When fashion maven Tracee Dundas heads out, she rarely leaves behind one favorite accessory: Custo, her 10-year-old Maltese. "The moment I pick up my bag or he hears the jingle of my keys, he perks up ... and he's ready to go with me," Dundas says.
Dundas is the founder and creative director of Fashion Week New Orleans (FWNOLA), which she introduced in 2011. After Hurricane Katrina, Dundas found herself brainstorming new projects. Her extensive fashion background led to the idea of putting on a fashion week. "I saw there were regional-sized fashion weeks happening in different parts of the country," Dundas says. "And I was like, 'You know what, we've got a lot of good designers and retailers.'"
With FWNOLA (www.fashionweeknola.com), Dundas aims to bring together Gulf Coast designers and boutiques to enrich and showcase the region's fashion industry. By including both new and established designers and retailers, FWNOLA creates a network for collaboration. "We're hoping to create a new synergy and a rapport between the two," she says.
When she is not spearheading FWNOLA, Dundas keeps busy with other fashion-related endeavors. She is fashion editor for New Orleans Magazine, a freelance stylist and has a weekly fashion segment on WVUE-TV. She can be found working on projects ranging from boutique styling or photo shoots to costumes on a movie set. Custo is often right beside her, taking in all the action.
"If I'm working a photo shoot and I know it's going to be a long day, I'll bring him along," Dundas says.
Custo also enjoys conferences Dundas conducts from her home office. "He'll kind of bark and let me know, 'Listen, I need to get my opinion about this situation or about these fashions,'" Dundas says. Although Custo is not a prissy dog (he's known to roll in crawfish shells), Dundas says he enjoys fashion industry perks.
"He insists on getting a wipe down and spritz with his doggy perfume after being walked," Dundas says of Custo, who was named after Spanish fashion label Custo Barcelona. He also loves to give "air kisses" by licking the air in front of peoples' faces.
In his downtime, Custo enjoys watching New Orleans Saints games, barking along with the "Who Dat!" chant. After the Saints won the Super Bowl, "Who Dat!" could be heard all around the city. Dundas and friends joined in on the chant from her porch, and Custo responded.
"Next, thing you know I've got him barking," Dundas says. "When I say 'Who Dat' in a chant, he will typically bark."
Although FWNOLA happens annually in March, Dundas produces smaller fashion events throughout the year, including Strut + Swim poolside fashion shows at W Hotel's rooftop pool on Poydras Street. The last of these free shows takes place at 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25. It's all part of Dundas' efforts to grow the local fashion industry and keep it exciting.
"We've created something that's going to have our own New Orleans flavor to it," Dundas says. "The city has embraced it. Our fashion world has embraced it."
my favorite things ...
• Chicken jerky
• Air kisses
• Barking "Who Dat!"
• Doggy perfume
• Rolling on crawfish shells