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The Shops at Canal Place

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The sun-brightened atrium and glass elevators at The Shops at Canal Place (333 Canal St., 504-522-9200; www.theshopsatcanalplace.com) create one of the city's most recognizable interiors. It's primarily a luxury shopping plaza, but the modernistic structure often acts as a venue for philanthropic functions, including annual benefits for the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and Children's Hospital.

  "We have local owners, and they felt a strong need to put Canal Place in the community," says Carla M. Adams, director of marketing for The Shops at Canal Place. "When reopening post-Katrina, before tourism really came back, we found that locals really did support us and shop here. ... [Nonprofit events are] our way to give back."

  Local architecture firm Perez constructed Canal Place in 1979 as part of an integrated hotel, office and retail space, with an eye toward high-end shopping. Adams says The Shops at Canal Place has stayed true to that vision, featuring retailers such as Coach, Michael Kors and BCBG Max Azria, with Saks Fifth Avenue anchoring the stores. But as fashion evolves, more accessible retailers including J. Crew and Banana Republic put down roots in the mall as part of an overall strategy to cater to local customers.

  While The Shops at Canal Place maintains an emphasis on premium brands, the diversification of its retailers reflects high-low trends and a general democratization of fashion through shows like Sex and the City and other media in the past two decades.

  "Fashion's become so much more expansive," Adams says. "You can find trends in any store. If you look at the past 20 years, Manolo Blahnik was not an everyday name. ... [Now] fashionistas don't shop exclusively at one store. They'll go to Saks and put their money into a good pair of shoes, but the rest of their outfit is from somewhere else."

  Between the 2011 revamping of the Theatres at Canal Place to include gourmet in-theater dining and the opening of a storefront for jeweler Tiffany & Co., scheduled for Wednesday, November 27, Canal Place is poised to become a tourist destination. Adams says the local success of stores like Tiffany and lululemon athletica helps put New Orleans on the map for other high-end businesses, driving the city's retail economy.

  In the coming weeks, Canal Place will celebrate the holidays. Complimentary wine and beer will accompany live music performances on Saturdays throughout the holiday season. The festivities kick off on Black Friday with an 8 a.m. opening time for shoppers, as well as coffee, mimosas, breakfast plates and sales at stores throughout the mall.

  Adams, who has worked in the marketing department at The Shops at Canal Place for 10 years, says she's looking forward to another cheerful celebration under a giant Christmas tree.

 "[Over the holidays] there's great energy here," she says. "It's a good, festive energy. ... Everybody's happy."

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