Made in the South Awards

2010 Style Category

From modern rocking chairs to strawberry jam, the winners of our first contest for craftsmen exemplify the South’s entrepreneurial spirit and a tradition of goods made right

Photo: Brian Woodcock

Style Category Winner

Emil Erwin
Product canvas and leather bags
Made in Nashville, TN

Like some sort of multitasking superhero, Emil Congdon—a thirty-year-old husband and father of two—works by day as a salesman for Dell computer in Nashville, but on nights and weekends, he has a second life. “I have this detached garage at the house,” he says, “and that’s where my workshop is.”

Congdon makes each elegantly simple Emil Erwin bag by hand, using rich, heavy leather, waxed canvas, or both.
It hasn’t taken long for the bags to attract a national following, including a starring role in the J.Crew men’s boutique in New York, for a bag Congdon designed with the Nashville blue-jean atelier Imogene + Willie.

“I guess I get my inspiration from my grandfather’s workshop, back out in the country,” Congdon says. “I spent a lot of time there. Everything inside that shop was made in that American tradition: very practical, very sturdy. I make each bag myself. I get my hands dirty. I’m always thinking, If I can’t do it right, I won’t do it at all. With every bag, that’s what’s on my mind.”

$400 – $800,

Style Runners-Up

Gabrielle Jewelry
Product Cast-Metal Jewelry
Made in Charleston, SC

Twenty-two-year-old metalsmith Gabrielle Bratton’s cast-lace jewels are a study in ancient artistry. To create each piece, Bratton soaks bits of lace in hot wax to make a mold, or cast, before pouring molten metal into the cavity to set the design. The soaking process allows every detail of the delicate lace stitching to come through, imparting her work with a look that’s equal parts tough and feminine. And so her necklaces and cuffs complement jeans as well as they do ball gowns.

$45 – $1,200

Hastings Creations
Product Lapel and hat pins
Made in Birmingham, AL

For years, award-winning Birmingham chef Chris Hastings made a tradition of giving his woodcock feather pins as tokens of thanks. Now he’s sharing them with the rest of us. “I enjoy working with my hands and doing something other than cooking as a creative outlet,” Hastings says. This year, he ushered in a second business, making custom pins out of materials gleaned during his hunts in Nova Scotia. The rugged designs bring casual elegance to a tweed lapel or the brim of a hat.

$100  205-873-1753

Magar Hatworks
Product custom  hats
Made in Charleston, SC

Whether you’re in the market for a simple fedora or something theatrical for the Kentucky Derby, Southern milliner Leigh Magar can create it. Although Magar is known in the ranks of high fashion, with luxury retailers such as Barneys New York selling her wares, she’s based in Charleston, South Carolina, in a region that champions taking the time to make things by hand. “I’m rooted here,” Magar says. “And I’m constantly inspired by the South.”  

$200 – $600