Ali McNally, owner of Neon Heart (Photo: Joshua Brasted)
Ali McNally is part rock star (her band, YYZ, is signed to Universal Records), part fashion model and part beauty guru. These jet-setting careers exposed her to designers worldwide and cultivated her unique style. Late last year, McNally and her husband opened New Orleans boutique Neon Heart, where their favorite local and international brands all thrive under one roof. The New Orleans transplant shares the secrets of her model-off-duty style (and love of sequins).
From masked Mardi Gras balls to Day of the Dead celebrations, New Orleans has a love affair with costuming. Has that influenced your style?
This is one of the coolest places I’ve lived because of the costume culture. I’ve always collected costumes. I have a whole collection of figure-skating outfits covered in sequins, so New Orleans has been a really good fit for me.
You have a collection of sequined figure skating outfits? How did this start?
I grew up thrifting in Canada. We have great vintage stores and, being a winter sports country, a lot of discarded figure-skating costumes. Playing with my band, I was always looking for stage wear and these were perfect. You can move in them and they have a bit of shine.
What designers do you favor?
I love shoes by Miu Miu. Right now, I’m wearing a black sweater dress from a Canadian store called Aritzia, fishnet tights and a big black pair of stacked-heel boots. Accessory-wise, I’m wearing little hoop earrings with spikes outside by Maria Francesca Pepe.
I also collect archival pieces from a British designer named Ashish. He does fun party pieces — he’s known as the king of sequins.
I’m noticing a sequin motif.
I got married in a sequined dress, for God’s sake! I have that magpie aesthetic. I collect dresses by a British brand called Antipodium. They are very quirky and very British tongue-in-cheek. I have this dress covered in cartoon bears that are up to no good: they’re smoking cigarettes or being naughty behind trees. It’s the cutest dress! I wore it to a friend’s wedding but (luckily) I don’t think they noticed the print.
Sounds like you have a whimsical approach to clothing.
I don’t take fashion super seriously, but I balance that by having good basics: a good pair of skinny jeans, striped Breton tops, sweater dresses. I try to present myself as a boutique owner by looking a little more polished. Having great basics factors into that.
What else do you wear when you want to look grown-up and professional?
One of my all-time favorites when I’m feeling serious is this vintage 1980s Chanel quilted bag. It has huge hardware pieces because it was the ’80s and everything was gaudy. I call it my “serious business” bag.
On a day-to-day basis, I am in love with my Rorin handbag. They’re by a local girl named Erin Tufts — she is awesome. She has a leopard-print clutch and it has served me well.
And Rorin bags are something you carry in Neon Heart, right?
I think literally everything in the shop is something I use or wear. There is another great brand we sell called RP/Encore by Reid Peppard. She’s first and foremost a fine artist. Inspired by her taxidermy practice, she branched into jewelry-making and created gold-plated canary skull and fox toe bone rings. Everything she makes is ethically sourced. She finds road kill to make art or purses so that she doesn’t actually hurt the animals.
British designers, vintage Chanel, road-kill jewelry, and sequins. You have a diverse collection in your closet.
I’ve always been inspired by people who don’t even pay attention to fashion, who are doing their own thing. My favorite style is unstudied and doesn’t look like I put time into the look, but it just works. I fit in well with New Orleans.