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When Traci Landry opened Lola Boutique (622 S. Carrollton Ave., 301-9410) last November with Tiffany Treadaway, she knew their combined business acumen would put the shop in good stead. The longtime friends and business partners already operated two successful stores — Bella Lucca in Slidell and Mode in Covington — but they sought a third collaborator to elevate the store's aesthetic. Florida transplant Jess Leigh fit the bill and became the store's buyer. "We knew we wanted her on board," Landry says. "She's the one to push the envelope."

  A proclivity toward more avant-garde pieces sets Lola Boutique apart, and Landry finds New Orleans shoppers more receptive to quirky fashions than her Northshore customers. The boutique's Riverbend location is a plus for Leigh, who enjoys being removed from the hustle of more concentrated shopping districts.

  "We're close to our Uptown clients and university women," she says. "People will see us changing the mannequins while they're in the neighborhood having lunch, and wander through (the store)." In addition to clothes, the store carries a selection of gifts like fragrant candles and the tobacco-, gin- and rosewater-scented Tokyo Milk perfumes, but Leigh says jewelry and accessories are the shop's best-sellers.

  To keep merchandise current, Leigh approaches each season's market shows armed with information from women's style magazines, which she pores for "overarching colors, shapes and influences" rather than specific trends. For summer, she's noticed a strong presence of menswear-inspired clothing, an ongoing emphasis on the gladiator sandal and what she terms "anything-goes fashion: pulling off wearing what you like by wearing it with confidence." Her instincts are often right on point. Rifling through a clothing rack, she points to a top featured in pop star Avril Lavigne's most recent music video and notes the vintage-inspired T-shirts Leigh ordered for Fashion Week New Orleans have almost sold out.

  Landry appreciates Leigh's edgy outlook because it allows Lola Boutique to cater to a wider spectrum of tastes. "It's a generational difference," Landry says. "We'll carry a dress that we'll both wear — but it's a question of how and with what we'd wear it. We bring more than one perspective." Leigh cites one customer as the best exemplification of the boutique's diverse appeal: "She comes by almost every day to shop, and she's always talking about how her daughters are stealing her new stuff."

Garments, accessories and gifts are available at Lola Boutique's Riverbend location.

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