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Head-turning Business 

A year ago, when artist T.Q. Sims and a friend decided to open a Magazine Street clothing store, they did so with the intention of providing both a venue for local artists and a fresh shopping alternative for the young and hip -- particularly those who like to update their wardrobes frequently but don't want to pay top dollar. The result is Turncoats Clothing + Art (1926 Magazine St., 299-9004), a meticulously organized "clothing exchange" that offers new, used, vintage, and reconstructed clothing for men and women as well as art exhibits that feature local artists working in a variety of mediums.

After moving to New Orleans in 1997 from his native Mississippi, Sims spent five years working for a large, national retail chain, but grew bored with the kind of status quo fashion being churned out in malls across the country. A part-time media arts student and avid traveler, he found the antidote in vintage clothes and the kinds of boutiques found in shopping areas such as New York's SoHo, San Francisco's Haight Ashbury, and L.A.'s Melrose Avenue, and in the iconoclastic street fashions worn by youth in countries like Japan.

"There are so many great shopping districts in other cities," says Sims. "We wanted to set ourselves apart and bring what we love about those places to New Orleans."

By working with fledgling designers and by both buying and selling secondhand and vintage pieces, the store manages to capture the attitude of those shopping destinations without the hefty price tags. Turncoats does not take garments on consignment, nor does it take anything that's not clean or relevant to its youthful point of view. Instead, the store buys pristine pieces for cash -- 35 percent of what they'll sell it for, or store credit --50 percent of the determined sales price. Among the secondhand and vintage items are jeans, leather jackets, military jackets, coats, pants, skirts, dresses and T-shirts. Aside from the leather goods, most of the secondhand pieces are priced under $20.

"Because we trade goods, we're able to turn things around really fast," says Sims. "Each week we have a lot of new things." Truly new -- as in never owned and worn -- merchandise such as denim blazers by Industrie, rock band T-shirts by Sourpuss, and jeans by Ben Ryan, are designated by tags that say "New Threads" and picture the store's mascot, Sims' 1-year-old English bulldog named Lizzie. Turncoats' one-of-a-kind, reconstructed pieces are all produced by local designers. Current inventory includes Tracey Nielsen's skirts and dresses made from brightly patterned sheets and pillowcases, local high school student Savannah Strachan's jacket made from a pair of camouflage pants, Sims' asymmetrical camouflage skirt, and Jac Currie's T-shirts, which juxtapose images and iron-on slogans.

"The reconstructed pieces involve taking an old thrift store item and doing something as simple as ironing on letters or (as complex as) completely breaking it down and turning it into something new so it's special to the person who buys it," says Sims.

Turncoats also sells secondhand shoes and a selection of accessories ranging from used athletic caps and snap-on bracelets made from shirt cuffs to sterling silver and beaded jewelry made by local designers. In-store events have even provided opportunities for musical artists like DJs and bands and its art exhibits, which change bimonthly, have provided visual artists a forum for everything from photography and digital art to video installations.

"We're looking for things with an edge," says Sims. "We want people to recognize our style but still be blown away by everything we're doing."

Corporate Conscience

Neill Corporation, the world's largest distributor of Aveda lifestyle products and owner of Paris Parker Salon Spas, has hired a director of environmental policy to further the Hammond-based company's goal of global and ecological harmony.

In the new position, Tatum Neill's focus will be on advising the Neill Corporation about making environmentally responsible business decisions and, he hopes, will encourage other businesses to do so as well. So far Neill, son of the corporation's CEO Edwin Neill, is initiating a companywide recycling program and finding alternatives to vinyl promotional products. He also is coordinating a program that will collect Christmas trees to help save the state's wetlands. -- Kandace Power Graves

Edifying Interaction

Businesses and future employees will have a chance to meet and discuss their mutual goals at The Business Expo next month at Dillard University's student center (2601 Gentilly Blvd., 669-3396). At the expo, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 21, 2004, businesses are invited to set up booths and discuss with area college students their company's objectives, goals and missions. At the same time, students from Dillard and other schools can talk with potential employers about career opportunities as well as receiving professional advice. There also will be workshops focusing on networking skills and marketing.

Booths at the expo, sponsored by Phi Gamma Nu Professional Business Fraternity at Dillard, start at $50 and must be reserved by Jan. 9. Call 669-3396 for more information. -- Graves

click to enlarge T.Q Sims opened Turncoats to provide New Orleans - customers with hip, affordable clothing and local - artwork.
  • T.Q Sims opened Turncoats to provide New Orleans customers with hip, affordable clothing and local artwork.
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