Our “Meet the Neighbors” series gives you a closer look at the people and businesses that make us proud to call downtown New Orleans home.
Founded in 2009, RepurposingNOLA Piece by Peace is the brainchild of Traci Claussen — the company utilizes “excess fabrics of our community to create sustainable designer goods.” The results are beautiful, so we visited Traci’s store to talk about the inspiration behind her unique products and why she decided to settle in downtown New Orleans.
What was your inspiration for RepurposingNOLA?
My inspiration has always come from the Warehouse District — I’ve lived here since 1998. For my company specifically, the inspiration came after I renovated my loft here. In fact, these bamboo chairs [see photo below] are made of leftover flooring I had from that renovation! I was incorporating new, eco-friendly things with salvaged goods, and I discovered that there were a lot of salvaged goods in New Orleans that were very unique to the city. With the right TLC, they could be massaged into cool designs, so then it became a matter of building the RepurposingNOLA brand, which is going to be five in September .
This space was available for the store, and I loved the history of this street and the Thirteen Sisters. This used to be the PRC [Preservation Resource Center], so they had converted this whole block — kind of like what I’m doing, on a grander scale. They wanted to salvage and preserve what was good about the history, and that’s what I’m doing with the materials that I find.
Where do your materials come from?
All of my materials are sourced in New Orleans, my labor is in New Orleans, so everything is truly a unique piece of New Orleans. The coffee sacks [used to make signature bags] come from PJ’s [Coffee] — they’ve been a fabulous partner since I started, they donate material to me and I give them something cool back.
It really started when, within my first year, the Saints won the Superbowl. The NFL’s Environmental Director asked if I wanted to repurpose five miles of Superbowl XLIV banners, and I said … sure, why not? So we did home goods — shower curtains, tailgating aprons, pillows, duvets. When we hosted Superbowl XLVII, he asked if I wanted another five miles, so we did that too.
I started incorporating vinyl and upholsteries into the mix, too — I found that I had customers who were interior designers and had leftover materials, so they’d send me the leftovers because they didn’t want them thrown away. It’s inspired customers who have materials to bring them to me, and of course I gift them something out of the materials they provide, so it works out well for both of us.
Nothing gets thrown away here, so even if I have a belt that I find at an area thrift, the buckle gets repurposed into the straps on the eco-duffle, so nothing is wasted.
What about the neighborhood is so special to you?
I’m kind of a city girl, so I love the vibe, I love mixing the old with the new — I’ve always been that person. I was actually drawn to the neighborhood from my former life in radio sales management. When I came down here to work for the company, they said, “You’re probably going to really like this Warehouse District, it’s about to boom.” And I did! I’m on my third condo here, and if I can find time I’m going to renovate it, that’s my next project.
What’s your favorite thing about downtown?
Wow, great question and hard to answer because there are so many amazing things. I live down here and I work down here, so I’d say that convenience is the best thing. Having lived in Los Angeles and Nashville, where traffic congestion can be horrendous, to not have to deal with that is probably my favorite thing. And I see it growing into that direction even more so.
What’s your favorite memory since opening?
Every day is a favorite memory! I don’t travel much anymore because I feel tethered to my company, whereas I used to travel a lot, so now my favorite thing is to meet people from all over the world — they’re travelers, they’re wanderlust spirits, and they’re drawn to what I’m doing. Every day there’s something super exciting.
How do you see the future of the store?
I see this as a flagship. I get a lot of people who say, “You belong in Brooklyn, too! You belong in San Francisco!” Part of what I’m doing now is investigating those places, because I do have a strong customer base in both cities.
I see the neighborhood growing in a similar direction. This street is known for the art galleries, but in order for any city to thrive you need to have diversity, a lot of it. You’ve got to have restaurants, you’ve got to have retail, you’ve got to have art galleries, so then everybody feeds on everything.
You have to have enough diversity to have the residential piece. There’s definitely a movement to come back downtown, but it has to be safe and you have to have resources for people. It’s exploding – I’m definitely not selling my condo! [laughs]