Made in the South Awards

2016 Style Category

Vintage botanical prints turn colorful made-to-measure skirts into wearable art

Photo: Whitney Ott

Style Category Winner

Product: Skirts
Made in: Charleston, SC
Est.: 2010

I think most Southern women like color—and like to look good in a pretty print,” says Susan Carson, the designer behind Carson & Co.’s figure-skimming tea-length skirt. And few prints are prettier than the heron pattern featured in her “July” apparel line. “The pussy willows, the frogs, the little fish, the heron itself, are individual prints that we combine to create one tableau,” Carson says. Each detail originates from one of the eighteenth- or nineteenth-century botanical prints she began buying in English, Parisian, and stateside flea markets more than twenty years ago. In her studio, Carson works with her digital designer to “cut” the images and pair them with contrasting backgrounds: latticework, dots, stripes; her experience in interior design informs the mixing of bold patterns. In 2010, she first turned her attention to textiles and introduced a line of lushly decorative fabrics and scarves, along with several dress and skirt styles. Her made-to-measure skirt, with its nipped waist and fluid lines, stood out for its ability to elevate a day-to-day look. “The bright, graphic colors are fun and playful, as is the occasional print crossing over into the color-blocked borders,” says Made in the South Awards judge Lela Rose. If wading birds aren’t your thing, any of Carson’s botanical-print scarves can also be sewn into this effortlessly chic silhouette.

Price: $900

Style Category Runners-Up

Product: Handbags
Made in: Little Rock, AR
Est.: 2016

Jack Sherman Lloyd launched Dower, his hand-sewn leather-goods line, about a year ago, but his blush-colored Alie handbag feels timeless—the kind of Grace Kelly–esque accessory that would pair well with a tailored white shirt and wide-leg navy trousers. Lloyd spends eight hours sewing each one and will do repairs “as long as I’m alive,” but he keeps the classic handbag’s cost down by selling direct and working from his parents’ Arkansas basement. The arrangement is apropos: His mother taught him to sew when he was a mere Boy Scout, years before he studied fashion in Dallas or honed his skills in New York. When Lloyd came home, he decided to focus on the feminine. “I’m a mama’s boy,” he says. “And I’ve always appreciated women.” His graceful, season-shifting bag is proof.

Price: $425

Product: Men’s leather shoes
Made in: Savannah, GA
Est.: 2011

The word handmade gets tossed around a lot, but Marcell Mrsan’s chocolate-colored box calf leather oxfords are the real deal. He cuts each to measure from a single piece of leather, with limited machine sewing and no synthetic glue. They’re classic yet unpretentious—perfect for daytime suits. Mrsan, who hails from a line of Hungarian shoemakers, began studying his trade at age fourteen. “I was mystified with the magic of taking a flat piece of leather and making it into a shoe,” he says. “After thirty years, it is still magic.” Mrsan arrived in Georgia in 2011, toting a suitcase of heirloom tools to teach his craft at Savannah College of Art and Design. This year, he opened Savannah Cordwainers, a workshop and store featuring less expensive pairs for a more casual Southern clientele.

Price: $850

Product: Scarves
Made in: Richmond, VA
Est.: 2010

Richmond’s urban landscape works its way into Andrea Donnelly’s intricate scarves, which the textile artist weaves from soft alpaca, cotton, and silk on a floor loom. “There’s this great old house with a tiled walkway and wrought-iron gate,” she says. “It’s the layering of these patterns that just filters into my brain.” Those observations emerge in Donnelly’s Skeleton Key series, for instance, with subtle color variations and depth influenced by ikat, an ancient technique that’s a sort of ultrasophisticated tie-dyeing. While Donnelly’s fine art—to be featured in a solo show next year at the North Carolina Museum of Art—asks existential questions, her scarves remain blissfully uncomplicated. “These are made in the service of being beautiful,” she says. It doesn’t hurt that the stylish wraps will keep you plenty warm, too.

Price: $850