The Story of Hemline…
Brigitte was born in Brazil on May 12th, 1963. She grew up as a tomboy, intrigued by the thrill of racing go carts. Always very perceptive, she realized learning English would be the gateway to so many dreams that were only just beginning to take shape. At age 18, she took a decisive step towards realizing those dreams, and began applying herself to this new endeavor. Brigitte’s father had a shoe factory and export business in Brazil, and encouraged her to move to the U.S. for 3 months in order to learn English and help him build his business. Father and daughter agreed she’d absorb the English language far more quickly if she was immersed in an English-speaking city. Never one to shy away from a challenge, she boldly decided to make the move, and arrived in New Orleans accompanied by her little suitcase, wearing worn jeans and an old, oversized T-shirt. She adapted quickly, paying eager attention to the people and places now surrounding her. At the end of the 3 months here in New Orleans, Brigitte made the trip back to Brazil only to realize she felt an overwhelming pull to return to the U.S. and continue building her life here. At 24, Brigitte started selling products at the French Market, a 200 year-old market in the heart of New Orleans. The market was filled with local jewelry, clothing, and produce venders, and she immediately saw an opportunity to use her eye’s unique perspective to pull together an exotic assortment of products that set her apart from the other vendors. Brigitte began importing hand-selected items from Indonesia, Mexico and India. She started selling Bajas: hooded pullover jackets made with a variety of different materials, often recycled, with one large signature front pocket. At the time, Bajas were traditionally worn by Central and South American youth, especially men. But in the States, these jackets were very popular amongst artistic, free-spirited bohemians, and were embraced by the colorful surf culture of the 70’s. When Brigitte introduced Bajas to New Orleans at 1 for $15 or 2 for $25, local shoppers were instantly enamored.4, Brigitte started selling products at the French Market, a 200 year-old market in the heart of New Orleans.
In 1993, Brigitte met and married her now husband, Luciano Holthausen. Luciano, also Brazilian, with a strong business background saw many opportunities in New Orleans. The very next year they teamed up to open a small boutique on Chartres Street, and ‘HEMLINE’ was officially established in 1994. While this boutique occupied the same location then as it does today, at its inception it was comprised of only one of the three current rooms. Hemlines have played an interesting role throughout fashion’s history, fluctuating at the behest of politics, trend, and any number of other cultural forces. Changes in a woman’s hemline often signaled revolutionary upheaval, even rebellion, and it was this kind of fresh energy that they wanted beating at the heart of their boutique. Brigitte’s loyal French Market customers followed her to Hemline, and many new customers were drawn to the new shop as well. As a result, one month after the store’s opening, Brigitte and Luciano expanded the space to occupy two rooms. Continued success followed as a loyal following grew quickly; after the birth of their daughter, Gabriella, in 1995, Hemline grew to occupy all three rooms, as it does today. Gabi now works for the company and has aspirations to continue in the family business.
Today, Hemline continues to expand and has become a veritable style empire. In 2000, Hemline grew to include five locations in the New Orleans area. After the devastation left behind by hurricane Katrina in 2005, a new location opened in Baton Rouge to keep Hemline afloat. Baton Rouge was teeming with people from New Orleans and surrounding areas that were forced to evacuate after the storm; when many were far from home and struggling to rebuild, they found comfort and solace in seeing the survival of a local business like Hemline that would not bow to Katrina’s destruction. As local residents eventually began to return to New Orleans, the Hemline on Chartres and Magazine St. reopened. Now, nestled amongst other thriving shops and restaurants, these two Hemline boutiques stand as a continued testament to the ever-growing economy of New Orleans and the city’s indomitable will to move forward.
The Hemline brand has truly become a trusted and sought-after resource for covetable fashion in New Orleans, and throughout the South. As of February 2014, there are 16 locations across Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Tennessee. Many members of the early generation of Hemline employees are now business owners of their own, raising children and families; some continue to build the Hemline business as franchise owners. As many loyal employees say, they have ‘lavender blood’ in their veins- a reference to the iconic ‘Hemline lavender’ that adorns the company logo. Today, Brigitte continues to find new and innovative ways to delight and connect with her customers. Her unique eye for product, which attracted so much attention in the French Market, continues to define Hemline as an ultimate style destination. After 20 years, here at Hemline we believe there are many wonderful chapters still to unfold!