Tracee Dundas still remembers the first garment she ever made.
“I was taking a sewing class in high school through 4-H and we had to make something and model it,” she says. “So I chose to make a bikini. I’ll never forget the hideous green I used. It turned out well, but looking back I realize it wasn’t my go-to color.”
A native of St. Martinville, Louisiana, Dundas fell in love with fashion during a modeling class her mother signed her up for at the age of 14. After studying apparel design at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, she dreamed of joining the New York fashion scene, but didn’t have the funds.
Instead, Dundas worked as an account executive at Phillip Morris until the day her boss saw her in a fashion magazine. “They didn’t like that I was moonlighting and decided to release me,” she says. “It was actually a gift. My heart was never there.”
Freed from the corporate world, Dundas went on to create her own successful model and talent management company, About Faces, and worked as a stylist, dressing clients including Michael Jordan and Drew Brees.
Dundas is now known, however, as the founder of New Orleans Fashion Week. Inspired by Fashion Week New York, the five-day event each spring showcases southern-based talent through over 50 runway shows and provides ample opportunities for young designers to get their start. Attendance has continued to grow since the first event in 2011, with this past March’s audiences reaching over 500 guests per night.
“We are growing and changing, and each year I’m adding something new,” she says. “For this last event our top design winner, Brik Allen, will also be featured in the upcoming (TV) season of ‘Project Runway.’ That just speaks to the quality of talent in this city.”
Mentor: My parents have been wonderful mentors. They really taught me the importance of going for it. Especially my dad, who always told me, “‘Can’t’ is not a word. It’s not in your vocabulary.” Defining moment: I think it was being let go from that Fortune 500 company for moonlighting in fashion. It was the push I needed. Advice for young women: Nothing happens overnight and you’ve got to be prepared to do anything. Whatever career you choose is what you’re going to be doing for the largest part of your day – and your life – so make sure you do something you enjoy. Goals: I’m always looking to do more with my life. Sometimes I just don’t know what that is yet. But I definitely want to create an apparel market based in New Orleans to help support our local designers. Favorite thing about what I do: Can I say all of it? I love the crazy, organized chaos. I love how you go from zero to 60 on a moment’s notice. And I love when I see designers succeed. Their success solidifies what I’m doing.