business Mardi Gras

Ginaware opening for weekend ‘Carnival Costume Lite’ sale

By Jeanne D’Arcy, Mid-City Messenger

This weekend, Ginaware will hold its Carnival Collection sale. In the times of COVID-19, it will be a bit more chill than in the past. But fans can still expect all the tutus, corsets, vintage float rider costumes, robes and capes — everything shiny, frothy and colorful and ready to transport would-be revelers to another reality, if only for a day.  

COVID-19 safety precautions will be in full effect. Masks are required, and capacity will be limited. Costume racks and checkout will be set up outside. If customers prefer, they can book a private appointment by clicking here

Things get underway on Saturday (Feb. 6) at 11 a.m. and go until 4 p.m. On Sunday (Feb. 7), there are shorter hours, from noon until 2 p.m. 

Beginning in March, Ginaware will be open on all second Saturday of each month, barring any further full lockdown protocols.

Ginaware has its roots in Hurricane Katrina, when owner and founder Gina Cristina was in Houston. She already loved thrifting and shopping, and began going to the big thrift stores in Texas to get clothes for her friends who had lost everything in the storm (you can always count on a girlfriend to know your style). It snowballed from there. 

Gina has also been an avid costumer for many years. She is a part of small Carnival krewes and other clubs with a rich tradition of creating their own, inventive, beautiful and witty costumes. “My mother was in the antique jewelry business, which gave me a love for old things,” Cristina said.

An accountant by trade, Gina does the books for Stronghold Studios, which owns its Bienville Street warehouse and studio. A small space became available on the bottom floor after it was cleaned up post-Katrina, and Gina decided to rent it and move in her growing collection of vintage and secondhand clothing. “We’ve since expanded and taken over another small unit that was downstairs,” she added. 

Working with Cristina are the mother-daughter team of seamstress Jolie Bonck and Karin Curley, Ginaware’s marketing and social media maven. Curley began working for Ginaware in 2010, while in college. She assisted in building up the business, which at that time was solely appointments with friends and family and maybe one or two sale days a year.

“My mother is my forever costume inspiration,” Curley said of Bonck. “I’ve been creating handmade Carnival costumes — and parading down the streets — side-by-side with her since childhood. She also taught me the love of the hunt for vintage clothes.” 

Ginaware is not a traditional retail operation. It is located in part of a working warehouse. The Ginaware team sees the space as a studio, where they create their own costumes. In non-pandemic times, they are open on the second Saturday of the month, usually with seasonal offerings or a particular focus.

During Carnival season and the weeks leading up to Halloween, they add more open days and bring out all their vintage and secondhand costumes — they have tons in storage. During these special sales, they expand and feature racks both inside and outside. 

Ginaware had its last public sale day the weekend before the lockdown in March. They remained closed until October, when they opened for private appointments and conducted a very small Halloween costume sale. They do not do online sales at this time, because this is a side job and passion project for the Ginaware team.

However, they are exploring online sales going forward. The hesitancy has been that pairing a person with that special outfit — and the sense of community at Ginaware — doesn’t translate to online retail. 

It’s still all very grassroots, word-of-mouth and neighborhood based. “We don’t do any paid advertising. Mostly it’s our friends, neighbors, fellow Carnival krewe members and … their mom ’n’ dem,” Cristina said.

According to the science reporting at Business Insider, the fashion industry produces 10% of all humanity’s carbon emissions, is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply and pollutes the oceans with micro plastics. What’s more, 85% of all textiles go to the dump each year.

Just these salient facts have made the team at Ginaware keenly interested in sustainable fashion, and how to transform the fashion industry — and our consumer habits — to reduce the environmental impact, such as choosing secondhand items.

Cristina is calling the 2021 Carnival sale “Carnival Costume Lite” because it is not as big as those in years past due to COVID-19. “But we will still have many one-of-a-kind showstoppers and versatile basics.” Curley said.

They source items for costume sales year round, and have continued to source during COVID times, Cristina said. So while none of the costume items are new, the team promises they will be fresh, fun and possibly a bit weird.  

4429 Bienville St.
Instagram @ginawareclothing

This report was corrected after posting to reflect that Ginaware will close at 2 p.m. on Sunday. 

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