The It List

Style

September 1, 2021



created and produced by Whitley Adkins | photographer: Richard Israel

on-site makeup touch-ups: Josiah Reed | production assistant: Isabelle Pringle

On location at Mint Museum Randolph and The Collector’s Room by Beau Monde and surrounding South End

This year marks the fifth annual IT List, a celebratory number indeed! As I’ve said before, personal style is how you carry yourself, the consistency of your dress and how you evolve through life’s stages — but most of all, it is how you behave and treat others. What you wear is telling, but how you wear it is moreso.   

Perhaps the most meaningful aspect of this project isn’t the fashion at all, or the personal style — it’s about the people and the relationships that are made in the process. This project has been an exemplary way, through fashion and style, of bringing together people with different backgrounds, personal styles, ages, races, careers, communities and more. It is a celebration of differences based upon an established common ground — personal style. While not the most important thing in life, that common ground brings individuals together to celebrate what is — compassion for others. 

The list is by no means comprehensive — in a city full of so many stylish individuals, how could it be? We hope that you sit back and enjoy learning more about 22 of the most stylish people in Charlotte.

— Whitley Adkins

Felicia Bittle

46, style consultant

Personal style: Polished, classy, vintage and bold. “I am not restrained or restricted by trends.” 

Fashion influences: “My beautiful grandmother, Sadie Bell. She always reinforced looking your best at all times.” Bittle gives an honorable mention to Whitley Gilbert, Jasmine Guy’s character on the ’80s sitcom A Different World.

Retro style she’d love to resurrect: “I adore leg warmers. They had me at Flashdance and Jane Fonda workouts — just a simple way to add some personality to an outfit.”

Neighborhood that best represents her style: Dilworth. “Quaint, historic with sprinkles of modernization. Charming and cozy!”


Liz Faison

49, arts advocate; board member and chair of the Collections committee at The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art 

Personal style: “My style is inspired by contemporary art and an ode to urban living. I cannot paint, but I do enjoy expressing myself through my individual style.”

Fashion influences: Kate Moss, Alexa Chung, Poppy Delevingne and Lee Radziwill; London and NYC. “Closer to home, my elegant mother-in-law, Mollie, and my sequin-loving daughter, Blair, inspire me every day.”

Where she shops: Capitol, Tiny Gods and Kirna Zabete (New York)

Style advice for her younger self: “Don’t be afraid to stand out.”


Tonya McLeod

47, cosmetic dermatologist

Personal style: Classic African luxury with an international flair

Style advice for her younger self: “Once it becomes a trend, move on! Stay ahead of the curve and continue to be fashion forward.”

Retro trend she’d love to resurrect: “I still rock some of my childhood favorites like riding boots and stirrup pants.” 

Neighborhood that best represents her style: “Although I adore Charlotte, my neighborhood style is more aligned with being a ‘world citizen’ — classic, elegant, international and cosmopolitan.”


Michael Gallis

78, CEO, real-estate developer at Michael Gallis & Associates

Personal style:I like to feel situationally appropriate; the beach is one style, the opera something very different. Each offers an opportunity to think about dressing creatively.”

Fashion influences: “San Francisco when I was growing up was a very diverse and artistic but formal city. My European parents emphasized quality and tradition, and my partner, Berhan, style and flair.”

Style advice for his younger self: “Think more about what you like and less about what’s expected of you.”



Regine Bechtler 

52, painter, ceramic sculptor and mixed-media artist 

Personal style: “As an artist, I see fashion as another creative outlet to experiment with. I enjoy combining bold colors, diverse patterns, low-end and high-end brands, as well as layering vintage pieces with modern silhouettes until I’m left with a sort of wearable collage. In short, my style is about freedom, and this quote from Alexander McQueen explains it the best: ‘Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment.’”

Fashion influences: Elsa Schiaparelli, Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier, Rei Kawakubo and Alexander McQueen

Style advice for her younger self: “Be brave.”

Retro trend she’d love to resurrect: Oversized and dramatic chunky jewelry from the ’80s


Melissa Carnegie

35, lifestyle blogger and content creator at melissachanel.com, founder of Kicks & Fros sneaker lifestyle brand

Personal style: Tomboy chic

Where she shops: Zara, Urban Outfitters, Neiman Marcus and small Black-owned businesses that she discovers online or through friends and influencers 

Style advice for her younger self: “Be yourself — wear those sneakers! Express yourself and have fun with your personal style.”

Retro trend she’d love to resurrect: “The big collars with sheer sleeves — I used to rock those heavy and wish they would come back.”

Neighborhood that best represents her style: South End: “Very creative, artsy and fun!”


Frankie Zombie 

32, artist

Personal style: “My style reflects my life growing up — making the best of what you have forces you to be really creative, and that stuck with me the rest of my life.” 

Fashion influences: Family, including his grandmother from Harlem that taught him about fabrics, and Black culture, from jazz to ’90s New York culture to Pharrell Williams. 

Style advice for his younger self: “I don’t think I would give my younger self advice, because that little guy influenced who I am today. I started on my fashion journey at an early age, mismatching everything I’d had in my closet or from my dad.”

Retro style he’d love to resurrect: ’70s band fashion (e.g., The Isley Brothers, Sly and the Family Stone, Earth Wind & Fire) or bicycle street style as seen in movies like Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing.


Elizabeth Edwards

45, chief operating officer at Gulf Stream Asset Management

Personal style: “A cross between preppie and hippie — but my daughter would say Amish.”

Fashion influences: Little House on the Prairie, Laura Poole, Ann Mashburn, Ruth Runberg, Sarah Walker Leitner

Style advice for her younger self: “Learn how to sew! Cover up. Dress for your shape. Choose good fabric.”

Neighborhood that best represents her style: “Our 1936 mill home in Fort Mill is reminiscent of patchwork fabric and aligns perfectly with my style. I felt right at home the minute I entered the space.”



Marissa Jade Willinsky

owner, The House of Jade Sky clothing and art boutique

Personal style: “Distinctive but playful, sophisticated yet raw.”

Fashion influences: “Growing up in Brooklyn and New York City, being engulfed in art, fashion and nightlife from a very young age — all of these experiences are woven into the thread of my collections. … Graduating with my bachelor’s from The Fashion Institute of Technology gave me my education, and being on tour with Lady Gaga for 10 years [as a makeup artist] gave me my Ph.D. in all things fashion and art.”

Style advice for her younger self: “My darling, if nothing else, go against the grain!”

Neighborhood that best reflects her style: Plaza Midwood meets SouthPark


Nina Johnson

39, wardrobe stylist, Styled By Nina J., and women’s ready-to-wear stylist at Nordstrom SouthPark

Personal style: “I love classic, feminine, well-tailored pieces combined with a pop of color, a structured shoulder or another ornate detail that makes the look unique and memorable.” 

Fashion influences: Her mother. “She has always dressed so chic, elegant and polished. That woman can rock a St. John knit like none other! She also started dressing me in fancy baby boutique clothing before I could walk. I’m fairly certain that’s where my love of designer luxury fashion began.”  

Style advice for her younger self: “Lean into and embrace your love of fashion.” Johnson left a corporate career in marketing and IT in 2017 to pursue styling full-time. “I was always afraid that I wouldn’t be taken seriously, or I simply wouldn’t be successful. Today, I could not love what I do more, and I wish I’d had the intestinal fortitude to just go for it sooner!”


Kent Youngstrom

49, artist

Personal style: “Different is always a better story. However, finding a balance between eccentric ‘Look at me, look at me’ and ‘I didn’t notice him’ can be a challenge. Hearing, ‘That’s just Kent being Kent’ always makes me feel like I’m writing the story the right way.”

Fashion influences: “The confidence gained when you feel like a choose-your-own-adventure story in your clothes,” along with traveling, art shows and fashion photography.

Where he shops: Revolution Clothier, Luna’s Lifestyle, House of Abbeydale, Imogene + Willie (Nashville), Two Old Hippies (Nashville), online at NOBULL Project and “any sneaker store I can find.”

Style advice for his younger self: “Fit is first, and logos are dumb.”


Claire Elizabeth Weigel 

27, manager, Poole Shop

Personal style: “Color, patterns and feeling feminine in how I dress. There’s something about dressing up that makes any occasion feel more special. I have found that my style is a way to connect with others. I have many friendships that started because someone asked what I was wearing. I love that style and fashion bring people together.”

Fashion influences: “As a child, my mother always let me dress myself, which had a major impact on my personal style. I was able to express myself, whether that meant wearing a Little Mermaid princess costume, a gown or just a smocked dress!”

Style advice for her younger self: “Don’t be afraid to stand out and wear what you love. Opportunities will present themselves when you own who you are and live it.”



Jill Sloan Pleune

44, co-owner of Sloan boutique in SouthPark; co-founder of Fashion Breathes Life fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Personal style: “Classic with a ‘twist’ and a touch of boho-California style. As a businesswoman and mom to two young boys, I dress for both jobs.”

Fashion influences: Her mother, Cathy Sloan. “Coming from a small rural farming community in Illinois, she never let that hinder her amazing style. She would be on the sidelines of our high school football games in a fur coat, heels and sunglasses — always glam. She taught [my sister] Courtney and myself to always dress, no matter if you were just going to the grocery store, and heels were always a must!”

Style advice for her younger self: Buy pieces of clothing that you can grow with.

Neighborhood that most reflects her style: Uptown. “Sophistication by day and party by night!”


Courtney Sloan

45, co-owner of Sloan boutique in SouthPark, volunteer with Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and board member of Fashion Breathes Life

Personal style: “Glam on the go. I love to look great, but with six kids (three stepchildren and three of my own), I try to keep it a little practical.”

Fashion influences: Her mom, Cathy Sloan. “She is as fabulous today as she was when I was growing up. [Also] Young Sun Lee, the owner of boutiques in central Illinois and my first boss, helped open our eyes to the world of retail.”

Style advice for her younger self: “Age should not define you, and age is just a number. Don’t dress your age, dress how you feel!”

Retro trend she’d love to resurrect: Layered jacket looks inspired by ’70s and ’80s trends


Ulrike W. Miles

48, head of philanthropy and community engagement at Kingfisher Capital

Personal style:A blend of sleek European and hopeless romantic, both pragmatic and whimsical. I tend to juxtapose pieces that might not normally go together.”

Fashion influences: “My European upbringing created a style sensibility reminiscent of the iconic Brigitte Bardot. I also love Katharine Hepburn’s classic menswear look and the way Madeline Albright was able to use just one piece of jewelry to focus her look.” 

Style advice for her younger self: “Dare to trust your own unique eye and independent spirit to reflect your personality, experiences and personal ambition. Find inspiration everywhere — a busy sidewalk in the city, dreaming in nature, a photograph — then create around it.”


Mary Margaret Beaver

42, owner of Tiny Gods jewelry store and co-founder and designer at Love Thy Rival fine jewelry

Personal style: An eclectic mix of old and new. “I am not afraid of taking a chance with mixing colors and patterns.”

Where she shops: Five One Five and Elston (“the grooviest shoe truck”), Hampden in Charleston, and online at Moda Operandi. “I often find the best pieces on sale, because I tend to choose what other people would never select for themselves.”

Style advice for her younger self: “Invest more in special pieces rather than accumulating things that won’t stand the test of time.”

Retro trend she’d love to resurrect: Pantsuits

Neighborhood that best reflects her style: Plaza Midwood. “I rock a mix of new and old, high and low, and the vibe is authentic but ever evolving.”


Hannah Blanton

52, owner and founder, SOZO Gallery; co-founder,
About Face CLT; art curator at The Brooklyn Collective

Personal style: “Inviting, curious and with purpose.”

Fashion influences: People with stories. “One of my
favorites is a very long-loved babysitter who has since passed away. Harriette Merrill, in her 70s and 80s, would show up to babysit my toddlers in her full-length mink coat. We would laugh, and she’d always exclaim, ‘Well it’s my warmest coat, and what on Earth am I saving it for?’”

Where she shops: Local women-owned businesses: Found Collection, The Edit, GW Charlotte, MINE by Sandy, Sloan and Elston. “And my favorite local man designer everyone should know — ROOLE (Gordon Holliday).”

Style advice for her younger self: “Know what styles flatter your shape best and stick with that. Be you. Be comfortable. If you are having a bad day, put on the fancy formal skirt with a jean jacket and sneakers and own it. Laugh with yourself.” 


Joy Farley

31, real estate professional, M/I Homes

Personal style: “If I could translate my style into two words it would be ‘Live colorfully.’ Color and print have a way of uplifting my spirit and the spirit of everyone I come in contact with — it’s science!” 

Fashion influences: Trina Turk and Diane Von Furstenberg

Where she shops: “It may come as a huge surprise but I don’t! I have always found it really hard to shop [as a tall woman], and I also don’t have an attachment to my closet. Thanks to Rent the Runway, I have a revolving designer closet full of endless style possibilities for every occasion.”

Retro trend she’d love to resurrect: Big, bold color. “Maybe one of these days, we can make bright the new black.”



Kimsioux Montgomery

Entrepreneur and stylemaker 

Fashion influences:Her mom. “She loved fashion, furniture, music and food. Her sense of style — exquisite like Vreeland; her love of music — iconic like Aretha; home furnishings — eclectic like Platner; and a real foodie, like Vertamae [Smart-Grosvenor]. Exposure to these icons, including my mom, informed my personal style.”

Where she shops: “I’ll shop anywhere … the hospital gift shop, family-owned boutiques, sample sales, thrift stores, estate sales, airports, department stores and, of course, online luxury websites.” 

Neighborhood that best represents her style: Northwood Estates. “It’s a neighborhood of rich history that boasts of iconic ‘first Black’ civil rights leaders, politicians, teachers, doctors, lawyers, pastors and an ongoing legacy of the same.”


Amy Welton

49, Realtor at Brandon Lawn Real Estate

Personal style: “Classic with a little twist every now and then.”

Fashion influences: Her mom and two daughters, Maggie and Avery. “When I was little, I would go into my mom’s closet and wear her clothes. I still love to go in her closet when I’m home in Raleigh. She has a very classic style (think Jackie Kennedy).”

Where she shops: Capitol, Poole Shop, Five One Five, Charlotte’s and The Edit; Moda Operandi, Matches, Amazon and TheRealReal online.

Style advice for her younger self: “Stop perming your hair. This isn’t a good look for you!”

Childhood trend she’d love to resurrect: Laura Ashley. “Bring it back. I loved my dresses and rompers. I can just remember the smell walking into the store.”


Irina Toshkova

37, owner, TFA Gallery & Advisory

Personal style: “I love a mix of street wear and designer. I am not a fan of trends, and I usually go for clothes that are functional yet elegant” that will transition well from daytime into night. “I also love bling and good shoes! I think fabulous shoes can definitely take an outfit from good to amazing.”

Fashion influences: Art, architecture and her mother, “who very early on showed me the power of good style and introduced me to fashion.”

Style advice for her younger self: “Be bold and confident.”

Neighborhood that best reflects her style: Uptown


Claire Talley

76, retired interior designer; co-founder, Dancing with the Stars of Charlotte Inc.

Personal style: “Classic with an edge and always figure-flattering.”

Fashion influences: Felipe Edmiston and Daniel Gonzalez; her travels. “Shopping in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, London and all over Italy helped to develop my love of fashion and my sense of style.”

Where she shops: Neiman Marcus, Sloan and other Charlotte boutiques

Retro trend she’d love to resurrect: Bell-bottoms



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