This is the first in a series of columns exploring some of New Orleans’ many women-owned businesses as we head into the zenith of the holiday shopping and entertaining season.
I am here to implore of you, all of you, everyone—and I have done this before—please abandon Amazon, national chains, and convenience-driven services as best you can and choose instead to keep our local merchants operating and our neighborhoods alive. They desperately need us. We need community, and shopping at a privately owned business, even if you are shopping online, is so much more rewarding and engaging an experience than shopping at Walmart or Walgreen’s could ever be. This is especially true if you have a sense of the person(s) behind the business.
Diana “Dia” Morari’s Romanian grandmother, Duţa Morari, had a natural cure for everything. She taught her granddaughter to make a restorative liniment of ground comfrey root and white lily petals from her garden, which she would then massage into her feet, which ached from the long hours she spent each day working the orchards and gardens that nourished her family in Frumosu, Romania. That liniment became the inspiration for Madonna Lily, the gorgeous, lavishly-scented line of all-natural selfcare products Dia launched with her best friend Raluka “Ralu” Giurgiutiu, out of their Midcity kitchen.
“It was Raluca who first thought to sell the sugar scrubs we had been creating for ourselves and our friends,” Morari said. “We perfected our craft through farmer’s markets in Cape Cod then returned to New Orleans, a city that had already captured our hearts to really launch the business, which is named for the lilies in my grandmother’s garden. These lilies were originally called the ‘Madonna Lily’ by the Romans and believed by the Greeks to have originated from the milk of Hera, queen of the gods and protector of women. The name both honors the past and celebrates our present and future as a 100 percent women-owned business that helps inspire others to reconnect with nature. Madonna Lily was forged in friendship and fueled by a love of all things natural. We draw our strength from Mother Nature and wish to keep her happy. “
The growing product line is diversified to address different ailments and includes natural serums, masks, oils and exfoliants for face; serums, scrubs, butters, and lotion bars for body; and soaks and “teas” for bath. Each product is imbued with essential oils known for their healing, relaxing, calming, or energizing properties, and incorporates either whole or crushed dried flowers for their fragrance, texture, and healing properties. Several of the products, such as the Solid Gold Body Shimmer Lotion Bar, leave behind a faint, fragrant shimmer following a quick swoosh across the skin. The inherent beauty of the products takes center stage due to the use of minimal, sustainable packaging.
Driven by a grant from the Main Street Recovery Program the Madonna Lily website went live last week.
“The website is a big step for us,” Giurgiutiu said, “now the biggest plan is to improve our packaging, to be even more Earth friendly and sustainable. Throughout the month of November all Madonna Lilly products (including party favors and gift sets) are offered for 20 percent off when using the code NOV20SALE.
Jennifer John, a former news reporter and anchor for WWL-TV, and an Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker founded Pang Wangle, a New Orleans-based outdoor clothing and adventure company in 2017.
“I had sprained my ankle. That forced me to sit on the couch for two days and really think about what to do next,” Jennifer said. “I enjoy being outdoors. I’m passionate about sustainable design, and I couldn’t find fashionable clothes designed specifically for hot, humid, buggy climates like New Orleans. I was up for a new challenge.”
She partnered with Insect Shield to put their proprietary bug repellent technology into New Orleans-designed, made in the USA, stylish, eco-friendly clothing. First developed for the U.S. military, the Insect Shield process binds a small amount permethrin (live shampoo, pet flea collars) to the fabric fibers. Its presence repels mosquitoes, ticks, flies, fleas, chiggers, ants and midges (no-see-ums).
“Based in subtropical New Orleans, we can always count on two things – celebrations and mosquitos,” John said. “Pang Wangle delivers the elegant solution to biting insects with our wraps, scarves and leggings. We are taking ground-breaking technology and putting it in luxurious, eco-friendly styles that women want to wear. It lasts 70+ washes and is safe for the entire family, including infants and pregnant women. Zika, Lyme Disease, Dengue fever are real threats and on the rise. We have the technology to protect ourselves. Let’s use it! And the clothing is easy care – just wash and wear.”
Pang Wangle’s best seller, The Essential Wrap was released last spring. The 6-foot-long wrap made of ultra-soft, recycled cotton and high-performance TENCEL (derived from renewable eucalyptus trees) can be worn effortlessly draped across the shoulders, around the waist as a sarong, or as a head and neck covering. This is the elegant, easily pack-able (just tie it to the handle of a purse or tote) solution to warding of biting bugs. The dreamy fabric is also moisture wicking, breathable, and hypoallergenic.
The Featherlight Infinity Scarf, made in an ultra-soft, light, washable, silk-modal (derived from renewable beech tree pulp)blend can be worn single or double looped, draped over the shoulders to cover your arms, or as a hood. Pang Wangle’s Optimist Pants are high-waist, full-length organic cotton leggings designed for travel and adventure, with built-in bug repellent and a waistband pocket for money, ID, and a key. Timeless, they can be dressed up for brunch or an outdoor event with heels and a nice top or paired with suitable gear for sporting adventure.
In addition to the website (enter the code NOLA15 for a discount), Pang Wangle goods are currently available locally at Home Malone; Glitterbox; and The Good Shop (catch them there for a holiday pop-up on Dec. 12.)
Happy holiday shopping. Make it local. Support our ladies.