Like so many Southern women, Southern fRock designer Emily Newnam grew up shopping at Belk. Now she, along with 14 other emerging designers, will have their creations sold in the venerable department store. The designers were chosen from nearly 200 entries in the Belk Designer Showcase competition.
“I think Belk department stores have a place in many people’s lives from the South,” says Newnam. “I am so honored for Southern fRock to be sold in the same departments as some of the designers that I admire.”
The competition was conceived as a way to celebrate the store’s 125th anniversary while promoting design talent from the South. To enter, contestants had to be from one of the 16 states where Belk has stores or have strong connections to the South.
The winning collections will be sold in select Belk stores and online starting in spring 2013. Along with Newnam, a Raleigh resident and Meredith grad, four more of the 15 winners hail from North Carolina and three have Triangle ties – N.C. State student Jazsalyn McNeil of Raleigh, former N.C. State student Kathleen Murphy of Charlotte, Miriam Oehrlein of Wilmington, and Hannah Goff, an N.C. State grad from Lexington.
The designers went through several rounds of competition, presenting their collections to the judges at Belk headquarters in Charlotte. “We chose collections that we thought would enhance our current assortments and reflect modern Southern style,” says Arlene Goldstein, Belk vice president of trend merchandising and fashion direction. “There were 36 finalists and each had 10 minutes to present their designs. We chose those whose innovative spirit shined the brightest.”
For some contestants, such as McNeil, the competition proved to be a real challenge. McNeil, who won first place at N.C. State’s Fashion Week in April, had to complete her collection while finishing her spring semester classes.
“I had only two garments at the time, not a collection, and I was hesitant because I had two weeks to create a collection to submit to Belk in the midst of exam week,” says McNeil.
But she pulled it off, and will now have her first collection in stores, all before graduation. “It feels unreal to have my collection sold at Belk to millions of customers,” says McNeil. “I want to be an example that dreams do come true regardless of what stage you are entering in life.”
During the final round of the competition, the 15 finalists discovered that instead of choosing one winner, the department store had selected them all as winners. The judges were so blown away by the caliber of talent among the designers, they chose to give them all the opportunity to sell their clothing in stores.
“The primary goal of the competition is to showcase new Southern talent,” says Goldstein.
The decision was a happy surprise for Newnam and her fellow contestants, who are thrilled to have their designs available to a much larger audience.
“I am living my dreams of creating a clothing line that other women appreciate and love just as much as I do,” says Newnam. “For the line to get recognition from a well-known department store is beyond my highest hopes and aspirations for the collection.”