Meet Our 2020 Southern Tastemakers

For the second year in a row, we’re celebrating the enterprising women who make the South a bolder, brighter place. Meet our trendsetters, and then soak up their well-earned wisdom and style know-how 
By Betsy Cribb
July 16, 2020
Mary Celeste Beall

Walland, TN

Proprietor, Blackberry Farm

Open Invitation: “For me, so much of Southern style is about hospitality: loving the land and bringing it to the table to share with others, which is what we enjoy so much at Blackberry Farm and Blackberry Mountain.”

Wisdom Worth Sharing: “As a mother of five, ages 7 to 22 (with four daughters), I feel like I am talking to my younger self all the time. Their world is so different than mine was growing up—with many positive changes and opportunities. But there is also so much pressure on them. I tell each of them, ‘Be true to yourself and your values. Everyone’s life takes shape at a different pace.’ ”

Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Hair and Makeup Styling: Celine Russell/Zenobia
Mariah Walton Bencik

New Orleans, LA

Perspective Shift: “Being from the Northeast, I was very ill-informed on what Southern style meant. When I opened my shop, I wasn’t sure if my new city would ‘get it.’ Boy, was I wrong. I was the one who didn’t get it! This style is risk-taking yet polite. It’s bright, colorful, and full of energy.”

Vanity Staple: “I keep at least two tubes of Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream in the house. It’s great as a moisturizer, but it’s also a fantastic overnight mask.”

Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Hair and Makeup Styling: Celine Russell/Zenobia
Bettina Benson

Atlanta, GA

Founder + Designer, Chloé Kristyn

Game Changers: “COVID-19 forced us to develop digital strategies to stay connected. We launched a new virtual shopping program, and we created an Instagram Live series with various experts, many of whom are clients, to discuss topics of interest for our audience. We have received great feedback, so it’s something we plan to continue moving forward.”

Words to Live by: “Even if you are going against the grain or you can’t find an explanation for a decision other than ‘I’m going with my gut,’ always honor your intuition.”

Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Hair and Makeup Styling: Celine Russell/Zenobia
Trishala Bhansali

New Orleans, LA

Founder + Designer, Lekha

In the Works: “I’m excited to be collaborating with Sara Ruffin Costello and LeBlanc + Smith to outfit their new hotel, The Chloe, which is slated to open later this summer. Partnering with weavers in India, we have developed robes, uniforms, and other fun things, and we can’t wait to see how it all comes together.”

My Sounding Board: “I think connecting with others is just so important: We learn from each other, we feel warmth, we encourage and are encouraged, we ideate and find opportunities, and we problem solve. In my opinion, connectivity is the root of all success, personally and professionally.”

Fashion Rules Worth Breaking: “I enjoy mixing prints, pretty much always wear white after Labor Day, like long dresses even though I’m very short, and love it when my bag happens to match my shoes!”

Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Hair and Makeup Styling: Celine Russell/Zenobia
Kate Padgitt Bowman

Gainesville, FL

Lifestyle Blogger, Lonestar Southern

Measures of Success: “In an industry that’s dictated by follower counts and engagement rates, it’s easy to believe that reaching a certain metric will result in fulfillment. It’s been freeing to learn that true joy doesn’t come from those achievements but rather from my relationships with the Lord and my friends and family.”

The Perfect Pout: “Chanel’s Le Rouge Duo Ultra Tenue in Merry Rose—I wear it all the time and talk about it almost as much. It is a neutral, nearly nude lip color that somehow looks fabulous on everyone.”

Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Hair and Makeup Styling: Celine Russell/Zenobia
Margaret Boyce

Birmingham, AL

Cofounder + Handbag Designer, J. Lowery

On the Horizon: "In addition to introducing more styles and leathers to our handbag collection, we also want to incorporate more partnerships in 2021. The pandemic proved just how valuable small businesses are to their communities, and we plan to continue supporting them where we can."

Personal Mantra: "Just be patient, whether you are forming new habits, building relationships, or starting a business. I always tend to want for things to happen quickly and have to remind myself every day that all good things take time."

Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Hair and Makeup Styling: Celine Russell/Zenobia
Jamey Gresham

Memphis, TN

Cofounder + Handbag Designer, J. Lowery

My Mom, the Mentor: “She taught me how to be a strong, successful woman while also being a loving and present mother. Not until we had our first baby did I fully realize the frame-work she had instilled in me to balance my professional and family life. But she made it look easier!”

Style with Purpose: “Southern women have confidence that drives their style. It’s not about being the loudest-dressed one in the room; you shine through your self-assurance.”

Daily Uniform: “I like styling a blazer with my boyfriend jeans, a Max crossbody bag from our collection, and either sneakers or a strappy heel—depending on where I’m going.”

Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Hair and Makeup Styling: Celine Russell/Zenobia
Molly Fienning

Charleston, SC

Cofounder + CEO, Red Clay Hot Sauce

A Coronavirus Takeaway: “From day one, our local eateries have supported Red Clay Hot Sauce. And since March, restaurants have been suffering due to the economic implications of COVID-19. When they shuttered, we acted swiftly to help our partners in the area as best we could. For several weeks, we gave proceeds from every Red Clay sale to purchase food from nearby farms to make baskets of essentials for restaurant workers who had recently lost their jobs. The support from our customers was incredible. It made me realize how inspired they are when we give back to the local food ecosystem–farmers, chefs, and restaurant workers.”

Life Ethos: “I believe life is like a pie, and every woman gets to choose what belongs in hers. My pie includes my boys, marriage, family, friends, career, relationship with God, travel, and alone time. All these parts together form who I am, but no single piece defines me.”

Jane Scott Hodges

New Orleans, LA

Founder + Designer, Leontine Linens

Coming Soon: “Next year, we are going to be celebrating the 25th anniversary of Leontine Linens. I am very excited to be launching a new collection as well as sharing the untold stories of my company.” 

Something Borrowed: “I truly believe that the fun is in the mix. What makes Southern style unique is the multigenerational element and all of the things we have collected that we pass down to one another.”

Daily Muses: “Inspiration is everywhere. It is in nature, architecture, reading, and art. Just opening our eyes and absorbing everything around us is the greatest gift of all. I think the quarantine has given us time for reflection.”

Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Hair and Makeup Styling: Celine Russell/Zenobia
Cristina Lynch

Dallas, TX

Founder + CEO, Mi Golondrina

Advice To Live By: “My aunt, Jan Barboglio, has had a successful business designing housewares, and she always told me when I started, ‘Don’t quit.’ Running a business can be difficult, and remembering to take everything one day at a time is so valuable.”

Southern Style Defined: “In other parts of the country, women may feel silly being overdressed, but it’s never frowned upon in Texas. If you go to a party and look like you’ve made an effort and took time getting ready, people appreciate it.”

Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Hair and Makeup Styling: Celine Russell/Zenobia
Gen Sohr

Nashville, TN

Cofounder, Pencil & Paper Co.

Lesson Learned: “We are all responsible for ourselves. Don’t leave your success (or your failure) in someone else’s hands.”

Dressed To Express: “Style is an expression of your personality and what brings you joy. I believe in wearing what you love. For me, that means mixing patterns and picking bold accessories.”

Finishing Touches: “A pair of fabulous earrings or a stack of vintage bangles always makes me feel put together.”

Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Hair and Makeup Styling: Celine Russell/Zenobia
Shay Sweeney

Houston, TX

Lifestyle Blogger, Shay Moné

Current Projects: “I am working on an e-book for entrepreneur moms. I’m also excited about new adventures with Influencing in Color (@influencingincolor), a platform I created with three other bloggers to promote our mission of diversity and inclusion in the marketing realm.”

Go-to Look: “A blazer-and-trouser combo in any print, color, or texture. When I put on a suit, I feel powerful, confident, and like a boss!”

Splurge-Worthy Buy: “I’ve been investing in handbags that I can pass down to my girls. Toss on a great bag with jeans and a white T-shirt, and it can elevate your look instantly.”

Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Hair and Makeup Styling: Celine Russell/Zenobia