The Wild Life Reserve (111 St. Charles Ave., 504-324-4405; www.thewildlifereserve.com) started as a local menswear line in 2009 known for its classic bow ties and pocket squares. This month, the company opened its flagship store.
"Our brand has been sold in many stores but now we have our very own store," says Tabitha Bethune, who co-owns the boutique with her husband Micaiah.
The store features designer garments for men and women, including those from The Wild Life Reserve line and other local and international brands. One featured brand at The Wild Life Reserve, Stolen Riches, "is an old shoestring company that has been around since 1915," Bethune says. "If there was ever a shoe made with strings, then this company provided them." Bethune hopes to preserve smaller, older labels like Stolen Riches while promoting newer ones. "This space is for us to preserve and protect other brands," Bethune says.
The company also creates custom and repurposed garments in its upstairs sewing room, and alterations are free with purchase.
"You could come in and bring your grandmother's dress to us and say, 'I want to turn this into something else,' and we'll take the fabric and make it new," Bethune says. "We create other products out of old things, which goes with our preserving and reserving idea. So we can make it specifically to fit you."
The space hosts Savoir Faire, a nonprofit fashion incubator that helps emerging designers launch their collections. There also will be a classroom where design students can learn everything from marketing and designing to sewing classes and pattern making, Bethune says. The organization will facilitate connections with investors who will get their lines into stores worldwide.
"Designers in the city love to design but don't understand the business of fashion," Bethune says. "Fashion incubators help you get your design in stores. It's an amazing concept and we're happy to bring it to New Orleans."
The business will also feature designs by Savoir Faire students. It's all part of The Wild Life Reserve's mission to create personal connections between designers and the people who wear their clothes.
"When you know who the designer is and you can get on their social media and feel connected to them, then you want to buy from them and it actually helps that brand to grow," Bethune says. "It's more of a community environment that way."