Our annual list of Charlotteans with undeniable personal style
created and produced by Whitley Adkins
photographs by Richard Israel
on-site makeup touch-ups by Josiah Reed
On location at the Tipsy Burro Saloon & Cantina, 2711 Monroe Rd.
This marks the sixth year of the It List, and each fall this carefully curated group proves to be just as exciting as the last. When I first produced this feature for SouthPark as a means of celebrating our city’s incredible growing powerhouse style community, I had no idea how talked about and celebrated the list would become — not to mention fun.
In line with my never-ending pursuit to create tension by juxtaposing subject matter, outfit and location, I could not have dreamed of a more magical or apropos location for this year’s feature than the Tipsy Burro Saloon & Cantina. It’s every bit as quirky as its sister establishment, Thirsty Beaver Saloon, from kitschy thermoses and stuffed animals to miniature caricatures — even the stylized waste cans show a creative flair. The Tipsy Burro is home to an impressive collection of all things vintage and nostalgic.
As in previous years, photographer Richard Israel captures all the stylish participants in the most commanding light, while veteran makeup artist Josiah Reed rounds out the on-set crew, making sure everyone is camera ready — a most fashionable feast for any set of eyes. Enjoy the show from our team at SouthPark magazine!
Comments have been edited for length and clarity.
Featured Photograph: Stephanie Bissell, Dexter Benoit, Emily Oliver, Hilary Burt, April Chittick, Terry Greenwood, Heather Harper, Mia Heaston Benoit, Michlene Daoud Healy
TJ Franklin, aka Frankie Fashionable
39, stylist, model and influencer
“Style is what you make of it. My style showcases my personality and my ability to be vulnerable. Growing up, my mother taught me to be comfortable wearing whatever I wanted to wear, no matter what others’ opinions were.”
Years in Charlotte: Five
His definition of style: My definition of style is placing clothing together in a unique way that speaks to you and showcases who you are without having to speak.
Fashion era: Although I love the style of the 1940s because I have an appreciation for suits, I would have to say that the current time is my favorite.
Currently coveting: Hats
On Charlotte style: Forever growing — mainly due to the city becoming a melting pot
What he’s wearing: Look 1: Otto trucker hat, H&M Keith Haring sweater and pants, Comme des Garcons shoes; Look 2: Morreton hat, RORI denim shirt, Metallica T-shirt, H&M pants, Nike Travis Scott shoes
39, college football analyst, retired NFL player
“I love colors. I love fashion. There is no better feeling than to come into a room and it lights up because of a fresh look that you personally put together.”
Years in Charlotte: Eight, on and off
His definition of style: Personality or a sense of confidence that you can see through the clothing a person wears. Anything goes in fashion, with the right body type, color or fit.
Favorite piece of clothing or accessory: Almost any of my three-piece suits
Never goes out of style: A fresh pair of shoes; Jordans
What he’s wearing: New Orleans menswear brand Fellow
51, co-owner, FOUND Collection
“Dressing, for me, is a happy creative game I play, putting pieces together differently each time I wear them — twist a dress backwards, swap out the laces, add a brooch to a belt, wear patterned tights under trousers to peek out. I rarely stay in one lane with regard to style…”
Years in Charlotte: 29
Her definition of style: It’s like cooking — there is always a secret ingredient that is added beyond the written recipe that stops you in your tracks.
Favorite piece of clothing or accessory: My poetry bomber from FOUND collection. The designer works with an NGO (non-governmental organization) in India that employs women who are widowed or HIV positive to create the embroidery. They are on salary and can take time off as needed. It is 100% a feel-good piece.
Fashion era: The ’60s — Twiggy dresses and exaggerated collars
Never goes out of style: Massive cuffs and pointy-toe ballet flats
On Charlotte style: A fantastic combination of evolved Southern and cosmopolitan chic
What she’s wearing: Look 1: FOUND collection Kleed lounge pants and Lingua Nigra necklace, J.Crew oxford; Look 2: FOUND collection TRK bodysuit/wrap skirt, Karein Belle poetry bomber and Bisjoux cuff
“My style is a reflection of being born and raised in California. I’m known as a ‘jean girl’ — my favorite look is a pair of jeans, a simple, sexy top, and fabulous heels.”
Years in Charlotte: 28
Her definition of style: Style is an expression of your attitude, actions and character. It is a reflection of who you are and gives people a glimpse into your unique personality.
Fashion era: The ’70s — my biggest influence was Studio 54 and Halston fashions such as bell-bottom pants, halter tops and the solid wrap dress.
Never goes out of style: A simple, fitted sexy black dress, paired with a timeless black pump/stiletto
Currently coveting: I am forever coveting the black calfskin boy bag by Chanel
On Charlotte style: I love that every occasion is a chance to dress up. From a baby shower to a Hornets or Panthers game, men and women alike love to dress the part.
What she’s wearing: Look 1: Joe’s jeans, Cara Cara blouse, Bottega Veneta heels; Look 2: The Vampire’s Wife dress, Prada wedges
Pape Ndiaye Bailey
owner, House of Africa; president, Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas
“If you can’t get to Africa, I will bring Africa to you.”
Years in Charlotte: 26
Favorite piece of clothing or accessory: Three pieces of clothing given to me by my late mother
Never goes out of style: African clothes
On Charlotte style: Diverse, simple, classic
What he’s wearing: BAC Fashion, Senegal
71, wardrobe specialist, Paul Simon Women
“Each day, I like to have a special outfit that befits my mood for who I am seeing that day.”
Years in Charlotte: 50
Her definition of style: Style reflects who you are.
Favorite piece of clothing or accessory: Pink Tartan collection
Fashion era: Now is great
Never goes out of style: Classic clothes and a little black dress
Currently coveting: All of my new Lafayette 148 pieces
What she’s wearing: Lafayette 148, Kinross, 212 Goods
46, wife and mother; SVP talent acquisition executive, Bank of America
“I love a traditional silhouette in an unexpected color or fabric, always with a hint of glamour. I am inspired by my late father, who wore beautifully colored dress shirts — I have a quilt made of his shirts that I treasure — and my mother, who taught me a little sparkle and the right accessory finish the look …”
Years in Charlotte: 20
Her definition of style: People I know with exceptional style dress to express themselves and pay attention to what makes them feel confident and happy.
Favorite piece of clothing or accessory: My first luxury purchase 25 years ago was a small, red patent leather quilted Chanel bag. The style is traditional, but the color and fabric are what makes it fun and modern. I used the bonus from my first job to purchase the bag in New York City. Oh the stories that bag could tell!
Fashion era: 18th century Versailles — if I could wear a corseted, jewel-encrusted gown with a nipped-in waist and full skirt with layers of diamond jewelry every day, I would!
Never goes out of style: Modesty, good manners and animal print
What she’s wearing: Look 1: pink dress and belt by Carolina Herrera, shoes by Marion Parke, Legally Blonde clutch by Olympia Le-Tan; Look 2: chain-metal dress by Paco Rabanne, shoes by Marion Parke
48, managing director of SOCO Gallery, co-founder of Sphere Series
“I tend to gravitate towards the simple and the timeless, and I like the sentiment behind the ‘Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off’ line that gets attributed to Coco Chanel.”
Years in Charlotte: 11
Favorite piece of clothing or accessory: My late grandmother’s channel-set ruby eternity band. She had a matching diamond ring as well as an emerald one and wore the three in a stack. She left the three rings to her three granddaughters, and now we each wear one.
Fashion era: The 1920s — flapper bobs, feminine suits, champagne and parties!
Never goes out of style: Jumpsuits by Toronto-based brand Horses Atelier, white Chuck Taylor hightops and anything from the French brand A.P.C. I have been a faithful A.P.C. customer since the ’90s when I first bought a pair of their jeans. I still have and wear nearly every item I’ve ever bought there.
On Charlotte style: Bright, bold and finding its stride.
What she’s wearing: Look 1: Erdem dress; Look 2: E.M Reitz shirt from the inaugural line by Charleston-based Erin Reitz, (Brooklyn-based brand) Caron Callahan skirt and shoes
43, founder and owner of Benoit Law Firm
“Put it on, wear it with confidence and walk out the door.”
Years in Charlotte: 13
His definition of style: Doing and wearing what makes you feel good — without apology
Favorite piece of clothing or accessory: I’m a blazer guy. I can wear them with just about anything … and I have. The one I’m wearing in this shoot is my current favorite.
Fashion era: Gotta love the Roaring ’20s/Great Gatsby vibe — clean all around
Never goes out of style: Confidence and an Old Fashioned
On Charlotte style: Ever-changing, like our growing skyline. The vibe is different depending on what part of the city you happen to be passing through.
What he’s wearing: OMJ blazer and pants; shoes from Black Sheep in Plaza Midwood
68, founder, Sporting Life Holdings and Hunter Holdings Ventures; co-founder, Mountain Khakis
“Don’t be afraid of being different, be afraid of being the same as everyone else!”
Years in Charlotte: 30
His definition of style: Fashion is what you buy, style is what you do with it … that represents you.
Favorite piece of clothing or accessory: A Save the Duck light grey puffer blazer — I can dress it up or down — and Billy Reid suede brogue boots
Never goes out of style: Tees + denim or khakis + boots
Currently coveting: A Todd Snyder cashmere hoodie and Todd Snyder Alden suede Indy boots in milkshake
What he’s wearing: Look 1: Billy Reid, Hugo Boss, Chaco; Look 2: Relentless Betrayal lid, J.Crew T-shirt, vintage Levi’s custom painted by Michel Van Devender, Billy Reid oxfords, The Sporting Gent belt
53, co-founder of the Edit Sale, community leader
“My personal style includes being comfortable in what you are wearing, both physically and mentally. There is nothing worse than wearing a dress or outfit that you don’t feel your best in.”
Years in Charlotte: 49
Her definition of style: To me, style is an expression of art. I believe much of fashion is art, and what you choose to wear and how you put it together represents what is beautiful to you.
Favorite piece of clothing or accessory: Probably anything of my mom’s. She passed last fall, so anytime I can wear something of hers it makes me feel like she is still with me.
Never goes out of style: A smile
Currently coveting: A gorgeous green embroidered bomber jacket that Gucci did some years back. I am still hoping it finds its way to our Edit Sale one day!
What she’s wearing: Look 1: Dolce & Gabbana floral dress from Capitol; Look 2: Maison Rabih Kayrouz metallic dress from Bergdorf Goodman, Gucci shoes from Capitol
38, mother, writer, philanthropist, art enthusiast
“I’d equate my personal style to that of a chameleon: I can be glam, grunge, bohemian, business, street, athleisure or whatever style I am feeling.”
Years in Charlotte: Seven
Her definition of style: I feel that style is communicated best when the wearer has an unwavering confidence about themselves. I can really appreciate someone who chooses their style based on how they feel and what they love as opposed to only wearing what is on trend or what costs the most.
Favorite piece of clothing or accessory: A pair of Nike sweatpants. They are extremely soft — I love how they make me feel relaxed and cozy after a long day.
Fashion era: The 1920s
Never goes out of style: A great blazer or tailored suit
Currently coveting: Opera gloves, lace gloves, embellished gloves, mesh gloves — just wearing gloves with whatever and whenever!
On Charlotte style: My favorite style moments in Charlotte happen around the holidays or at events, when people are not afraid to step out in statement-making, glamorous clothing and accessories in order to have a great time.
What she’s wearing: Look 1: L’Agence dress; Look 2: House of Jade Sky sequin tuxedo
Mia Heaston Benoit
41, senior oncology business manager, wife and mom, community leader
“Keep it classy, never flashy.”
Years in Charlotte: 13
Her definition of style: Style is one’s ability to pull together colors and silhouettes that complement your overall look. The old saying, “When you look good, you feel good,” goes hand in hand with style.
Favorite piece of clothing or accessory: The one-of-a-kind crown ring that I received as a contestant in the Miss USA 2007 pageant. I was the first Black woman to win the Miss Illinois USA pageant, so that ring reminds me of the determination, dedication and consistency that it took to accomplish one of my lifelong goals. It’s also a great conversation starter.
Fashion era: The 1960s, because of its chic and elegant lines of fashion
Never goes out of style: Class
Currently coveting: A vintage pair of Chanel drop earrings
What she’s wearing: Look 1: Aje pink dress and shoes from Zara; Look 2: Elliatt black multicolored cutout dress and Saint Laurent shoes
Michlene Daoud Healy
43, community leader, trainer at Hilliard Studio Method
“Wear everything in your closet whenever you want. When in doubt, when you feel good, you look good — confidence is your greatest accessory.”
Years in Charlotte: 16
Her definition of style: Style is an outward interpretation of oneself. It allows you to share your story through so many different mediums, whether it is through a ring, gown or a wonderful pair of worn denim. Style allows you to express parts of yourself and hopefully will evoke joy and confidence.
Favorite piece of clothing or accessory: My mother’s fur coat. It was the first item my father bought her in the early 1970s. I feel her energy and zest for life everytime I wear it. My favorite accessory is my grandmother’s ruby and diamond ring. She gave it to my mother on her wedding day, and my mother passed it on to me when I got married. I wore it on my wedding day so she could be with me.
Never goes out of style: Vintage of all kinds — shoes, handbags, clothing, accessories!
Currently coveting: Any and all Alexander McQueen
What she’s wearing: Look 1: Isabel Marant shirt, Hong Kong Vintage sequin skirt, Alexander McQueen handbag, vintage necklace from Italy, bracelet and ring from Greece, Of Rare Origin earrings from Capitol, shoes from Elston; Look 2: Roksanda dress from Capitol, Christian Louboutin shoes from Neiman Marcus
Community leader, attorney, health and wellness entrepreneur
“My personal style is a celebration of being me … It expresses who I am and my life experiences. It translates to everyday habits, being authentic and having the self-confidence to be who I feel I am regardless of what may be trending.”
Years in Charlotte: 23
Her definition of style: Style goes way beyond how one dresses. Style is how we integrate what makes us “who we are” into all aspects of our life.
Fashion era: I am happy with the freedom and versatility of choices we have today, however, I lean into more classic looks that tend to not have a specific time period.
On Charlotte style: Our community offers a wide array of individual styles, reflecting the people coming from many distinct areas. It exemplifies vibrant Southern urban living!
What she’s wearing: Look 1: Luis Machicao evening gown; Look 2: A’Mare Sol leather jacket, Carolina Herrera pants and camisole
39, managing director, consumer and retail corporate and investment banking, Truist Securities; community leader; owner of Coco Leto, a children’s apparel store
“I personally love to mix it up and keep it unexpected, always with a bit of edge. … Part of the fun is the surprise, and I especially love it when people surprise me.”
Years in Charlotte: 10
Her definition of style: It is not about labels or succumbing to the latest trend. Style is not something that defines you unless you let it. It should always be fun and should never be taken too seriously. Confident style never goes out of style.
Favorite piece of clothing or accessory: My maternal grandmother’s wedding band — I haven’t taken it off since it was given to me on my wedding day.
Never goes out of style: A crisp, white collared button-down. I have so many in my closet, I should probably stop buying them, but I simply cannot help myself.
On Charlotte style: [Charlotte is a] city that continues to “up its game” and rise to the occasion. I was so impressed and inspired by the use of color and patterns when first moving here a decade ago. It truly opened my eyes to a whole new way to style pieces.
What she’s wearing: Look 1: Le Superbe dress from Five One Five, Olympia Le-Tan clutch from Capitol, Shutz heels; Look 2: Marissa Webb pants, Loeffler Randall heels, Significant Other top, Meredith Jackson earrings
54, design consultant and former owner-editor of The Scout Guide Charlotte
Years in Charlotte: almost 20
Her definition of style: Two words: Harry STYLES
Favorite piece of clothing or accessory: A lilac mushroom cape dress that I wore to the Mint Gala. It hides a lot of sins.
Fashion era: The early ’60s. That seemed like a very chic and glamorous time, from the pictures of my parents in NYC.
Never goes out of style: Color! Pink! Green! (But not together)
Currently coveting: Anything mushroom print. Or a jumpsuit.
On Charlotte style: Sophisticated — people try here. Thank you to Laura Vinroot Poole for dragging us out of our Lululemons.
What she’s wearing: Look 1: Alice + Olivia jacket, top and skirt, Etro belt, Tory Burch shoes; Look 2: Gucci dress, Loeffler Randall shoes
Dr. Veronica Landers
39, cosmetic dentist, community leader
“If it moves your spirit, then wear it.”
Years in Charlotte: 13
Her definition of style: Style is something that you’re born with. It is an expression of one’s identity. Style is taking a risk and sticking to it, not caring about who gets it or not.
Favorite piece of clothing or accessory: My plum woven Bottega bag with gold and silver hardware. It’s literally a walking piece of art that goes with everything, and she always steals the show!
Fashion era: 1970s: Studio 54, Diana Ross, Bianca Jagger, Grace Jones — an iconic era
Never goes out of style: Accessories, in the sense of jewelry, a hat, bag etc. Accessories will keep your style elevated, always.
On Charlotte style: Refreshing — it’s a breath of fresh air. So many style expressions are coming into Charlotte from the restaurants, the hotels, the night life.
What she’s wearing: Look 1: Burberry blazer, Skims top, Natasha Zinko pants, Zara boots, Bottega Veneta purse; Look 2: Alice + Olivia top, Express pants, Gianvito Rossi shoes, Bottega Veneta purse
36, co-owner BAKU, Yama Asian Cuisine, Yama Waverly, Yama LoSo (coming soon); travel blogger
“I like to dress effortlessly chic. It might look like I just threw something on, but the truth is I went through like three outfits already. I love food, so it has to be comfortable yet pretty without looking overdone — sometimes less is more.”
Years in Charlotte: 10
Her definition of style: I believe your style should be an extension of your personality. Being fashionable doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice comfort or your bank account. I can shop anywhere and everywhere — it is whatever you’re comfortable with.
Favorite pieces of clothing or accessories: All my Burberry jackets, St.John basic pieces I’ve had for years, Hermes belts, and lastly, all my comfy loungewear
Fashion era: The present
Never goes out of style: Elegance, kindness and honesty
What she’s wearing: BCBG dresses, Hermes belt and bangle, Roberto Coin necklace, Cartier and Tiffany bracelets
50, co-founder of the Edit Sale
“COLOR — it makes me happy! I also try to dress for the occasion.”
Years in Charlotte: 28
Her definition of style: Wearing what suits your personality. Stay true to your look and don’t always follow the trends.
Favorite piece of clothing or accessory: Beautiful embroidered Yaser Shaw shawls and cashmere Bajra wraps. I use them all the time. They pull an outfit together, keep you warm in the cold and are wonderful lap blankets for travel on a plane. They go with me everywhere.
Fashion era: Definitely 1950s … a glammed up version of June Cleaver!
Never goes out of style: The perfect shirtwaist dress for everyday and a chic fit-and-flare for evening
Currently coveting: Pre-loved designer handbags
On Charlotte style: Very eclectic.
What she’s wearing: Outfits from Capitol and Edit Sale SP