Never mind Scarlett O’Hara’s green curtain dress, Dolly Parton’s big blonde hair and Minnie Pearl’s straw hats. Southerners have been making an impact in the world of high fashion for more than 100 years. Some of the most important designers, editors, and models were born and raised below the Mason-Dixon Line and they owe their success to the Southern charm they were exposed to at an early age.
Henri Bendel, famed couturier and founder of the iconic department store in his name, found success making women feel beautiful, a trait that comes naturally to most Southern men. When he began dressing (and no doubt profusely complimenting) Vanderbilts and Astors, Bendel’s name began to spread around New York City faster than you could say “Bless his heart!”
Born in South Carolina and raised in Florida, iconic model Lauren Hutton was more Scout Finch than Southern belle. She impressed schoolmates by catching rattlesnakes and grew up to steal America’s heart with her gapped smile. Hutton has embraced aging wholeheartedly and continued to star in fashion campaigns in her late sixties.
The name Perry Ellis is synonymous with the crisp menswear classics that catapulted his fashion brand to international fame in the 1980s. When the Virginian moved to New York and launched his own line, he held on to his classic sense of style, like any good Southerner, but was not afraid to package it with his own twist.
Mississippi native Naomi Sims gracefully and confidently overcame adversity to become a legendary supermodel. Despite being teased for her height and her Southern accent after moving North, Sims pushed through the criticism wearing the famous smile that landed her on the cover of Ladies Home Journal in 1968.
Like many Southern men, Tom Ford, former creative director of Gucci and founder of his own label, learned about Southern fashion from the beautiful women in his family. Born in Austin, Texas, Ford credits his grandmother’s big, flashy style with influencing his creative decisions at Gucci.
Vogue’s influential Contributing Editor André Leon Talley was raised by his grandmother in North Carolina, and she made sure he had an exquisite Sunday wardrobe from a young age. She gave him an early taste for luxury that he carried with him to become one of the most trusted advisors in the world of high fashion.