A Stylish Guide to New Orleans From the Designer of Krewe Eyewear
Stirling Barrett, founder of the Gigi Hadid–loved, CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund–nominated brand, walks us through his favorite high points in The Big Easy.
It sometimes feels like everything important in American fashion comes out of New York City or Los Angeles, but Krewe — the 2016 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund runner-up eyewear label based in and inspired by New Orleans — is a solid reminder that’s not the case.
Since launching in 2013, founder and NOLA native Stirling Barrett has brought attention to his hometown with sunnies like the St. Louis — named for a major street in the French Quarter, whose patterned wrought-iron balconies directly informed the silhouette — that were first worn by Beyonce (he still doesn’t know how she got them).
Gigi Hadid (she’s said Krewe is her favorite sunglass brand), Kate Hudson, Dakota Fanning and Selena Gomez quickly followed suit. The brand's success seems to have come from, in part, its authenticity and strong roots. The modern iconic style and focus on uniqueness (increasingly they’re concentrating on smaller-batch production) speaks to not just twenty- and thirty-somethings, but those in their 60s and 70s, which is representative of the place they’re based. NOLA’s realness is what Barrett finds so appealing: “There’s nothing fake here. There’s no reason to make shit up. Everyone’s true, everyone’s real, good or bad. I love the culture and rhythm and ritual of a city that’s 300 years old.”
Because New Orleans is small, with just a few hundred thousand people, Barrett says locals are “required to cross over their interests and it breeds this sense of community and creates community events that are very powerful.” On any given weekend in the city, says the creative director, there are a handful of things he wants to experience, from a film festival to a BBQ and blues fest. “I don’t think New Orleans is a hotter place than it was four years ago, but I think we’re able to tell the story in a better way now,” he says. Here is the way the Krewe chief recommends experiencing The Big Easy.
“The International House Hotel is the first upscale, boutique-y hotel in the city, and its bar [Loa Bar] is still one of my favorites,” says Barrett. His newest fave is the Ace Hotel New Orleans, which opened last year in the city center. “It’s got a great vibe and fits right in with the Krewe aesthetic,” he says. New Orleans is about figuring out where you want to be — Uptown, the French Quarter, Warehouse District — and so if it’s on the edge of the Quarter, Old No. 77 is a solid option, says Barrett. “The Compère Lapin restaurant in the lobby is one of my favorites in the city.”
EAT + DRINK
“I could go on and on, but the best way to experience New Orleans is to not go eat at one place, but to go eat at a bunch of places, and walk or bike around. It’s a food and bar crawl, and it’s not even a crawl, it’s a dance,” says Barrett, whose longtime favorite restaurant is Sylvain (which serves melt-in-your-mouth meat and an appetizer of French fries with champagne). He’s also a big fan of neighborhood joint The Company Burger, and is frequently found there during happy hour. Barrett’s neighborhood bar, meanwhile, is Barrel Proof — they have beers on tap and a wide selection of cocktails, and it’s just a great bar for atmosphere and good company. Near Frenchman Street he likes R Bar, and praises the Gin Fizz at Bar Tonique on the edge of the Quarter. For live music, easy bites and rosé all day, there’s the “charming” Bacchanal in the Bywater, which the eyewear innovator likes biking to via the French Quarter and Garden District, especially in the fall (“It’s always nice outside, and that’s my preferred way to enjoy New Orleans”).
Music is a seriously major part of NOLA’s personality. Because of that, Barrett says, “you can stumble into anywhere you’re feeling the music and you’re going to have a fantastic experience.” Although he says it’s never about the venue, Preservation Hall is his topmost pick for a space that consistently delivers incredible performances. “It’s an institution of a place — it’s hard to articulate how special it is,” says Barrett of the jazz venue established in 1961 that has all-ages concerts every night of the week. For their second annual Krewe Fête, the team curated an incredible program of acts, including NOLA legend Little Freddie King and the incomparable up-and-comer Maggie Koerner, whom Barrett introduced as someone who will “give you goosebumps,” which she promptly did upon opening her mouth. “She’s a special person, she cares, and she’s doing her own thing,” he says. “One of our core values is ‘do you,’ and she lives that.” In addition, Barrett says, “I sometimes find myself going to Chickie Wah Wah,” and there’s great music at BJ’s in the Bywater, too.
Shopping in New Orleans, says Barrett, is “interesting,” since it’s not known for it, but he adds, “when it’s done right, it’s done really right.” Freda, the eclectic shop at the Ace Hotel (with another outpost in Marfa, Texas) and the menswear boutique Friend are two of his top selections. Obviously Barrett’s first pick for shopping is his own Krewe store on Royal Street (which is expecting to be joined by a second), which currently has the Krewe Tiny House resting in front of it and his studio above, with a balcony from which he can check out the always-changing street performers busking down below. In addition, the discount designer mecca UAL (United Apparel Liquidators) is “obviously amazing,” says Barrett. Its selection is a couple seasons old, but is irresistible to true fashionistas. Another worthy stop is Porter Lyons, a local jewelry brand with a well-curated atmosphere and selection of accessories.