Southern Sensibility

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Atlanta establishes itself as a major fashion capital with a host of talented local designers, exclusive boutiques and unrivaled hospitality.

By Emily L. Foley

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When people think of cities with vibrant international fashion scenes, New York City, London, Paris and Milan inevitably come to mind. Yet the Southern metropolis of Atlanta, with its high-profile dining options, legendary hospitality and range of recreational diversions, should not be overlooked. In fact, a flourishing fashion industry—one that is completely unique to the Southern city—is putting Atlanta on the style map. “Atlanta is quite fashion-forward, and the shopping scene offers something really exciting, which is variety, and a unique aesthetic … really sets it apart,” fashion stylist Jessica Caballero of Atlanta-based consulting firm The Cycle of Style comments.

Atlanta houses both a variety of established and up-and-coming designers and intimate boutiques, many of which carry original pieces that shoppers can’t find anywhere else. The city’s unparalleled fashion finds have contributed to its newfound reputation as one of the country’s most cosmopolitan destinations.

Original Designs

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Atlanta fashion cannot be discussed without a mention of the name Mashburn. Husband-and-wife design duo Sid and Ann Mashburn met in New York City in their early 20s while he was designing for powerhouse companies like Ralph Lauren and J.Crew, and she was climbing the editorial ladders at Vogue and Glamour. Once the pair began to explore opportunities to further their fashion careers, they noticed a dearth of independent men’s specialty stores across the country, and decided to fill the gap. But before they could open their namesake shop, the two were tasked with considering a variety of major cities across the United States as potential hosts for the retail location.

“We looked at nine different cities, from New York to Chicago, and we just really fell in love with Atlanta when we checked it out,” Sid says of the pair’s decision. “The city is filled with a helpfulness and a hopefulness that we wanted to be a part of, and we fell in love with the energy here.”

After opening Sid’s eponymous boutique, Sid Mashburn, in 2007—and finding great success by offering a shop unlike anything Atlanta had experienced prior—the Mashburns expanded to open a feminine counterpart, Ann Mashburn, in 2010. The two stores have since merged into one large space, making for the ideal couples’ shopping experience.

In terms of menswear, Sid Mashburn is known as the go-to shop for a wide range of local needs. If a client seeks the perfect power tie for a professional meeting, Sid Mashburn gladly meets him with an assortment of options: traditional silk, raw silk, silk grenadine and a silk-linen blend, for instance. In addition to apparel, the shop features footwear by classic brands including Clarks, Russell and Sid’s own shoe line, also named Sid Mashburn. And in an effort to fully satisfy all sartorial requests, the shop offers on-site engraving and alterations.

On the feminine side of the shop, women can peruse classic apparel with clean lines and bold prints—including Ann’s own designs, which include tailored button-down blouses, cashmere cardigans and patterned shirtdresses—and receive styling tips from an expert staff on how to add a personal spin to the retailer’s pieces.

This fall, expect both sides of the shop to be infused with themes of the outdoors and equestrian tradition. “There is a little bit of an English cowboy feel to them,” Sid shares of the seasonal collections featured at the location. Ladies can look forward to riding boots and white jeans, while gentlemen will look debonair in lavish tweed fabrics and Western-style button-down shirts.

Elite Experience

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While luxury designer mainstays may maintain their places in the hearts and closets of many a fashion lover, there is something undeniably appealing about discovering an up-and-coming label in its nascence. Atlanta-exclusive shop Les Nouvelles has made it a mission to deliver lines by emergent designers and labels to fashion’s most in-the-know masses.

Les Nouvelles first opened as an Atlanta-based online shop for the heavily immersed fashion admirer—enjoying early write-ups in fashion bibles like Elle and Vogue—but has since established an appointment-only showroom in the heart of the city, as well.

“There is a great creative energy in Atlanta, and we love being a part of that,” Les Nouvelles co-founder Katie Hobbs says. “We found there was an untapped market here. There were plenty of ultra-fashionable women who really wanted to find something new and different—not just the same well-known designers—and now we’re providing that for them. We’re offering labels that you wouldn’t be able to find if you weren’t shopping at Les Nouvelles.”

So while shoppers will find the latest pieces from certainly known but slightly less accessible labels including Elizabeth and James, Gryphon, Jenni Kayne and Mara Hoffman, they’ll also discover a treasure trove of offerings from under-the-radar designers such as New Yorker Rachel Antonoff, London-based Ostwald Helgason, French line Roseanna and handbag purveyor Clare Vivier.

Because Les Nouvelles caters to those who seek “deeper-cut of fashion finds,” a subtle sense of possession has developed among the shop’s clients. “Sometimes our clients don’t want to tell other people where they got their clothes because they love the exclusivity, and looking different from everyone else. They don’t want to share the Les Nouvelles secret,” Hobbs says.

This fall, the shop’s curated selection of apparel features an influx of leather pieces. “We have everything from pants to skirts to jackets to crop tops,” Hobbs adds. “Leather is now a basic.”

Winter white and prints also are thoroughly represented, as well as stripes. “We have an entire stripes boutique, and always will. Stripes are a staple for us and our customers,” Hobbs says.

Curated Selection

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Like Hobbs, Morgan Henzlik endeavored to feature a range of singular fashion finds when she opened her boutique, Morgan Kylee, in 2011. “I am from Atlanta and, growing up here, it was always so frustrating to shop because I don’t like having the same things as everyone else,” she shares. “I wanted to shop somewhere other than the mall.”

The adult answer to her teenage frustrations is a shop filled with stylish pieces constructed with keen integrity and unexpected design elements. Shoppers will find recognizable names—think Rick Owens, Kotur, Issa London and Rachel Roy—alongside a plethora of undiscovered talents such as New York-based brands Rodebjer and Apiece Apart. In fact, it’s not uncommon for Morgan Kylee to be the only shop in the entire country to have specific styles and fabrications of certain items.

“I genuinely love providing beautiful treasures to women that make them walk taller, and encourage a sense of individuality,” Henzlik says. “I want to provide Atlanta with a store where the specialty lines, the exclusiveness of the quantity available and customer service create an entire experience for the shopper.”

Henzlik has a reputation for eschewing trends, and makes it a point not to carry run-of-the-mill pieces in her shop. “Trendy pieces are poor investments, and they also support the ‘copying’ state of mind,” she explains. However, she does admit to enjoying fall’s military-inspired pieces, and intends to carry jackets, blouses and cargo pants that support the trend without going overboard.

These shops’ one-of-a-kind pieces simplify both styling and dressing for discerning clients: “Pulling from Atlanta-exclusive boutiques, you are able to find one-of-a-kind pieces you won’t find elsewhere,” stylist Allie Hendee of Style Design says. “These independent boutiques offer an individual approach that is indispensible to me when I’m styling my clients.”

Traditional Hospitality

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A characteristic intrinsic to Atlanta is the city’s storied hospitality, which certainly translates to the shopping scene. Clients who walk into Sid Mashburn immediately are offered a cold beverage and the opportunity to browse accompanied by the soothing sounds of classic jazz. Moreover, it’s not altogether surprising to witness an impromptu game of pingpong—after all, that’s what the table is there for.

At Tulipano, yet another Atlanta-exclusive shopping experience, elegant lighting and vibrant decor greet guests, who encounter a selection of merchandise by Tibi, Trina Turk, Hunter Dixon, Milly and Diane von Furstenberg.

In addition, clients receive assistance from a dedicated staff that is always willing to go the extra mile for its customers. Whether finding the perfect jeans to fit a client’s body or suggesting customized shapewear to help her feel completely comfortable in the cocktail dress that she just picked up, the staff understands that shopping is a personal experience and should be treated as such.

Exploring Atlanta’s fashion scene is not only a one-of-a-kind experience, it also promises to provide a wardrobe with key pieces—whether classic or contemporary—that undoubtedly will prompt envious inquiries whenever incorporated into an ensemble. In fact, after a few excursions to these local boutiques, stylish jet-setters may be forced to schedule Southern shopping excursions alongside their regular travels.

Seasonal Style

Incorporate these three of-the-moment trends into your wardrobe and rise to the forefront of fashion.

Luxe leather:

Leather is being incorporated into ensembles much more creatively than in past seasons. While staples like leather jackets and pants will never go out of style, this season, focus on leather accents—subtle details are great ways to incorporate the trend into a wardrobe without being in danger of overdoing it. A silk T-shirt with leather sleeves, a sheath dress with leather piping or a chunky wool sweater with contrasting black leather accents—like IRO’s Izzy leather knit jacket, found at Les Nouvelles—are just a few ways to realistically embrace the trend.

Winter white:

For years, the fashion-savvy set has shouted from the rooftops that it is, in fact, OK to wear white after Labor Day. This season, sartorial mavens are taking the decree a step further—winter white is not only acceptable, it’s downright mandatory. The minimalist hue is endlessly chic and can be incorporated into closets in small or large doses. For a weekend brunch, couple a cashmere sweater with a pair of white jeans, like J Brand’s Rail Straight jeans in blanc at Ann Mashburn, or embrace a monochromatic pairing at the office with white trousers, a white T-shirt and a white blazer. The icy combination just may be considered this season’s version of the power suit.

Patterns and prints:

While the prints of summer—florals namely—may need to be retired until the weather is warm once again, more muted patterns remain fair game. Stripes, polka dots, plaids and leopard print are all important elements of the fall season. Ann Mashburn’s elegant silk peasant top comes in several variations, including an impressionism-inspired print. Meanwhile, Les Nouvelles stocks By Malene Birger’s striking Elasia leopard coat, an elegant faux fur showstopper.