Kay prides herself on her curated street couture and edgy lifestyle pieces.
That quote may seem contradictory to her personality. If you know Kay, or have seen her on Instagram, then you know her bold, confident style and outspoken opinions. Feeling like she “didn’t belong” doesn’t make sense to those who know her.
“Here, people are on the hunt for Gardenia scented candles, or another piko dress and rabbit fur vest. Not hating on that. It’s just not my vibe.”
Street closures and construction in 2015 didn’t help either. But, that’s when Kay started to realize that the Magazine street location wouldn’t be forever. There was something else out there for her. While she felt like she was swimming against the stream of the Magazine Street homogeneity, she learned that the Lululemon shoppers weren’t Kay’s clientele, but the tourists who ventured that far Uptown became instant fans. Soon she acquired clients from all over the country.
“That’s when I started thinking about the French Quarter,” added Kay. “The neighbors are excited about a more art-directed and inspired boutique, and the tourists - well, they step off the plane hoping to experience something new. So, it was a no brainer.”
Plans began for a new concept that catered around her own lifestyle and that of the clients she wanted to attract. By mid-March 2020, she opened her new boutique on Toulouse and Chartres in the heart of the French Quarter. The new space includes a chic design aesthetic, new brands, and a more elevated feel to create a unique experiential concept for her clients.
“I knew I wanted it to be me, and really get to the core of what makes me tick - like if you opened my brain, it would look like my store,” said Kay of her new store. She collaborated with Jonathan House of Manning Architects to turn a small, awkwardly shaped French Quarter space into the spacious and modern boutique of her dreams.
What Kay dreamt up feels like being in a live action Instagram - glossy millennial pink walls; chic, modern archways that open up the small space; and bright floral wall paper for contrast. The Instagram fantasy is complete with curated music and dope lighting that makes you feel like you’re walking around with your personal ring light and a Snapchat filter.
“Funny thing is I didn’t realize pink was my favorite color until I was sketching out ideas for the store,” Kay added of her design inspiration. “I’m a Barbie girl at heart. I collected them my entire childhood and adolescence - Bob Mackie collection, holiday barbies, the dream house, the Pink Ferrari. I guess you could say my shop is my dreamhouse – but way more racially inclusive obviously.”
Kay opened her much-anticipated French Quarter store in March, with an opening party that included a diverse crowd of New Orleans artists, business owners, athletes, and notable faces. Unfortunately, 10 days after tearing down the brown paper from the windows for her opening, she had to cover them back up temporarily and work on a new business model because of the Covid-19 global outbreak.
“This hit me like a ton of bricks -- regarding my business, but mentally and physically too,” said Kay. ”But, I come from a family of survivors and creatives. I am taking this time to strategize about my business, launch my website, and work on a few pieces for the store.”
This global pandemic has been emotionally, physically, and financially tolling on the whole world. Businesses and people are continuously pivoting their lifestyles and business models to continue to survive and thrive during this time. Kay is no exception. She and her team have been working hard to relaunch her e-commerce site in a way that brings the experience she created in her brick and mortar straight to the consumer with merchandise, imagery, and lifestyle. But, this isn’t it for Kay Charbonnet and her store. She’ll see you again soon at her pink dreamhouse.
“If I know anything at all, I do know that I will come out of this stronger than I did pre-Covid. I’ve done it before.”