Mallory Whitfield, better known as Miss Malaprop, is highly innovative, and her artistic wingspan stretches across the city, reaching various shops and markets.
As an entrepreneur, artist and designer, she works with about 30 artists, designers and independent brands. “My brain is always working a million miles a minute, and I’ve always got a ton of ideas,” she explains. “I try to keep a notebook of some kind with me at all times because I’m always jotting down notes to myself so I don’t forget when inspiration strikes.”
She makes all kinds of wearable items, ranging from clothing to accessories. “When I started out, I worked primarily with textiles, transforming old jeans into ‘upcycled’ denim skirts and using the scraps to make cute accessories like flower barrettes and neck warmers,” she says. “Lately I’ve been making more fun, colorful jewelry, using vintage materials, as well as some molded components made by other artists.”
She enjoys breathing new life into materials that might otherwise be cast off. In fact, in 2007, she won third place in a nationwide Etsy contest for making an outfit out of a FEMA tarp.
“I try to seek out pretty vintage baubles to turn into something new,” she says. Lately, she’s incorporated vintage typewriter keys and old Scrabble tiles into her various designs.
As a high school student, she was involved in community theater, where she learned how to sew costumes. With help from her mother, she taught herself a lot by “taking things apart and figuring out how to put them back together again.” Her style evolved, and after a few years, she was encouraged to start selling her creations.
“I’ve always been creative,” she says.
Whitfield, who was raised on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, says she came to New Orleans often as a kid and was always enamored of the city. After graduating from high school, she attended Loyola University, and like so many other artists, she’s been down here ever since. “In spite of the inefficient bureaucracy often thrown our way, artists and creative types living in New Orleans have so many opportunities that they wouldn’t have elsewhere,” she says. “There are so many places to sell your work, and this is a place where both locals and tourists alike really appreciate artists and want to financially support them as much as possible.”
In addition to her potent creative side, she also has a great deal of business-savvy. She praises her parents and grandparents for their inspiration and work ethic: “I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, with both parents and grandparents who owned their own businesses. At some point, I realized I’m just not cut out to work for most other people. I had dreams when I was a kid of owning my own boutique, and around 2006 I started planning and working toward making that dream a reality.”
Although she hasn’t yet opened up a boutique, she gets closer every day. For now, she sells items from her Web site, missmalaprop.com. She also recently started selling some of her skirt collection at Fee & Art’s Revival Studios in the French Quarter, and she’s been participating in the Frenchmen Art Market frequently. “Since I work with other artists, as well, and I sell their work alongside mine at local markets and festivals, I try to make the whole vibe of my booth cohesive,” she says. “There are a lot of different styles there, but I try to make sure that it all speaks to me – colorful, fun and playful – a little out of the ordinary.”