Belle Decor

Southern Designers Worth Watching—and Wearing

By M.K. QuinlanMarch 27, 2013

Charleston may be celebrated for its architecture and five-star food, but it is also gaining momentum as an emerging fashion capital thanks to Charleston Fashion Week, which celebrated its seventh year last week. The event draws names from Manhattan’s fashion in-crowd and showcases the work of established designers, but the highlight of the week is by far the introduction of the country's most promising up-and-coming talent.

Not surprisingly, a large crop of designers are budding here in the South, many thanks to Savannah College of Art and Design. Out of the twenty designers from across the U.S. selected to participate in this year’s Emerging Designer competition, eleven of them have studied at SCAD.

Below, I've highlighted four collections that stood apart on the runways. Keep these designers on your radar. They’re set to make the South proud—and handsome, too.

Siobhan Murphy

Charleston-based Siobhan Murphy’s line was inspired by “the art of dressing up," combining romantic, vintage sensibilities with modern silhouettes. An embroidered tulle tutu paired with a finely tailored red velvet riding jacket, and a high-collared tulle blouse represented a distinctly British, if not Elizabethan, aesthetic that ran through her entire collection.

Credit: Glenn Barnette

Afriyie Poku

Afriyie Poku, an Atlanta designer and the winner of the this year’s Emerging Designer competition, was inspired by the menswear of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which he believes “presented a gentleman at his best.” His collection included knee-length overcoats, double-breasted waistcoats, and a modern interpretation of the jodhpur, all quite “Mr. Darcy” in their sophistication and formality.

Credit: Glenn Barnette

K. Cooper Ray

K. Cooper Ray, the designer behind Charleston-based menswear brand Social Primer, hosted his runway show at the historic Charleston Library Society. His Fall collection, SP Smoking, marries the formality of evening wear fit for a royal with nods to the hunt attire of the American South. Tartan dinner jackets were paired with camouflage dress pants, velvet loafers and cross-body silk sashes fit for a Duke or Duchess.

Credit: F.E. Castleberry

Katherine Barron

Savannah’s Katherine Barron stood apart from the crowd by choosing the magnolia as the inspiration for her collection. The lines and forms of her clean ivory dresses and separates mimicked the architecture and simplicity of one of the South’s most beloved and iconic flowers. Delicate black embroidery and beading were scrawled across the fabric like unwieldy calligraphy. A dress that marries the magnolia and fine penmanship? Be still my Southern heart.

Credit: Glenn Barnette