Meeting of the makers

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From left: Kathi Keppel, owner and designer of DVRA, and Patti Dunn, owner and designer of Tchoup Industries, in their shared storefront. - MISSY WILKINSON
  • MISSY WILKINSON
  • From left: Kathi Keppel, owner and designer of DVRA, and Patti Dunn, owner and designer of Tchoup Industries, in their shared storefront.

On a sunny Thursday afternoon, customers drift in and out of a weathered 19th-century space, chatting over a sewing machine's occasional staccato whir. Three businesses occupy the petite storefront's 690 square feet: local bag companies DVRA and Tchoup Industries, plus record label Disko Obscura.

"We share the responsibility and rent. I couldn't have done it myself," says Patti Dunn, owner and designer of Tchoup Industries.

Prior to opening the joint venture at 1113B St. Mary St., Dunn shared a French Quarter space with Kathi Keppel, owner and designer of DVRA. Her business was online only at the time, but Dunn dreamed of opening a brick-and-mortar shop. Keppel's husband Joey Buttons also wanted a physical home for the record label he founded in 2009. When the St. Mary Street address became available, the three "jumped on it," Dunn says. 

"Sharing the space takes a lot of pressure off, which I think is necessary if you want to take creative risks," Keppel says.

"And it is cool having Joey's records in here, because it brings in a whole different crowd and is great cross-promotion," Dunn adds.

Disko Obscura owner Joey Buttons sells records in the space. - MISSY WILKINSON
  • MISSY WILKINSON
  • Disko Obscura owner Joey Buttons sells records in the space.

The shop also houses a production area with sewing machines and a cutting table, where Tchoup Industries bags are made. Keppel designs DVRA bags and cuts out the fabric in the shop, and the manufacturing is done on the Westbank.

"It is very rare these days to know where things are manufactured," Dunn says. "A lot of people are inspired to buy our bags because they're able to talk to the people who make them. They feel good about supporting the community here."

"We had a customer who came in, talked to the sewer and placed a custom order right there," Keppel says.

Tchoup Industries and DVRA bags are made on site. - MISSY WILKINSON
  • MISSY WILKINSON
  • Tchoup Industries and DVRA bags are made on site.

Keppel makes DVRA's bags from all-natural US materials, including cotton and linen. The bags' simple shapes make them versatile enough to serve as makeup bags or clutches. A native of Germany, Keppel designs the prints from photos she takes, mostly of tropical vegetation. "New Orleans is super inspiring when it comes to colors in general," Keppel says. "You can barely walk around without seeing a surprising color combination. I love the vegetation. I just want tropical vegetation all the time."

Keppel designs her own textiles and is inspired by tropical motifs. - MISSY WILKINSON
  • MISSY WILKINSON
  • Keppel designs her own textiles and is inspired by tropical motifs.

Tchoup Industries bags are made of all-natural materials, including waxed cotton canvas, locally woven panels, recycled rice bags, webbing up-cycled from the auto industry and stainless-steel buckles that double as bottle openers. "The bags are for city and swamp," Dunn says. "We want them to be stylish and functional around town for work or errands, but they are durable enough for canoeing and hiking."

Before founding Tchoup Industries, Patti Dunn designed outdoor backpacks for a Colorado brand. - MISSY WILKINSON
  • MISSY WILKINSON
  • Before founding Tchoup Industries, Patti Dunn designed outdoor backpacks for a Colorado brand.

Tchoup Shop (1113B St. Mary St.) holds a grand opening party 5 p.m. - 9 p.m. Friday, March 6. 



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