NOLA Til Ya Die (3536 Toulouse St., 504-281-4928; www.nolatilyadie.com), founded by Kathleen McCall, is a call to arms for those who consider themselves New Orleanians now and forever. McCall was looking for a simple way to explain that she wouldn't be leaving New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Her company's smiling skull logo, embellished with hurricane-swirl eyes, initially was a symbol to explain her stance.
"(The company) was kind of founded on a whim," McCall says. "It was after Katrina and I was doodling and I had to fly back and forth to keep clients in the Northeast and in doing so, I (felt) like there wasn't a fun, positive way to define this city at the time."
Though originally from the Northeast, McCall has called New Orleans home since 2001.
"(Before moving to New Orleans), I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I had gone through the dot-com crash (and) 9/11 and it was a rough time business-wise," she says. "I had gotten really tired of the rat race. I had a good friend that I'd grown up with who lived down here so I used to visit quite often. At that time, I decided I was just going to pick up and go."
McCall credits her decision to New Orleans' unique climate, culture, diversity and architecture. After Katrina, she was peppered with questions about her decision to stay put.
"I got tired of people asking me why I was coming back here and why I was staying," she says.
In response, she designed a brand and a logo that spoke for her.
"People forget that it's people's homes and not just a tourist destination," McCall says.
McCall wants to use NOLA Til Ya Die to connect and support other organizations in the community. Recently, NOLA Til Ya Die got involved with the New Orleans 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, an organization that raises money for the families of Louisiana first responders who have lost their lives. She partnered with the organization to design a "Remember Til Ya Die" shirt.
"The idea is to give back to the city and to kids and different nonprofit organizations," she says.
McCall also has partnered with Evacuteer, an organization that educates people about evacuation during disasters; Save Our Cemeteries, a nonprofit group that aims to preserve and protect historic New Orleans cemeteries; and other local organizations.
NOLA Til Ya Die helps with event planning as well as designing and selling shirts and other products for those events. A percentage of the proceeds from the company's sales and events go to partner organizations. McCall has plans for even more outreach programs.
"I would like to do more to help girls in the city, perhaps through a scholarship or through partnering with different organizations around the city," McCall says.
Recently, she rolled out the "Homegrown" collection, which tacks "Til Ya Die" onto specific New Orleans and Louisiana locales. McCall wants people to define "Til Ya Die" for themselves.
"It's not for us to tell you what it is or how it's defined," she says. "Every person has their own piece that they take away from it."