Made in the South Awards

2014 Style & Design Category

A North Carolina denim outfit specializes in expert craftsmanship and exceptional fit

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Style & Design Winner

Raleigh Denim Workshop
Product: Jeans
Made in: Raleigh, NC
Est. 2007

Pioneers in a growing movement to reclaim American denim, Sarah Yarborough and Victor Lytvinenko know blue jeans better than just about anyone. In 2007, the duo dove into North Carolina’s textile history and quickly discovered that the oldest denim mill in the country, Cone Mills’ White Oak plant, was less than an hour’s drive from their doorstep—and still operating. “It seemed a shame to go elsewhere when there is this great denim right here,” Yarborough says. “We take a lot of pride in what we’re doing because we work with people who take a lot of pride in what they’re doing.” To start, they made a pair a day for six months, enlisting friends to wear their creations so they could tweak the fit. Today, with the help of their team of veteran pattern makers and seamstresses, they continue to hand sew and sign the bulk of their five men’s and six women’s styles using fabric loomed in the Tar Heel State. From their 6,000-square-foot workshop in Raleigh’s revamped Warehouse District, they turn out roughly three hundred pairs per week—a pace that suits them just fine. “We want people to pick up our jeans and know that we’re crafting the best product we possibly can,” Lytvinenko says. “We want you to feel like a badass every time you put them on. That’s what’s most important.”

Price: $198-$385

Style & Design Category Runners-Up

S.E. Sherrick
Product: S.E. Sherrick tote
Made in: Nashville, TN
Est. 2012

Growing up, Susan Sherrick kept a notebook filled with bag designs—riffs on styles she dreamed up or saw in magazines. Her father, a leather holster maker, taught her to sew. But Sherrick didn’t approach the business seriously until decades later, when a career in the art world necessitated a stylish carry-all that could accommodate everything from her laptop to a change of clothes. After trying unsuccessfully to find a bag that met her needs, she decided to design her own. The resulting over-the-shoulder tote became a walking advertisement for Sherrick’s talents. This up-date to the original uses supple North Carolina–sourced leather, custom sewn in black or brown cowhide. Finished with an antique brass zipper—the kind traditionally used on rancher’s chaps—it’s as handsome as it is durable.

Price: $600

Julie Cohn Design
Product: Jewelry
Made in: Dallas, TX
Est. 2010

For freelance designers, 2008 to 2010 were lean years. “The phone just quit ringing,” says artist Julie Cohn, who had built her career designing everything from textiles to dinnerware. “I just started making jewelry for friends to keep from going stark raving mad.” She may have lost that particular battle—after all, you need a little crazy to launch a business during a recession—but word of mouth brought more and more orders to her door. Cast in bronze and sterling silver with semiprecious stones, Cohn’s bracelets and rings are both primitive and polished. A new capsule collection for Dallas-based retailer Stanley Korshak includes precious stones and marks Cohn’s first foray into fine jewelry. “As a designer, I’m lucky,” she says. “I get to make things. It’s challenging. But most days I can’t wait to get into my studio.”

Price: $125-$1,195

Edward’s Shoes
Product: Shoes
Made in: Spring Hill, TN
Est. 2013

Made by hand in Tennessee, each pair of cordwainer Edward Jones’s cap toes, wingtips, and saddle oxfords (shown here) takes more than two hundred steps to complete. Individual hammer marks on the stacked-leather soles represent hours of labor and reflect an attention to detail that would make an old-world cobbler proud. But Jones never trained in Europe. He never even went to design school. In fact, the former IT tech’s wife taught him how to sew. “I started doing research and realized there are very few shoemakers left in the United States,” Jones says. “And since I couldn’t run off to Italy for training—I had a family—I read everything I could find and talked to any shoemaker willing to help.” Today he specializes in custom and ready-to-wear men’s shoes; a handful of women’s designs are on the drafting table.

Price: $600