NCSU grad's Southern roots inspire her jewelry collection

CorrespondentJanuary 9, 2013 

A necklace from Chester NYC.


As she traverses the streets of New York City each day, Charlotte native and N.C. State grad Mimi Kennedy Harris always has her eyes open for sources of inspiration. The designer behind Chester NYC (, a fledgling jewelry company specializing in colorful beaded necklaces, Harris knows the idea for her next piece could come from anywhere.

“I love walking around New York and looking at everything – window displays, quirky restaurants, people,” she says. “I try to walk everywhere versus taking subways and cabs because I would hate to miss anything happening on the streets.”

Late last year, Harris decided to channel that inspiration into a collection of chunky, colorful necklaces. Working out of her apartment in the evenings after her day job, she started creating pieces to incorporate into her own wardrobe.

“Every time I put together an outfit I think about what could take it to the next level, and that’s where the designs usually start,” she says.

Harris also credits her Southern background as a big influence on her work.

“My Southern roots definitely play a role in my designs,” she says. “I was born and raised in Charlotte and have a very large, close family. I love to look at old pictures of the women in my family – my great grandmother dressed up for a night on the town, my aunts ready for an oyster roast when they were in college, my grandmother dressed for a train trip, all of them always dressed to impress.”

As Harris expanded her line from a few necklaces to a full collection, her designs were picked up in stores, including several boutiques in New York and Charlotte. It’s also at Charlotte’s stores in the Triangle. Earlier this month, her brand got a big boost when Kelly Ripa wore a Chester NYC necklace on “Live with Kelly and Michael.”

Harris sees her necklaces as transitional pieces that can easily go from day to night.

“I love that fashion has no set rules,” she says. “There is no reason you can’t wear the same necklace for New Year’s Eve, to the office and to brunch with your girlfriends on the weekend.”

As she works on her spring collection, Harris has plans to extend her reach.

“In the future I would love to get my pieces in more stores throughout the country,” she says. “Each piece is handmade and no two pieces are the same, so it becomes a balancing act to see how many pieces I can produce a week.”

Walking the runway

Some of the Triangle’s most eclectic designers show off their latest creations during the reFASHIONED Spring 2013 Show Friday at Motorco Music Hall in Durham. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and models hit the runway at 7:30 p.m. Following the show at 9 p.m., attendees can purchase looks they’ve just seen at the Designer Marketplace. Tickets are $7-$18. For more info and tickets, visit

Get healthy and wealthy

The Streets at Southpoint gives shoppers an extra incentive to keep those New Year’s resolutions with their #IPledgeTo Sweepstakes. Through Jan. 22, visitors to the mall’s Facebook page ( can share their healthy living pledges each Tuesday for a chance to win a $500 mall gift card or a variety of other prizes. Instagram users get a second chance to win by posting photos of themselves adopting new healthy practices when they tag images with the #IPledgeTo hashtag.

A gem of a show

Joint Venture Jewelry will have a vast collection of heirloom estate jewelry from around the world for a limited-time showing this month. The pieces will be available through Jan. 31 at 25 percent off. Joint Venture Jewelry is at 250 Grande Heights Drive, Cary, 919-678-0092,

Send Stylin’ tips and news to

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service