In time for the holidays, more Charlotte designers you should know (and for nearly 60 more, go to our “CLT Made” Pinterest page):
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As a high school student, Aubrey Busek studied classical ballet at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. When she got to college, “I figured out my body wasn’t suited to being a professional dancer. But I’d always loved to draw and had been interested in fashion.” So Busek, a Winston-Salem native, headed for the Savannah College of Art and Design’s Atlanta campus.
“Dance gave me a work ethic,” she says. In leaving ballet for fashion design, she traded long hours at the barre for long hours of drawing, overseeing the making of her clothing and branding and marketing it.
She had “no desire” to move to New York after her 2014 college graduation. “I see so much potential here. (Charlotte)’s a rapidly growing city with lots of technology and banking jobs – but not a lot of fashion designers. I see it as a mostly untapped market.”
Her studio is on the ground floor of her NoDa townhouse, but she considers her target customer as a Myers Park or Eastover resident. Her pieces, many of which are hand-embroidered, begin at about $150 and can go as high as $1,000. The brand includes day, evening and resort wear, along with some lingerie.
She designs, makes patterns for and sews her pieces, including hand embroidery and beading, and gets help from a seamstress when volume or timing require it. She designs for a size range of 2 to 12, and has done occasional custom pieces, but doesn’t offer made-to-measure services.
She keeps some pieces in stock in her studio (those are indicated on her website).
“I want to give my customer options and make her stand out,” she says of her artsy-but-versatile aesthetic. “You can be sexy without showing too much skin, and that’s what I aim to do. I use only high-quality textiles, no leather or fur, but wool or silk that’s sourced ethically.
“Too often, people don’t see ethical fashion as luxury,” she said. She wants to change consumers’ attitudes on that topic. “Luxury can be ethically produced and sustainably sourced. And women can think beyond, ‘Does this look good on me?’ to consider what went into making a garment.”
As you’d expect from a classically trained ballerina, Busek’s clothes have a feminine appeal. “A classic silhouette is important to me,” she says. Her line has a lot of pencil skirts, button-down dresses and blouses that can take you from the office to a party.
A retailer in Ibiza, Spain, found Busek on Instagram and asked to sell her line, she says. She’s seeking a Charlotte boutique to carry her brand; for now, it’s available through her website.
OLE MASON JAR
148 Brevard Court, olemasonjar.com, (980) 202-2173.
“We took the long, slow approach,” says Bradley Rhyne about how he and business partner Filipe Ho chose to start their men’s clothing line. They launched it as a side project in 2012 and built it over three years before opening a brick-and-mortar location this January. Rhyne left his full-time Bank of America finance job this year; Ho continues to work full-time and doing the design work for OLE MASON after hours.
Both Ho, a Hong Kong native, and Rhyne grew up in North Carolina. And “most of our line is actually made right here in North Carolina,” Rhyne says. “While that’s certainly more difficult to do, it makes things that much more rewarding. And people are starting to get concerned about where their clothes come from.”
He says factories “all over North Carolina” produce their shirts, ties and leather goods, while the sport coats are made in Massachusetts. Pocket squares are produced in the store by a seamstress partner. They purchase fabrics from vendors and shop in the New York City garment district for fabric as well, often buying in small batches.
The store carries standard sizes of their products, and made-to-order is available for shirts, sport coats and suits. “We hand measure each client ... and pride ourselves on a perfect-fit guarantee with everything we make.”
Even the company’s name evokes another time – which is appropriate for apparel Rhyne calls “vintage-inspired.”
Prices range from $20 to $100 and up for button-downs to $650 and up for sport coats. Ties and accessories are also part of the lineup.
While Rhyne and Ho have global aspirations, their next step is a few hours down I-85. Their products just went into a store in Atlanta at the Ponce City Market, which Rhyne describes as “the Atherton Mill area times 100 and a huge retailer that curates made-in-the-USA brands.
“Our clothes transcend trends,” says Rhyne, “and harken back to a time when things were more simplistic.”