Surrounded by Warm yellow walls and flirty pink hangers, owner April Renee greets shoppers at A. Renee Boutique (824 Chartres St., 504-418-1448; www.areneeboutique.com). The East Coast native moved to New Orleans after decades of consideration, opened her French Quarter boutique almost a year ago, and has attracted local and out-of-town customers. Renee says she chose every item in the store with attention to detail: the drape and stretch of fabrics, the height and comfort of stilettos.
Her apparel is not for the shy. She describes her sense of style as funky, edgy and proudly sexy, and her boutique as "a store for women, not girls." Renee retired from her career at an event management firm in New York, but says she is not ready to retire from her bold, feminine fashion sense.
"Now that we're in our 50s, all of a sudden we're supposed to be frumpy?" she says. "I'm into high heels ... and I'm into being sexy, and I know other women are [too]."
Graphic prints and colors feature prominently on apparel ranging from palazzo pants and off-the-shoulder tops to wrap dresses. Skirts display asymmetrical or fringed hemlines, while clingy, form-fitting frocks reveal skin, and shapewear smoothes curves. Statement handbags, such as an envelope-style clutch in a martini glass print with a 3-D olive on the flap, offer surprising pops of texture. Renee acknowledges her garments aren't traditional, but dismisses the idea that women's fashion should be conservative.
"My taste works, and people like it," she says.
Renee wants to make each customer feel attractive and excited about her own appearance. She offers personal advice and can order out-of-stock sizes and colors for most items.
Her favorite aspect of owning a boutique is the friendships she develops with customers, wholesalers and other shop owners.
"It gets to the point where you start to really get to know people ... and you really care about them," she says.