Cover Story

IND Style Awards

There's a not-so-subtle difference between people who are well-dressed and people with style. True style. Style that can't be bought.

Three men. Three women. One celebrity. The winners of our inaugural fashion awards take the stage Sept. 19.

By Amanda Bedgood | photos by Travis Gauthier

There's a not-so-subtle difference between people who are well-dressed and people with style. True style. Style that can't be bought. Style that speaks clearly (not always loudly). Style that is one of a kind. On rare occasions you find someone who is both well-dressed and has style. We have found seven such people to honor for our inaugural IND Style Awards. Three men. Three women. One unique celebrity. All with one thing in common - bold dressers who believe the rules of fashion are simple. There are, in fact, no rules.

Diverse in age, style and profession, our honorees have their own sense of humor in dressing, whether it's a clever T-shirt under a sharp jacket or a skull-decked bracelet paired with a demure dress. A sense of the irreverent. A kind of panache that comes not from money but from an innate sense of style that goes beyond fashion. That is a reflection of the person. That transcends age and shape. An enviable confidence that completes an outfit in a way no accessory can.

Read on to learn just what you can find in the closets of Lafayette's most creatively dressed men and women - and don't miss the IND Style Awards Sept. 19 at the Acadiana Center for the Arts as we celebrate these seven individuals and their difficult to define, yet easy to appreciate, style.

Jim Gibson

To say Jim Gibson wears a suit well is an injustice to Jim Gibson - and suits. On the day we sat down to chat about his personal style he's as sharply dressed as they come in a perfectly tailored suit (F. Camalo, naturally) with perfectly irreverent details (purple shirt, bold tie).

Jim has strong feelings about dressing well (no polos, no khakis, no baseball caps - ever ) with a penchant for cuff links bordering on addiction. And while Jim knows what he likes, he's anything but serious. Dressing, for this Lafayette attorney of Allen & Gooch, is more art and soul than rules.

"I probably take most of my inspiration from art or, as silly as it sounds, music," he says, explaining how music evokes memory of certain colors.

Color is most certainly at the top of what makes Jim's style individual. The man isn't afraid of it. On his weekly trek to Marcello's for dining, he's likely to be in a sport's jacket with a "louder shirt." At home, it's a button down and shorts. And for work it's those suits with a sense of humor. His favorite choices for shopping are local haunts well-versed in dressing men like F. Camalo, Moseley & Hollard and Partners.

But, perhaps the most telling of Jim's sartorial choices are the icons he points to - Lenny Kravitz, Tom Ford and Nucky Thompson of Boardwalk Empire - all standouts in terms of style and none seemingly connected to each other in aesthetic.

"They are all colorful in their own ways," Jim explains.

And so, clearly, is Jim Gibson.

Carol Blanda

At the tender age of 6 on a trip to the local store in Crosby, N.D., Carol Blanda and her siblings were allowed to choose one item.

"I bought pink plastic high heels," she says with a laugh. The other kids bought toys.

The heels quickly broke on those beloved shoes. She glued them back on (more than once).

"That was the beginning," she says.

It was the beginning of a life spent dressing well - something she learned from a mother who looked impeccable day in and day out in simple looks like petal pushers and pearls.

"What we wear is a real insight to who we are," Carol says.

Wearing a classic black dress from Molli and an armful of bangles from kiki, this former retailer has perfectly groomed blonde hair, ultra feminine pink lips and wickedly sharp black heels. She is the picture of a classically beautiful woman in a classically done look. But, her true inspiration for dressing comes from a far less "classically done" place.

"I'm a '70s girl. A little bit rock and roll," she says.

It was that era that first piqued Carol's interest in fashion in a real way. And it has held a place in her heart (and closet) since.

"It was about self expression," she says of the '70s.

And some things never change. Evidence of her affection for that rocker vibe is nestled among the bangles on her wrist on a bracelet decked with skulls.

"I don't follow any rules," she says.

She does, however, have an easy tip for taking any look up a notch: "a good shoe and handbag." And a simple tip for keeping a closet stocked with the right items.

"Shop locally and shop often."

Spoken like a true lady.

Mohit Srivastava

Mohit Srivastava is a thoughtful dresser (especially for a man who spends three quarters of his life in what he calls pajamas). The Lafayette internal medicine doctor, affectionately known to most simply as "Mo," has a real love for fashion and an eye for minimalist design that's at once bold and subtle.

"Fashion is a medium of self expression," he says.

On this day, he's wearing a jacket and pants of lightweight fabric and pale whites and grays with a Marlon Brando T-shirt underneath. The standout addition to the ensemble is a pair of loafers that are black and white with a slice of dark red.

"I've always believed less is more," he says.

He also believes fashion has little to do with money and labels.

"Fashion happens on the street," Mohit says.

It's something that catches the eye, and he knows that what someone is wearing is as important as the person wearing it. And while he's utterly put together, he manages to look so with stubble and a bit of that perfectly undone air.

"I'm on the scruffy side as much by inclination as necessity," he says. "Fragrance is my jewelry and no fashion is complete without a smile."

On Mohit, that smile is a gleaming one and but another notch on a long list of what makes this man handsome. The other is a personality that's as bright as that smile and a sense of confidence that can't be bought.

"You don't have to be rich. Live within your means and fashion will happen. The one rule of fashion is there are no rules," Mohit says. "You can wear anything you want. Think outside the box."

Outside the box, Mohit proves, can still mean muted shades and subtle design. Without saying a word the look can speak volumes.

"Dress simply. Fashion will fade. Style will remain."

Crystall Coroy

Crystall Coroy is not afraid. It's something that's clear when she arrives at an event. It's something that's clear today as she crosses her tan legs decked out in tall combat boots from Shoe-La-La. She's wearing a snug printed dress from Knotting Hill topped with a sweater tank from Vanessa V. Boutique with a high-low hemline that reaches far below her skirt in the back. On her head what is fast becoming her signature - a gold headpiece she found at Hemline.

"Kind of hippie edgy," Crystall says quietly of her style.

That's the thing about style. It says a lot even if the style mavens themselves aren't so keen on speaking loudly. Crystall's borderline boho vibe and fearless combinations are a kind of contrast to her personality that's far more demure than her sartorial choices.

"I like different. I'm not afraid," she says with a laugh. "Fashion says a lot about a person."

What it says about Crystall is that she is creative. She has a gift in mixing high/low in a way that really works as well as combining different genres for a truly eclectic vibe.

She creates many outfits from one piece and loves to layer jewelry - Exhibit A are the kiki bracelets she's wearing on this day and the combination of two necklaces (one From Vanessa V. and the other from Hemline). This fall she's planning to keep those boots going with everything from shorts and skirts to dresses. While Crystall is perhaps best known for her uniquely irreverent dressing for events and standout head pieces, her greatest style accomplishment is her everyday look. This mother to five children always manages to look pulled together.

"I still think you can look cute wearing mom clothes," she says. "You can be comfortable in casual clothes and be cute."

Andre Broussard

The funny thing about hipsters is that many of them cringe at the label. And even more ironic is that well-dressed, young and quirky sartorialists like Andre Broussard aren't spending much time analyzing their style.

"I don't think about it too much, honestly," Andre says with a shrug.

The 28-year-old graphic designer does like dressing well, even if he's not spending loads of time or money on his choices.

"I like looking proper, but casual at the same time," he says.

On this day he's wearing denim that manages to look quite proper with a cuff that reveals marigold socks he picked up at Genterie Supply Co. downtown, sensible and yet good-looking black shoes and a well-fitted short sleeve button down shirt. Muted colors with a bit of attitude. The youth that spent many days in T-shirts, the former punk with uber punk hair, has been learning as of late the power of being well-dressed.

"You can fool people into thinking you have your life together by dressing properly," he says lightly. "The first time I wore a suit ... people open doors for you ... it was a real revelation."

Suit dressing for Andre surely takes a cue from his love of soul music. In fact, his vinyl collection and weekly spot hosting soul on KRVS' The Flip Side probably speak most clearly about his style.

"Otis Redding, The Temptations. So put-together perfectly ... they have a unique sensibility," Andre says.

Sensibility is something that's not in short supply in Andre's closet; rather, it's the foundation for his quirkily done style.

"My sense of style has gotten keener over the years," he says.

And his signature bold socks?

"My sock game is pretty on point right now."

Mallory Acrey

The approach Mallory Acrey takes with fashion transcends her closet - most of her wisdom can go seamlessly from dressing to life. Simply put, she says, play to your strengths and take care of what you love.

For Mallory that translates to pieces that flatter her curvy 5-foot-2-inch frame with a nod to the past that stays totally now. Think Mad Men (her style inspiration) made modern.

"Polished, eclectic and a bit bold," she says.

On her style radar are Kate Beckinsale and Gwen Stefani - both of whom find a way to look unexpected yet polished. And thanks to her post at Firefly Digital, Mallory has the freedom to daily dress just that creatively. She can be found in pieces that combine unexpected color combinations - matchy matchy won't be found in her closet and she considers leopard a neutral - with unique accessories. On the day we met she wears a simply cut dress from Bevo's of bold blue and red print with neutral wedges from Vertigo (part of her nude shoe addiction) and a vintage smoky topaz ring (her grandmother's) she had restored from serious disrepair. The ring is just the sort of example of care that Mallory takes with her clothing. She treats her pieces with loving care because, well, she loves them.

"Most of the items in my closet should be love at first sight," she says, pointing to the truth that if she loves it, she will make it work with other pieces. "I'm a huge advocate of altering, dry cleaning."

Mallory literally has $20 dresses from Forever 21 dry cleaned. And while she may have spent more cleaning the dress by now than it cost, she knows the price is worth it to keep a piece looking great. With her bold red hair and often mile-high nude heels, Mallory is that rare combination of sexy and demure. And above all else, the woman knows what works for her.

"Confidence is key. If you don't question your outfit neither will anyone else."

No questions here.

Geno Delafose
We've been tossing around the idea of an IND Style Awards event for years, and as we made plans to take The Independent to a monthly frequency, we knew the time had come. The idea has always been to produce a much fresher event than The Best Dressed Ball of old. We wanted a celebration of the unique range of personal style among local tastemakers, from traditional sartorial splendor to funkier, edgier vibes in dressing. To cover that story right, you need a publication with certain heft, and we felt the IND Monthly would provide the perfect opportunity.

We may have been waiting for the right time, but we knew who we wanted on that runway from the very first meeting eons ago. There is no better way to explain what we wanted the IND Style Awards to mean in two words or less than these: Geno Delafose. The man has a look. Always. The starched jeans and impeccably pressed shirt. The 10-gallon hat shading that gazillion-watt smile. The boots. The buckle (of course). That he also happens to be a prince of a guy who still tends to the family farm between gigs playing accordion across the globe is just a bonus.

Is there a more indigenous iconic fashion image in South Louisiana than The Zydeco Cowboy? We think not. And nobody wears it better than Geno Delafose. - Cherry Fisher May