PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
When I drop by Hemline (605 Metairie Road, Metairie, 504-309-8778, www.shophemline.com) one afternoon, the vibe doesn't feel like that of a formal boutique. Filled with customers analyzing their selections in full-length mirrors and sales associates grabbing garments, with chatter about upcoming parties and whether a pair of pants flatters one's butt, the shop reminds me of a group try-on session at the house of a friend who has an amazing closet.
"We joke a lot," says Lesley White, who has owned the Metairie location of the Hemline franchise since 2009. She pauses to say goodbye to a longtime customer, whom she knows by name. "Customers like that, we know them," White says. "We remember what top they bought three months ago, and the next time they come in, we can show them some new jeans that would go well with it."
White worked as a sales associate at another Hemline location before moving to luxury retail and advertising sales. When the Metairie Road location became available for purchase, she pounced on it.
"I was 25, and it was four days after my birthday," she says. "It was the scariest moment of my life. I put my savings up, took out a loan — it was do or die."
By freshening product lines, gearing selections toward casual styles and away from cocktail attire and bringing in garments appropriate for a wider span of ages, White made her Hemline store thrive. The selections range from dressy (Dolce Vita fur jackets, Nicole Miller sheaths, Hazel beaded tops) to casual (Free People tunics and dresses, Hudson jeans, Sofia silk tank dresses) to lingerie and accessories (Hanky Panky tap pants and matching bras, chunky jewelry, Seychelles suede flats with sequined cat faces and ears). Little black dresses with a twist abound — all have details like leather sequins, shirring or gold yokes.
White favors lines like Free People and Tracy Reese — unique garments that look good, wear well and radiate effortless style. Hemline also carries local designers, including Louisiana-themed jewelry by Lafayette designer Mary P. Lamb, and fashions by A. Gunk of Ocean Springs, Miss. "Your personality comes out in what you buy," White says, adding that many of the garments can take on a variety of looks, depending on how they're accessorized.
Events like Fashion Night Out and trunk shows help keep the atmosphere focused on fun. "People respond well to our events and the mood in general," White says. "Yesterday we had a woman come in and say, 'I came over here to get my nails done, but I got inspired by your window to redo my wardrobe.' She was on the phone canceling her nail appointment right then and there."