Kat Reiser Photography

Frock fiesta: Lolly y Nelly’s colorful designs for kids and moms

Mackenzie Almendra didn’t learn Spanish in the typical way. She didn’t spend hours in class or using an app. Instead, when she was 18, she took the plunge and moved from St. Francisville to Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico, not knowing any Spanish but sure she was destined to be there.

“I don’t know why but I just felt like I was always supposed to learn Spanish,” says Almendra. “I was in high school at the time, but I took my laptop and finished online while I was a nanny for a local family.”

During her time abroad, Almendra immersed herself in the culture, learning the language as she strolled through town picking up brightly colored dresses, tops and more. The clothing items became an easy way for Almendra to share the experiences and spirit of Mexico with her family and friends back in Louisiana. After meeting her now husband Daniel and moving back to St. Francisville in 2008, Almendra found herself looking for ways to preserve more than just the memories of her time in Mexico, especially after the birth of her two children Ezra and Levi.

The result of her efforts is Lolly y Nelly, a clothing brand that unifies her two families, both the one in Mexico and the one in Louisiana. Teaming up with her mother Lori Kaiser, also known as Lolly, and her mother-in-law Manuel Almendra, also known as Nelly, the company, which launched last July, aims to bring authentic Mexican dresses and tops to families worldwide.

“My mother-in-law took the all-night trip on a bus from her home to Oaxaca to pick and choose pieces for us,” says Almendra of the embroidered clothes. “But when she got there, someone told her to instead go and check out an address. It ended up being a family that made the dresses out of their home. It turns out they really liked my mother-in-law, and now we deal directly with this family and they make all of our stock.”

This new alliance brings a whole new level to the familial bonds that hold the company together. It’s not just about business, it’s about the love and respect they have for one another and the new traditions that have made their way into each of their lives.

“What’s funny is that we asked the family to make us the dresses in purple and gold and they were like, ‘why?’” recalls Almendra with a laugh. “They didn’t understand that color combination at all. It’s definitely something you won’t find anywhere else.”

The three-woman team has also extended a hand to Simply Smiles, a nonprofit organization that operates a home for orphaned children in Oaxaca. Lolly y Nelly donates a portion of its sales to the organization to directly help children in the city with which they do business.

“People want to buy something that gives back,” explains Almendra. “Our motto is ‘Wear the fiesta,’ and we want to bring that to everyone’s lives through what we are doing.”