Fifteen years ago, Rhonda Findley dug a vintage dress out of her family's abandoned home in Little Rock, Ark. Sewn by her grandmother in 1952, the full-skirted dress elicits compliments from strangers nearly every time Findley wears it. "People stop me on the street," Findley says. "Somebody tried to buy it off me this Easter Sunday."
Recognizing a good thing when she saw it, she realized she could harness the dress's popularity to launch her own locally produced clothing line. Findley had pattern maker Amanda Stone create an exact copy of the dress. She found a facility in eastern New Orleans to produce the garment. "The whole purpose is to make it a New Orleans product," says Findley, who co-owns Fun Rock'n and Pop City Fun Rock'n. "I didn't want to go to China or L.A. There is a big push to keep production here."
The dress is the first garment on Findley's label To the Nines, its name an homage to New Orleans' 9th Ward, where Findley and Stone reside. Other designs — including a '60s-inspired wrap dress and a screenprinted skirt — are in the works. Findley says she is eager to become a part of New Orleans' burgeoning fashion scene and hopes to see it grow as more designers and production facilities take root. "New Orleans is so funky and creative," she says. "Making (clothes) here is great, but even having people designing here in New Orleans is great." — Wilkinson