New Orleans brand Tchoup Industries (pronounced “chop”) creates bags and accessories you feel good about purchasing. After 10 years of designing packs and luggage for the outdoor industry, Patti Dunn started the brand in 2013 with one contract seamstress. She married her experience and knowledge with a desire to support local artists and utilize locally sourced materials to bring Tchoup (named after Tchoupitoulas, a long street that runs along the Mississippi River) to life.
Patti designs each of her pieces with two things in mind: how to make use of as many recycled and natural materials as possible, and how to showcase the inspiration found in her Southern Louisiana landscape. “The creative and lively culture of this region — especially New Orleans — is the result of a melting pot of people from all over the world,” explains Patti. “The high risk of flooding and hurricanes mixed with the presence of the oil industry that leaves our state both rich and poor gives its citizens a sense of awareness and purpose.” These points factor into the entire creation cycle of each Tchoup piece — from design to production to everyday use.
Tchoup Industries’ mission is to use locally sourced, natural materials whenever possible. This spans from custom stainless steel hook enclosures, irreparable boat sails and upcycled rice bags to hand-loomed woven panels and repurposed wool curtains — all found within the U.S. and many times from small, family-run businesses in Louisiana. Although many would argue that vegan options go hand in hand with eco-conscious choices, Tchoup Industries uses naturally grown materials — like alligator leathers and furs — over vegan leathers and yarns, which are often made from synthetic materials like plastic and polymer-based components.
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The brand’s support of the local community continues into its employment choices. Tchoup has always employed mostly women — mainly artists — to cut, sew, and sell their bags. “I truly believe in the collective of our team, and I help support their outside talents as much as possible,” says Patti. “For instance, our oldest employee Ursa Eyer is an illustrator. I commission her to create custom illustrations for our bandana designs.” Patti also finds joy in partnering with local textile artists to produce eye-catching fabrics made with natural dye, allowing Tchoup to stand out among other bag and accessory brands.
“My favorite item we make might have to be the first pack I designed: our Roulez Pack. It has a roll-top opening that allows for versatility and eliminates a dependency on zippers, which tend to be the first part of a bag to break over time,” Patti tells us. The pack also includes a custom bottle opener hook and water-resistant waxed canvas. Some even include a one-of-a-kind, hand-woven panel by Louisiana artist Daron Douglas. Like all of Tchoup Industries’ pieces, this bag is durable, practical, and supports the brand’s goal to “inspire a sense of exploration in everyone.”
Sadly, the pandemic forced Patti to make difficult and emotional decisions, including letting go of staff and closing her bricks-and-mortar shop on Magazine Street. Now her goal is to run the business in a smaller format and focus on seeing the brand through the “other side” when the tourism and music festivals that many New Orleans small businesses rely on are able to return safely.
When asked what advice Patti would offer to entrepreneurs and female business owners, she highlights the importance of actively engaging with the surrounding entrepreneur community and growing together, also noting the importance of creativity. “In Dave Eggers’ book Zeitoun, the house painter’s wife says, ‘Nobody owns their own business, the business owns you,'” she says. “As an entrepreneur, I suggest seizing every problem that comes along in the most creative way possible. That’s a great way to exercise your entrepreneurial freedom and hopefully offer your community or customers a refreshing alternative.”
Many of Tchoup Industries’ bags, laptop cases, koozies, dog collars and more are available online, allowing the brand to continue its well-deserved growth and success. As Patti forges ahead through the pandemic’s continuous impact, she challenges herself to use existing stock and recycled materials to breathe new life into her collection this year. She also plans to build out a new home for her sewing studio, once again proving that small businesses and creatives will always find a way to inspire, even in the most challenging circumstances.
Thank you, Patti! To learn more about Tchoup Industries and its mission — and to peruse products — visit tchoupindustries.com.
All images courtesy of Tchoup Industries unless otherwise noted.
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