Southern Style

These Companies Are Saving Southern Classics

Meet the tastemakers who are carrying forward five style icons
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The Cowboy Boot

Makers: Sharon and Duane Little, of Little’s Boot Company
Locale: San Antonio, Texas

Lucien Little started his shoe shop in San Antonio in 1915, and before long he and his son Ben were making boots for ranchers and cowhands. Then a sort of artistic warfare broke out among the premier boot makers in San Antonio as to who could craft the most extravagant designs. Next, the boot collectors showed up, ordering pairs lavished with colorful cacti, thistles, and roses. Four generations later, the Littles are still at it—Lucien’s great-grandchildren Sharon and Duane now run the workshop. There’s a seven-month lead for their custom-made work—easily  worth the wait.

Photo: Alice Gao

The Statement Bag

Maker: Ann Howell Bullard
Locale: Raleigh, North Carolina

Southern women are known for flair, whether in the form of a statement lipstick, a scent, or a bag, like those Ann Howell Bullard designs. Her collections, which debut quarterly, feature six or seven whimsical pieces that are cut, sewn, and painted by hand in Bullard’s Raleigh studio. Each cross-body, clutch, and tote becomes a work of art: With her paintbrush, she creates brightly colored florals, gemstones, stars, animal prints, rainbow-hued diamonds, and geometric patterns, as well as a portfolio of custom creations for clients. Bullard’s not interested in big-scale production.“Watering down the hand-painted aspect to make way for cheaper and faster doesn’t feel like art to me,” she says. “I want to make bags that will last for years and become vintage collectibles.”

Photo: Alice Gao

The Outlaw Jacket

Maker: Savannah Yarborough, of Savas
Locale: Nashville, Tennessee

Waylon. Johnny. Merle. They all had one: an outlaw jacket in leather. The attire became synonymous with Nashville mystique, something the native Alabamian, Central Saint Martins design school graduate, and Billy Reid alum Savannah Yarborough understands implicitly. “The leather jacket is a deep-rooted garment made to inspire, protect, and make the wearer feel powerful,” she says. “I’m aiming for each jacket to make you feel like you do when you listen to your favorite song, not just create a ‘look.’” Every made-to-order piece sewn by hand at Savas, Yarborough’s Music City workshop, tells a story. The studded Black Star (shown here), a distressed lambskin design that resembles canvas, projects femininity and grit all at once. She hand sands the full-grain lamb suede used to make the Marlon, inspired by Brando’s iconic The Wild One jacket, to imbue it with layers of color. The Denham, a classic denim jacket shape composed of thin, buttery soft leather, features a singular embroidered lining. Then there are the bespoke jackets and stage pieces Yarborough designs for clients and musicians that are one of a kind, from the silhouette to the buttons—those have stories, too. And they all have swagger.

Photo: Alice Gao

The Silver Set

Maker: Lawrence Miller, of Alexandria & Company
Locale: Alexandria, Virginia

When asked to guess the occupation of a forty-something in 2020, “master silversmith” may not be the first thing to spring to mind. But that’s exactly the level of talent Lawrence Miller possesses. The pieces he creates in his Alexandria, Virginia, shop range from Jefferson cups made from a single sheet of sterling silver, in the style of wine vessels beloved by the third president, to practical pitchers and spoons. Miller began his career studying under two European masters of the trade, Anthon and Dezso Rubesch, who sold him their business on Royal Street in 2003. Since then he’s expanded his craft to include intricate historic reproductions for clients as varied as the Mars candy company and the U.S. State Department. And he’s constantly fashioning new ideas from old ones. “I’m really excited about a julep cup design I’ve been tinkering with for months,” he says. “It’s more of a beaker style with a narrow base, so more unusual than what you might typically see.” Of course, nothing Miller makes is typical, proving that sometimes the best way to carry on a tradition is to reinvent it.

Photo: Alice Gao

The Derby Hat

Maker: Natalie Simmons, of Carolina Millinery Company
Locale: Charleston, South Carolina

Every Saturday from April to December, Natalie Simmons of Carolina Millinery Company arrives before light in Marion Square in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, to place her striking fedoras and big-brimmed styles just so before customers arrive for the weekly farmers’ market. Her work is hard to miss (blame it on her love of pink). “I grew up in Charleston, where the tradition of wearing your Sunday best was a weekly fashion show,” she says. Those memories never left Simmons, who majored in fashion design and then studied millinery abroad before returning to her hometown. She begins each hat by shaping hand-dyed straw or fabric into a cone, and the process can take up to four days to complete. For this Derby season, Simmons, whose influences include the styles of the twenties, thirties, and forties, has crafted a fuchsia topper and a fedora with turkey feathers; she also takes commissions. “There is just something about knowing I create beauty from raw materials,” she says. “Hats have a way of traveling from generation to generation, too, and I love being part of that.” 

Photo: Alice Gao