For over 36 years, Linda Keenan has offered natural fiber clothing for both women and men looking to beat the heat.
- by Kim Ranjbar
In 1983, just a year before the World's Fair was held in New Orleans, Linda Keenan moved to the French Quarter planning to go into real estate. Just to “have some money coming in,” she decided initially to try selling men’s and women’s linen clothing at the French Market.
“I had seen this line of clothes in North Carolina called California Drawstrings,” says Keenan. “I thought, ‘this'll be great for people coming to the fair and not understanding the heat and humidity of New Orleans.’”
She was right. After almost a year of schlepping linen goods from her small apartment on Madison Street to the French Market… and back again… Keenan had enough capital to start renting a shop at 812 Royal Street – and has been there ever since.
Ten years ago, Keenan opened a second location in Bay St. Louis, immediately captivating a large and loyal following of Coast residents as well as visitors to the area. Recently, she moved into a new Old Town location, 131 Main Street, next to the ever-popular Serious Bread Bakery.
Both locations of California Drawstrings have a mix of loyal local regulars and visitors looking for stylish and comfortable resort wear. It’s one of the few retailers on the Coast who specialize in linen and cotton styles. Of course, anyone who has lived or even visited the Gulf Coast during the summer months knows the inestimable value of linen clothing. It's cool to the touch, rapidly absorbs moisture, and is just stiff enough that it hangs away from your body.
“In what I call ‘the season,’ we sell a ton of the Flax brand, because we're one of the few stores that carry it. Also, many of our customers love a line called Match Point,” explains Keenan. “In the winter we offer heavier knits and wraps – still focusing on designs made with natural fibers.”
Keenan also makes an effort to offer plus sizes in all of the clothing lines she carries.
“I’m a plus size,” says Keenan. “I know how hard it is to find interesting styles or cool comfortable clothing, especially in quality natural fibers.”
Keenan is especially excited about a new line of Italian linens that she’ll have in stock by mid-July. Impaginato is new to the U.S., so right now, California Drawstrings is the only place in the South to carry it.
“The styles are super – just like you’d expect from Italian designers,” Keenan says. “The line features lots of dresses, which have really made a come-back lately. In the heat, women love to just throw on a dress and go.”
And as someone who's been staying on top of fashion trends for nearly four decades, Keenan's one to know.
Look for Impaginato designs to be in stock later in July, joining the rest of California Drawstring's natural fiber offerings.
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