ABOUT BAMBI DeVILLE
New Orleans is renowned for elegance, opulence, seduction and romance—and no one evokes these notions quite like Bambi DeVille. Stylist, designer, actor, model, hostess, author, entrepreneur and all-around embodiment of her city’s cosmopolitan charm, she rules with an aura of timeless glamour.
The daughter of a French Quarter antiques dealer, Bambi developed a taste for vintage chic at an early age, which she indulged by dressing herself and her five sisters. Her grandmothers’ closets (raided with her grandma Anna’s’ blessings) afforded a wealth of dresses, hats, purses, shoes, jewels and even furs. Beckoned by the boards, Bambi moved to New York as a sweet young thing, causing a sensation on stage and off, she supported herself while teaching at the famed Barbizon Modeling school. Bambi loved the experience of mentoring and encouraging young women to fulfill their potential. Blood being thicker than champagne, however, she was ultimately drawn back to her family home, where she established a niche based on a childhood obsession.
“Odd as it may seem, at 12 years old I was fascinated by radios from the Thirties and Forties,” Bambi says. “That’s what first turned me on to Bakelite.” Then she discovered Bakelite jewelry—those colorful, chunky baubles the ideal accent to her blossoming signature style. So, it’s only natural that upon her return to New Orleans, Bambi became the Bakelite Lady, setting up shop in The French Quarter. New Orleans’ World War II museum commissioned her to create a Bakelite-like line in homage to the patriotic bijoux women wore at the time, and Schiffer Publishing released her definitive book on the subject, WWII BAKELITE JEWELRY: LOVE AND VICTORY in 2011.
Now Bambi’s boutique in the Quarter, boasting Bakelite and beyond, has grown from a secret address shared by fabulous locals to a must-visit destination for discerning fashionistas on both coasts and overseas. Bambi’s impeccable collection of one-of-a-kind, designer vintage clothing, accessories and jewelry is ever-evolving, the result of her curator’s eye, historian’s mind and heroine’s heart. (Not to mention that blonde bombshell beauty that recently landed her a cover of Legends magazine; you’ll also find her extolling her treasures in the quarterly Art + Design.)
Bambi’s eponymous emporium boasts her vast collection, including Edwardian and Victorian eras. Located at 608 Chartres St, in the heart of the French quarter a block and a half from St. Louis Cathedral and the Café Du Monde. “We thought it would be very hard to live up to the Royal Street shop, but it’s come along beautifully,” Bambi says.
“People are intrigued by vintage, those who are comfortable expressing a unique style are drawn to it.” Bambi says. “I can’t tell you how much satisfaction it gives me to pair someone with something special—just the right dress, just the right necklace, even a kimono or wisp of lingerie that never leaves the boudoir—that lets them express themselves and truly sets them apart.”
No wonder people don’t merely “shop” at 608 Chartres: Parties at Bambi’s place are the stuff of legend! Yet her mission is hardly limited to those lucky enough to cross her threshold. Bambi shares her expertise not only on style but New Orleans food, music and culture widely. Case in point, the seventh generation Louisianian’s upcoming book on her family’s fabulous culinary heritage. And in the works is an extension of the Bambi DeVille label to bring her delightful accoutrements to a larger following.
“I see myself as an artist as much as an entrepreneur, a woman who simply follows her passions be it in the theater or as an advocate of animals or vintage chic. Risky? I suppose, but if you’re led by your heart, you’ll land on your feet. I think I exude that — it draws people to me, and in return I inspire that spirit in them. When someone ventures into my shop at 608 Chartres, or the private showroom above the shop, and purchases a piece that makes them look and feel like a queen, that is so satisfying to me. That is creation. That is success.
“I’m known to many as the Bakelite Lady for the business I built on my passion for beautiful Bakelite jewelry. But I’m the sort of entrepreneur who’s never satisfied doing just one thing! So in addition to running my vintage clothing shop at 608 Chartres (which boasts Bakelite and so much more), I’m my own producer: actress, model, stylist, designer, hostess and the author of several books (including WWII BAKELITE JEWELRY: LOVE AND VICTORY) . I simply believe in following one’s muse, so right now I’m following my guides to the next thing while enjoying this lovely world I have created for myself.”