Inside a Garden District skating rink-turned-shopping center, a French bulldog puppy gnaws anything he can get his mouth on. "He's still teething," owner Cecile Hardy says of Piggy, the newest family member of NOLA Couture (The Rink, 2727 Prytania St., Suite 6, 319-5959; www.nolacouture.com).
Hardy initially thought a French bulldog living in New Orleans should have a quintessentially French name. But visitors often commented on how much the pup resembled a little pig. Hardy, whose own nickname happens to be Piggy, worried that if she bequeathed the name to the pup, she'd lose it for herself. She tried to find a different name, and NOLA Couture held a naming contest which produced suggestions like Pomme Frite, Cochon and Pierre. None of the names stuck, and Hardy no longer could deny her dog's swine-like features and mannerisms.
"He's 100 percent, totally just like a little pig. It's a character-driven name," says Hardy, who thinks Piggy's name may cause an identity crisis down the road. "A couple of my mom's friends ... both said to me, 'Oh, what are you going to do when he finds out he's not really a pig?'" Hardy says, laughing. "They're like, 'Well, start looking for a dog therapist.'"
Because he's still a puppy, Piggy spends a fair amount of his day sleeping. But he loves to play and entertain visitors from neighboring shops, some of whom visit multiple times a day. Like most dogs, he loves a good belly rub.
"He'll put his head down on the ground and stick his little booty in the air, and just kind of halfway turn over so you can get right to his belly," Hardy says. "And he smiles when you pet him on his belly."
Hardy opened NOLA Couture in August 2006 in an effort to be a part of New Orleans' recovery from Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures. She wanted to highlight New Orleans culture with accessories featuring whimsical local motifs like oysters, second lines and fleurs-de-lis. She used the profits to contribute to rebuilding efforts, including those of the Audubon Zoo.
NOLA Couture creates accessories for men and women, including ties, hats, ID cases and tote bags as well as collars for dogs. The line is always growing. "We listen to our customers, and they tell us, like, 'We want beach towels,'" Hardy says. "So now we have beach towels in development."
NOLA Couture products are sold at Perlis, Feet First and other local stores, but their appeal extends beyond the city limits. The line can be found in stores throughout much of the South and along the Eastern seaboard, as far north as Nantucket. In addition to signature New Orleans designs, NOLA Couture has a variety of coastal designs that have a more universal.
"We have a new nautical tie that's actually a Lake Pontchartrain tie, with the lighthouse that's back at Lake Ponchartrain," Hardy says. "But stores all up and down the East Coast buy it because it's a nautical-themed tie. So while we tie it back to New Orleans, other people see it as things that they like, too."