Get the scoop on the behind-the-scenes fun at our Summer 2011 catalog shoot, in New Orleans, Louisiana, with first-hand impressions from our Trend Reporter Liz and Senior Director of Marketing Monica.
Summer 2011 was all about celebrating! When developing our catalog concept, we wanted to showcase our four new colors and evoke a desire to soak up all of the excitement of the season, from lounging on the front porch, to a day at the lake or adventure in a new place. We couldn’t think of a better spot to marry our vibrant colors with the idea of celebrating than good ole’ New Orleans! So, late last October, we packed up and headed south.
It didn’t take long for us to fall in love with the city. We were in awe of the progress the community has made since the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005. It was a transformation we witnessed over and over again. Given that it was Halloween season, the locals had decorated their balconies and front porches with spooky creatures, and the streets were bustling as folks prepared for the Halloween parade. Called the Krewe du Viuex, the tradition is hosted by the locals, and turned out to be an amazing party!
And, of course, when you think of a party and you think of the Big Easy, your feet just naturally start heading for the French Quarter, another notable stop on our journey. We followed this up with the beautiful bayous and a memorable airboat ride, which resulted in mosquito bites and an aching for a good gator sighting. We didn’t see any wildlife, but we sure did try!
Alternately, sometimes celebration comes across in the quieter moments. Magnolia Lane Plantation, just outside of New Orleans, set the stage for a different view of the area and whispered at us to appreciate the day. It was the perfect backdrop for our two more leisurely patterns, Watercolor and English Meadow, and gave the feel of a slow Southern summer sitting in rocking chairs and wiping the heat from your brow. And even though this particular day of shooting was Halloween, and the plantation is said to be haunted, we weren’t scared a bit (ok … maybe a little). Instead, we let our minds take us to the lavish summer gatherings past, spent on the front lawn with twinkling candles snuggled in lanterns dangling from branches, soft jazz music and delicious cuisine. Yes, this was the site of many happy celebrations.
And we can’t talk about food without talking about Dookey Chase Restaurant. Leah Chase, the wife of the eatery’s namesake and owner and longtime friend to Vera Bradley Co-founder Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, and her family, cooked us up some local specialties that would make any mouth water. Fried chicken, okra, gumbo … it was an indulgent dining experience unmatched by any other. She then recounted stories of her life and experiences living in New Orleans; what an amazing woman. It was a true celebration of a life lived to the fullest, and I think I speak for everyone when I say we probably could have sat there all day listening to her tales and sampling her unforgettable dishes.
And then there was Jackson Square, where artists and performers stake out a spot and sit all day creating and selling. If I close my eyes, I can still hear the street bands in the Square, enticing people to dance along. One ensemble, Blind Boy Chocolate and the Milk Sheiks, had a folksy sound that I just couldn’t get out of my head.
I could go on. The local restaurants like Café du Monde with their bold coffee and beignets. The second line parading through the streets in celebration of a loved one lost. It was an inspiring trip, drenched in parades, food, culture, history and, most importantly, bold, beautiful color. Thank you, New Orleans!
We loved stopping in at the Crescent City Farmers Market early on Saturday morning. Shopper Totes in tow, we found fresh, local-grown produce, seafood and baked goods, and mingled against the uplifting beats of local musicians. The Saturday Market runs year round, rain or shine, from 8 am – noon at the corner of Girod and Magazine streets in New Orleans’ historic Warehouse District, and promises a wealth of native treasures.
Another Big Easy legacy is The Roman Candy Company, a tradition born from a family recipe dating back at least four generations. Angelina Napoli Cortese was known for making taffy for family and friends at social and special events like Christmas and St. Joseph’s Day. Her son, Sam, was a street vendor by trade and would, on occasion, bring the leftover candy on his produce wagon to sell. As its popularity grew, Sam became intrigued at the idea of selling the taffy fulltime. The problem, however, was that his mother could not keep up with the demand. He realized he would have to find a way to make his Roman Candy as he rolled along and sold it. In 1915, Sam went to a wheelwright named Tom Brinker and together they designed the wagon that is still used today.
After his death in 1969, Sam’s grandson took over the business. The wagon and mule can be seen rolling through the streets of New Orleans, uptown, downtown and occasionally even in the suburbs, on an almost daily basis. We found the cart in Jackson Square, where Amy, our co-founder’s daughter and Vera Bradley’s granddaughter, became a fast fan. It was a great way to end a day on a sweet, memorable note.
Our entire trip was a celebration of the simple pleasures in life, both loud and subtle. We reveled in the music, the food, the scenery and the people, and it was the perfect place to capture the spirit of Summer 2011.