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Local apparel designers mark 10,000 dresses

News Release Distributed 09/19/14

NEW ORLEANS – Jolie Bensen Hamilton and Sarah Elizabeth Dewey teamed up four years ago to start their own wholesale apparel design company, Jolie and Elizabeth. Yesterday evening (Sept. 18) the two marked the occasion of manufacturing their 10,000th dress, each one designed and made in New Orleans.

Hamilton and Dewey are alumnae of the LSU College of Agriculture’s Department of Textiles, Apparel Design and Manufacturing. They didn’t know each other in school but met in New York when Dewey interned for Hamilton at BCBG Max Azria Corporate.

“I had set up a little internship program there to bring girls from the South up to New York,” Hamilton said. “Sarah Elizabeth was one.”

The two said they had an immediate connection.

“We were able to connect over LSU’s fashion program and talk about teachers and our favorite classes,” Hamilton said.

Dewey appreciated the real responsibilities Hamilton gave her and valued the trust between them.

“It was nice to feel trusted,” Dewey said. “I trusted her, and I respected her for giving me responsibilities. And she trusted me to come in early or stay late, so it was a great partnership from the start.”

In 2010, the women found themselves both in New Orleans ready to do something on their own. Neither was interested in interviewing with another company or working in retail.

They tossed around the idea of starting their own company.

“My name is Jolie, and it means pretty in French, and Elizabeth means promise, and we’re like pretty promise,” Hamilton said. “We said, let’s just go for it.”

Hamilton and Dewey said they did their homework, spending hours at the library reading up on starting a business.

They created a 30-page business plan and found an investor. When they had creative differences with their investor, they bought him out.

“That took some guts. It took us believing that we have this idea, this vision, and we don’t want anyone else to taint it,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton and Dewey said their classes in the LSU College of Agriculture prepared them for their journey to opening and operating their own apparel design company.

“The faculty from the beginning were very supportive,” Dewey said. “The program isn’t small, but they make it a point to make it feel small or feel like a family.”

Dewey said she remembers specific things from different courses that help them today in their business.

“Just little life lessons besides the actual material we learned in class that I’ll never forget,” Dewey said

“The program teaches you a range of topics. It helps from design to sewing to product development,” Hamilton said. “The atmosphere at the Human Ecology building is very positive. I like how the professors weren’t pushy; they let you learn at your own pace.”

The seersucker dress is their original concept, but they use a range of fabrics and designs to create dresses that have a distinctive Southern feel.

“It has helped two of us having a little bit different taste but always staying true to the classic style of dress,” Dewey said.

Their creations have Southern names like Feliciana, Octavia and Adelaide inspired by the city they work in.

“We’re proud of where we’re from. We’re inspired by the South,” Hamilton said.

Every dress is manufactured in New Orleans. Sewn into each garment is a “Made in Louisiana” tag that lets the customer know it is a locally made product.

Hamilton and Dewey said it was important to them to keep their investment in New Orleans and help the local economy. They said customers have responded positively.

“They appreciate that they’re buying a piece of Louisiana, buying a piece of New Orleans, or buying a piece of America,” Dewey said.

Their dresses can be found in boutiques in New Orleans and across the South. Customers can also buy directly from them online at

Their customers range from 16-year-old girls to 70-year-old women who want a classic dress that they can wear again and again. They even get business from overseas by women who are charmed by their Southern style of clothing.

The pair held a celebration at Gravier Street Social for their customers, buyers and supporters marking their 10,000th dress.

“Accomplishing 10,000 dresses for us is a huge feat. We never thought it would be this successful,” Hamilton said.

What’s next for them?

“Maybe another 10,000 dresses in two years,” Dewey said.

Tobie Blanchard
Last Updated: 9/19/2014 10:14:43 AM

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