“I’m crazy about the brand Cuisse de Grenouille out of Paris! They’re a Parisian surf brand and everything they came up with this season is incredible and of great quality, super clean and imminently wearable,” says Parker Hutchinson with the kind of warm, fresh enthusiasm people have come to adore at his hip, multibrand men’s store in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans.
Clean yet slightly organic with a unique coastal vibe, Friend opened 16 months ago in what was already a pulsing retail destination of New Orleans. But instead of trying to outshine the competition, Hutchinson, a former lawyer, took a decidedly relaxed approach with the store.
“I just wanted something that was memorable, inviting and not pretentious – welcoming, you know,” says Hutchinson of the interior, outfitted with simple globe lights, industrial fixtures, concrete flooring and bark boards from neighboring Bywater and Treme.
As for the clothes, Friend is known for its contemporary menswear assortment with a clean aesthetic, but look closer and you’ll note a refreshingly well-edited assortment of softly tailored pieces that charm with their slightly unstudied, surf/skate vibe. Among the brands carried in the store are 18 Waits, Vanishing Elephant, Shades of Grey, Saturdays, Burkman Brothers and Our Legacy. Meanwhile, Hutchinson’s assortment has been nuanced enough to attract a range of consumers from high school kids to older snowbirds. There is, too, a growing stable of collaborations with local artists from the St. Claude corridor, the emerging arts hub in New Orleans. Hutchinson, in fact, has been going out of his way to source locally made materials, ranging from perfume oil by Kathleen Currie to backpacks by Patti Dunn and gator leather-friendly Tchoup Industries. “It’s important for me to have a strong local element to give the store an identity, so it doesn’t become just another store in another city,” he says.
Now guys can get a better sense of the store’s inimitable regionalism through its e-shop and digital look books, and there is talk of a new branded line of apparel schedule for release late next year. Thankfully, they too will be the kind of clothes with an edge that everyone can wear. As Hutchinson puts it, “I always prefer simple, clean design over something that has a lot of detail. Maybe it’s just me but overall that’s what you’ll find in my store. It might have a fun pattern, but the lines are going to be clean.”
2115 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70130. (504) 218-4214. www.friendneworleans.com