They started production in Dallas until stumbling upon a local 25-year-old factory that still hadn’t recovered from Hurricane Katrina and faced closing. Jolie and Sarah jumped at the chance not only to have their entire business based out of the city they love but also to put a factory and its seamstresses back to work. “It’s really opened the door,” says Jolie, who checks in frequently, making tweaks or simply bringing cookies. “We know the hands that make our dresses,” she adds.
With new office and showroom space off of Magazine Street and a rapidly growing list of accolades, the young entrepreneurs are certainly embracing their role as rising Southern stars. “We’re constantly working, but it doesn’t really feel like work,” Sarah says. Jolie, who never tires of seeing a girl breeze by in one of their designs, agrees. “It’s our name. It’s what we love.”