French Quarter One-of-a-Kind Series: Hats Off to Style at Fleur de Paris on Royal Street

By: Tara McLellan

Top to Bottom: Fleur de Paris Shop Window Display & Details (images 1-3); A fun floral & faux Leopard chapeau; Joe Parrino, Jr. will help you pick a show-stopping accessory

It has often been said that it is the accessories that make the outfit. Never has that been more stylishly true than at Fleur de Paris. Located just around the corner from St. Louis Cathedral in the heart of the French Quarter, Fleur de Paris offers visitors style from head to toe… literally. According to the shop’s head milliner Nicole LeBlanc, “The whole idea, no the whole truth, of New Orleans and the South as being romantic, elegantly retro, decadent, and feminine is perfectly illustrated by Fleur de Paris.”

Family owned and operated from its opening in 1980, the shop features one of the finest collections of custom and vintage millinery and accessories for fashionable ladies. “I would describe our shop as a hat lover’s paradise,” says Nicole LeBlanc. And with 23 years of experience, and after designing more than 12,000 hats, she should know. “This is the place you come to for the most fabulous chapeau you have ever had; for a hat that will draw attention to you; a hat to make you look beautiful and unforgettable.” Offering only fashions and accessories that are one-of-a-kind or made in small quantities, customers invest in pieces that are as unique as their own personalities.

Fleur de Paris is more than a memorable shopping experience. It offers classic, unique style. It offers art and style. It offers memories and souvenirs that cannot be duplicated. “The experience at Fleur de Paris is unlike any other shopping experience,” says Joseph Parrino, Jr., who has worked in his father’s store learning the ropes from the ground up. “When customers enter the shop, they hear French music. There is a feast for the eyes everywhere you look. The ladies and gentlemen who work in the shop are trained in fashion design and give a personalized approach to the shopping experience. We even offer after hours, champagne shopping for customers that have extra special requirements.”

An old-world, personalized approach to fashion and hat making is the perfect match to the old-world beauty and style of the French Quarter. “This shop would not be the same if it were located somewhere else,” says Parrino. “This is a unique, historical part of the United States. When people come, they slip into the past. They feel like they are walking the streets of Europe.” Nicole LeBlanc echoes the sentiment, “The French Quarter is a great walking area, and you always discover the best places when you just follow your feet,” she says. “The best stumbled-upon shops carry unusual items that make your heart sing and satisfy your aesthetic longings, so a shop like ours is a perfect fit for the French Quarter.”

Described by Fleur de Paris insiders as: “a girly-girl’s wonderland;” “a paradise for hat lovers;” “opium for textile fanatics;” and “unimaginably lush,” this unique, whimsical shop offers visitors to New Orleans an experience like no other. You could say it is as if the “City of Lights” has met “the Crescent City.” As LeBlanc says, “what better souvenir than a custom-made hat that one can wear forever, bringing back fond memories of a trip to New Orleans.”

Three Little Known Facts about Fleur de Paris from Nicole Le Blanc:

  • We have three hats at the Kentucky Derby Museum.
  • A crucial scene in the movie “Crazy in Alabama” was filmed in the shop.
  • “Our millinery supplies represent the largest and most beautiful collection I have ever seen. At least half is vintage. There are a few certain things I have declined to ever use (so far) on a hat because they are so special and irreplaceable. I just look at them, swoon, and put them back, because I might have a better idea for a hat next year.”

Fleur de Paris, 712 Royal Street, 504-525-1899 (504-525-1901, fax).

Hours of operation, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, Monday through Saturday. Sunday Summer Hours 12:00 to 6pm.

Tara McLellan, a freelance writer, book author, and columnist, has been featured in Metropolitan Home Magazine, New Orleans Magazine, New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles, and St. Charles Avenue Magazine. She lives and works in the New Orleans area.