Mardi Gras has long been about the "makers" — the float makers, the Mardi Gras Indian costume makers, the parade costume makers, and the theme makers for walking parades. It’s a wildly creative time of year that often uses unexpected materials to create fantastic traditional and not-so-traditional characters and alter egos. With so many facets of the Mardi Gras season, you can find these innovators in every corner. These are just a few of the many local artists who are continuing storied traditions and shaking up the season with colorful, locally made Mardi Gras treasures.

Kate McNee


Kate McNee in her studio

The show stopping headdresses by Kate McNee, a Londoner who moved to New Orleans over three decades ago, have quite humble beginnings. "My daughter needed a mini top hat for a costume, so I made one from an empty yogurt container," she recalled. "I turned it upside down, glued it onto cardboard, covered it in sparkly fabrics, feathers, and sequins, and attached it to a headband. I started making and selling tiny top hats. And then, I just went bigger."


Julia wears a headdress by Kate McNee and "Alandra" by Greta Constantine ($1,645) from Sosusu

She now makes elaborate headdresses in a Cleopatra-style that covers the whole crown and ears with a dangling flap of fringe on either end. The base is a sturdy visor and McNee regularly travels to New York City’s garment district to purchase appliques like faux flowers, feathers, jewels, and more. "What I love best is seeing them worn," Kate said. "It makes me so happy to see people so happy in a headdress, having such a great time dancing in the streets."

Follow @mcneekate on Instagram for headdresses galore

Suzanne Perron St. Paul

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Suzanne Perron St. Paul

Suzanne Perron St. Paul started her career designing custom bridal gowns, but each year she pivots to designing and creating one-of-a-kind gowns for Mardi Gras royalty — from all-white gowns for maids to custom hand-beaded and glittery gowns for the queens of the balls. "The queen's gown process is so unique and specific to New Orleans," she explained. "Support structures worn under the gown are needed to support the collar and mantle." The Louisiana native, who worked in bridal design with the Vera Wang team in New York, was first approached to create a custom Mardi Gras ball gown 10 years ago.


Courtesy of Suzanne Perron St. Paul

Today, Suzanne works almost a year in advance in her New Orleans studio to make between 8-10 queen's gowns and at least two dozen white debutante/maids gowns for over a dozen krewes — including Hermes, Rex, and Proteus — keeping the storied tradition and pageantry of Mardi Gras royalty alive. "Clients and I have often found inspiration from gowns worn by previous generations," she said.

Follow along on Instagram @suzanneperronstpaul or

Epiphany Throws


Allison Tiller, Melissa Montgomery, Penn Iarocci

The mission of Epiphany Throws is to shift what gets thrown from parade floats from imported plastic beads that never break down in landfills to keepsake Mardi Gras throws made from upcycled, biodegradable materials. Think handmade felt toys, cotton bracelets, and locally made silk braided necklaces.

"The idea is to throw less, but more meaningful things," said Penn Iarocci, one of three co-founders of Epiphany Throws, which was created in 2019. The company works with individual riders and entire floats to supply sustainable bulk items, which have made appearances in parades like Iris, Cleopatra, Rex, King Arthur, Thoth, and Hermes. Epiphany Throws has also partnered with local artist La Adorna to create handbags made from upcycled Mardi Gras costumes.

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Courtesy of Epiphany Throws

"It's fun to think outside the box of what a throw can be," Penn said. "We want to convey that sustainability can be colorful and alive and just as much fun as the traditional throws."

Stay up to date on Instagram @epiphanythrows or

This article appeared in the February 2023 issue of Adore