August Community Connect – Blake Haney of Dirty Coast
Our August Community Connect introduces Blake Haney, owner of local retailer Dirty Coast and close friend of Witry Collective co-owner Katie Witry. At first glance, Dirty Coast seems like simply a witty t-shirt company that incorporates the quirky elements and common phrases unique to New Orleans culture. However, Blake elaborates, “Our designs aspire to a higher standard than mere recognition, tribalism, or kitsch. At their best, our shirts stoke nostalgia, spark conversation, and make people laugh. They elicit knowing nods at your neighborhood bar and hearty ‘who dats’ in foreign airports.”
Blake is a native New Orleanian who “grew up in the tree streets off Broadway.” He reminisces on his pre-internet childhood as consisting mainly of riding bikes with no helmets and day dreaming. He fondly remembers his mom making all of his Mardi Gras costumes, perhaps a foreshadowing of designing his own clothing line later on. “It was great [growing up in New Orleans]. It wasn’t until I moved away and shared where I was from with people around the country that I realized where I grew up was not like any other city.” It was his time spent away from New Orleans that inspired Blake to create Dirty Coast. He shares:
“In 2004, I had a design studio and was wondering why there wasn’t a t-shirt/clothing brand that a New Orleans native like myself could buy shirts from, so I started my own. Then, of course, Katrina happened and having a brand that focused on the city became not just an opportunity as a new company but gave it a greater mission to start a conversation inside and out about the city. Each design is a billboard about the person wearing it and a way to connect with others who love it here. But we also want the shirts to be honest and critical at times when necessary about living here.”
On Wednesday, July 31st, Witry Collective was invited to host the first Benefit Pop-up at the newest Dirty Coast location. The event allowed all friends, family, and supporters to shop, mingle, and enjoy local eats and drinks while 20% of each purchase was donated to local non-profit unCommon Construction. Additionally, Dirty Coast donated $300 to unCommon Construction. Guests had a sneak peek treat of the freshly opened Thalia (Chef Kristen Essig of Coquette) and Urban South Brewery provided their Paradise Park American Lager. The evening was a fun success and is just the beginning of what the community can expect to see from Dirty Coast.
After reading their story and learning from Blake about the brand’s mission, we can appreciate that Dirty Coast plays an essential role in building the footprint of our community. It’s apparent that the goals the company has set for themselves are expanding to encompass more. “While we still love making t-shirts, our ambition has us seeking bigger canvases than a screen print can provide.” We assume that Blake is referring to the additional fourth store opening at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, in addition to future collaborations with Urban South Brewery, Leidenheimer Baking Company, Crystal Hot Sauce, and Hubig’s Pies. Those are some pretty substantial and well-respected NOLA establishments to join forces with. We can only imagine what else is in store for “just a t-shirt shop!”
-Dirty Coast has an End of Summer party booked at Tipitina’s on Saturday, September 21st. Keep an eye out for their launch of “The Lagniappe List” – locally owned businesses across the city will begin accepting Dirty Coast’s “Lagniappe Coin” for some sort of perk. Follow along on their Instagram @dirtycoast to stay in the know!