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Entrepreneur Spotlight: Jolie Bensen and Sarah Elizabeth Dewey of ‘Jolie and Elizabeth’

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New Orleans and fashion. Fashion and New Orleans. While New Orleans is known for many great things, it seems fashion might not be very high on that list. No doubt that New Orleans people are definitely some of the most fashionable people you’ve ever seen, but it seems the rest of the world is still hung up on the likes of New York, Paris, and Milan.
Well, New York, Paris, and Milan, we got some news for you. Not only do New Orleans people know how to dress, but we got our very own designers, too! That's right, move on over Gucci, Dolce, and Chanel, and let locals Jolie Bensen and Sarah Elizabeth Dewey in with their completely locally designed, inspired, and manufactured clothing line, Jolie and Elizabeth, IntheNOLA’s newest Local Entrepreneur Spotlight!
If there’s two things Jolie and Sarah Elizabeth are experts in, it’s definitely New Orleans and clothes. And while they could most certainly be in New York, or Paris, or Milan right now, they choose to be right here…in the best city with the best people…only now they’re making sure we look good all the time!

Before even beginning their own clothing line, Sarah Elizabeth and Jolie were in New York doing big things, working at companies such as Betsey Johnson and BCBG (where they met). While Sarah Elizabeth always saw herself working in the fashion world, Jolie wasn’t necessarily as interested. Sarah Elizabeth said, “I always knew that I wanted to be involved in the fashion industry. I wanted to work with branding or helping a company build a name or work for a big company with a really strong image.” Jolie continued, “I didn’t have a specific interest in fashion. I think I changed my major five times before I stumbled into fashion! But when I did, I really excelled at it.”
Jolie & Elizabeth |
After working together at BCBG in New York, Sarah Elizabeth and Jolie (also both LSU grads) found themselves wanting more from their respective careers in the fashion industry. “After I left New York, I came back to New Orleans and spent the first few months scoping out the entrepreneurial scene,” said Jolie. “About a year before, the economy crashed, so the job market was obviously scarce. Sarah Elizabeth and I met and just talked about the frustrations about not having any job prospects, no legit fashion design going on, only boutiques, nothing authentic. I knew there was lots of entrepreneurial activity going on, so we decided to do it ourselves.” Sarah Elizabeth added, “2008-2009 was definitely a rough time with the economy still trying to get back on its feet. But, I think that if that hadn’t have been the case, Jolie and Elizabeth never would have happened, so for us it was a blessing in disguise.”
IntheNOLA can definitely relate to that as founder, Jeff Gonzales, created the original “InthekNOwla” in response to the lack of opportunities during the recession of 2008-2009. Always a silver lining it seems…
But back to our designers, Sarah Elizabeth and Jolie took that lack of opportunity and made their own opportunities. We hit the ground running in September 2009,” explained Sarah Elizabeth. “We discussed everything from color palettes to making a label to finding a manufacturer. We really wanted to launch the line for spring and summer with seersucker because that was the number one thing we wanted to be known for. We found our manufacturer in March 2010 and launched the line in April. So in a month, we had produced dresses and had them in boutiques for summer delivery.”

Jolie added, “For the name of the company, right off the bat, I had the idea to use my name which means ‘pretty’ in French. Then Sarah Elizabeth said, ‘Oh Elizabeth means ‘promise!’ So you have, a ‘pretty promise to New Orleans!’ We feel very fortunate to have each other as business partners because we balance each other out 100%. There is no one else I could even imagine doing this with. We’re both so dedicated and passionate and the fact that we get to do this in New Orleans is the best part. We always say that if we would have done this in New York, everyone would have said, ‘You’re not good enough. You’re not Michael Kors or this person or that person.’ Instead, people here celebrate you, encourage you, and they wanna see you succeed and represent New Orleans.”

And succeed they have! With their 100% designed, inspired, and manufactured clothing, Jolie and Elizabeth is quintessential New Orleans wear. From the “Dowhatchawanna” shirts to the seersucker dresses, Jolie and Elizabeth makes you feel feminine, dainty, southern, and 100% New Orleanian all at once!
Jolie & Elizabeth |
Speaking of New Orleans, Jolie and Sarah Elizabeth are certain that they won’t be going anywhere. Jolie said, “It’s funny when people ask, ‘So are you guys gonna stay here or move the company somewhere else?’ I almost get offended by that question because I’m like, ‘I’m sorry. Do you know who we are? Our tags say Made in Louisiana!’ Every item that we have has a tag that says ‘Made in Louisiana’.  It defines us; it is who we are. It wasn’t something we did on purpose when we first started, but it is something that has become us.”

Sarah Elizabeth said, “New Orleans is booming with a lot of people, both young and old, working towards the good of the city. I feel that if you really love something and a place, then you should be able to do it there. We were told our whole careers that basically you have to be in New York or Los Angeles if you really want to do something big or impactful, but obviously that’s not the case.”
Jolie added, “There’s no reason why you should have to move to New York or Los Angeles and we’re the perfect example of that. We can show and inspire other girls that they can do it, that it’s not impossible and that they can make a living with their degree from what they did. It’s great to be able to do what we want in the city we love!”
Jolie & Elizabeth |
Sarah Elizabeth continued, “A lot of people say, ‘It’s so great that you own your own business. Y’all can do whatever you want.’ Yeah, we can do whatever we want and it’s awesome that we make our own schedule, but it’s also like having a baby, a 24/7 thing when you love something so much. We do everything, packaging, shipping, etc. We have help, but from the beginning, we’ve done that and I think that’s made Jolie and Elizabeth what it is. It has been a dream come true to be able to build something like this from the ground up with Jolie.”

Now, we know you can’t wait to get your hands on some Jolie and Elizabeth! And don’t despair, you can find Jolie and Elizabeth at several retailers throughout the city. 
We gotta reiterate it: 100% designed, inspired, and manufactured in New Orleans. One hundred percent!
Be proud of our locals and support them always. That peach seersucker dress certainly has IntheNOLA written all over it!
For more information about Jolie and Elizabeth, please visit their website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Last modified on Tuesday, 03 July 2012

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