Guest post by writer Adam Rhew
What sets Southern style apart is our commitment to the classics, blended with a fearless spirit to push boundaries. Few people strike that balance better than Laura Vinroot Poole, owner of Charlotte’s impeccably curated boutique Capitol, and one of the Southern Living’s 75 Most Stylish Southerners. So, I was hardly surprised when I heard she was planning to show Giambattista Valli’s Couture Collection No. 7 at the classic Duke Mansion in Charlotte, a decadent home tobacco industrialist Buck Duke bought in the early 1900s to introduce his daughter, Doris, to Southern society.
I couldn’t help but think of the contrast Laura’s production offered against the performances we’ll see in New York for Fashion Week starting September 4. Rather than the sleek, and often stark, sets you see in New York, Laura chose a gorgeous living room in the mansion as the setting. The décor was simple and elegant with pink roses and peonies displayed in mint julep cups. There were macaroons and Champagne, but also sweet tea and tomato sandwiches. Instead of marching down a glossy runway, the models floated through the room.
Admittedly, some of the ensembles were a little too fashion-forward for Charlotte—I chuckled at the response one sheer gown, which showed off a cheeky bodysuit underneath, would receive at the city’s elite Myers Park Country Club. But there was plenty for traditionalists to admire. Dresses include embroidered magnolias, gardenias, and wisteria—long familiar to Southern women. “He just has this unabashed femininity that’s sometimes hard to find outside the South, without going to Paris,” Laura says.
After the presentation, four models wearing the grand finale pieces—stunning silk ruffled tulle skirts in bright ombre colors—posed for photos in the black-and-white tiled foyer. The sight of these women in Paris couture, standing in the entryway of a tobacco baron’s mansion in Charlotte, might be the best explanation of today’s Southern style: Unafraid to be bold while embracing our rich history.
Adam Rhew is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Follow him on Twitter @AdamRhew