Made In Memphis
Designers channel the Bluff City with locally made jewelry and garments.
Their creations range from edgy-urban to Old World with a twist, and that’s why we’ve included the following designers in the fashion spread of our Culture issue. Like the fruits of their fertile imaginations, each of them is uniquely and positively Memphis. Their work speaks to the grittiness of the city, but also reflects its deeper undercurrents because it’s all produced right here. Read on to meet the designers behind the looks.
Jumpsuit by Ellis Dixon, $230; Brave Design mykonos party necklace, $248; Brave charm bracelet with amethysts and vintage gold-plated link chain, $198.
Mimi Danosky and Mary Seay Taylor of Brave Design love to produce what they call “exquisite adornments” on their Facebook page. Their jewelry is big and chunky, with bright beads and bold stones. Some of the materials they use are agate, opal, lapis, quartz crystal, and coral. The two met in a metal-smithing course and realized they had jewelry-making in common. That common interest blossomed into what has become a full-time business.
“We just started having a conversation about how we both loved jewelry and had been designing, and wouldn’t it be great if we could gift it to friends or wear it ourselves or make it as art?” says Danoski, who has a background in graphic design.
Taylor had been making jewelry for 20 years at that point. “I was always interested in creating things that were beautiful and related to the earth, but still trendy enough to work with higher-fashion pieces,” she says.
Soon after, the two participated in “A New Face for an Old Broad,” a demonstration project on Broad Avenue in 2010 that brought merchants and patrons out in droves. The women made enough jewelry to do business in one of the many pop-up shops during the event, which forced them to produce enough merchandise for a retail environment.
“Because of the response we got from that, we knew we had something to work with,” Danosky says.
Now, their pieces are sold in Memphis (James Davis and Spruce) and Little Rock (B. Barnett and Box Turtle). A website is in the works, but now most of their online selling is done through Facebook.
“We’re inspired by wanting to put things out into the world that make people feel strong and Brave and beautiful,” Taylor says. She’s succeeding.
=Ellis Dixon has been designing in Memphis since she graduated from college eight years ago. What got her into the business? “I’m really not sure,” she says. “I just always knew that I had a knack for it and an eye for design.” She once took a summer course at the Rhode Island School of Design and that cinched it for her. Since then, she’s made a point of “treating clothing as wearable art to express how you feel on any given day.” But her style is far from outlandish. Dixon says she prefers to create timeless looks that can outlast changing trends or fads. “I like to be able to come up with pieces that are basic, in a way, but have a design element to them that can be worn year-round depending on how you layer them.” Most of her designs are custom made for private clients, but other orders come to her through ellisdixon.com.
Black T-shirt dress with brick motif by Eric Evans of Sache, $65; hand-dyed feather earrings by Rachel Evans of SachË, $42.
Eric Evans of Sache has been designing in Memphis since 2008. He started as a graphic designer working out of his garage, doing T-shirts and logos for bands and other clients. That interest grew into full-fledged screen printing and, later, his shop, Sachë, on South Main. There, he cuts, sews, and dyes clothing in a variety of original styles, like the brick dress worn here by model Hannah. To achieve that particular look, he painted over the 100-year-old exposed bricks in the shop and then pressed the fabric to the surface, making something new, or what he calls his progressively classic design esthetic. “It’s not just fashion for fashion’s sake, or art for art’s sake,” he says. The point is to build fashions that associate form and function, and to incorporate subliminal meanings whenever possible. In the case of the brick dress, it’s the “cool new look of history.”
White illustrated T-shirt, $38; handmade sequin skirt, $70, both by Eric Evans of SachË. Green semi-precious bracelet, $195; semi-precious 12-row bracelet, $435; earrings, $98, all by Myrna Halpern.
Myrna Halpern of Montage Jewelry is, in many ways, the accidental jewelry designer. “I often say that I should have named my company Serendipity,” she says. “It started as a hobby and people started buying what I had made. I didn’t have a business plan, but I did find that I have a passion.” Halperin began her jewelry-making business in 2001. She had been a teacher for gifted children for 25 years prior to that, and had just retired. “I had no intention of selling anything,” she says. But she’d always been a collector of vintage jewelry. She would take the pieces apart and remake them in new and imaginative ways. “Literally, I was wearing some bracelets at the beauty shop and a woman remarked on them and asked if she could buy them. And that’s how it started.” Now, her pieces incorporate semi-precious gems and freshwater pearls. One of her signature styles is beads woven together to form parts of her jewelry. Her pieces are available at Kittie Kyle, Oak Hall, Joseph, Bella Viaggia, and Shop Girl, and her website is myrnahalpern.com.
Fine-wale cord print trench by Ellizabeth Holliday, DeNovo Design, $335; fascinator with ostrich feathers by Kaki Smith, Kaki Valerius Smith Millnery, $195.
Elizabeth Holliday of DeNovo Style designs in the upstairs sunroom of her Cooper-Young bungalow. She moved to Memphis from San Francisco in 2007 and focuses almost exclusively on coats and jackets. “I kind of experiment with things,” she says. “Sometimes I get inspired by what’s going on in the world, and sometimes it’s architecture or the fabrics that land on my table.” Holliday, who has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, first got interested in design when she did pattern drafting with a friend. Then she worked with an independent designer in San Francisco and tried to launch an entire sportswear line. That’s when Holliday made the decision to focus more on outerwear. The plan was to start approaching stores for the fall season, but for now her pieces are available at etsy.com/shop/denovostyle.
Kaki Smith of Kaki Valerius Smith Millinery was an art teacher before she started designing hats and fascinators four years ago. Like some of the other designers featured here, her interest started on a whim and grew into something much more. In Smith’s case, her fascination with headgear began with an article she saved about making hats. So she started taking millinery classes and ended up in Europe studying under masters Dillon Wallwork and Adrian Howard. Some of their clients have included the royal family and Sir Anthony Hopkins. “It’s a real, viable market [overseas],” Smith says. It’s a market here too. She has designed hats for weddings and Kentucky Derby parties, and even put together a giant poppy flower hat for a flower show gala. Her designs are carried exclusively at Kittie Kyle.