FASHION IS IN HER DNA

Tastemaker Whitley Adkins Hamlin of  The Queen City Style  inherited her love of clothes from her grandmother and great-grandmother.   Photo by Richard Israel. Hair and makeup by Cali Stott Hair & Makeup Artistry.

Tastemaker Whitley Adkins Hamlin of The Queen City Style inherited her love of clothes from her grandmother and great-grandmother. Photo by Richard Israel. Hair and makeup by Cali Stott Hair & Makeup Artistry.

Among the sea of stylists, Whitley Adkins Hamlin of the Queen City Style stands out from the crowd. Her unique fashion sense, charm and work ethic have made her a sought after wardrobe stylist, fashion contributor, tastemaker and personal shopper.

You can read all about the Asheville native on her www.thequeencitystyle.com website and on Instagram (@thequeencitystyle). What fascinates The O Report most about this creative mother of two young boys is the influence her grandmother, Martha Whitley, and great-grandmother, Willa Lynch, had on Whitley's style and success. "Both were buyers for the luxury clothing boutique Rosenbloom-Levy and both had their own distinct style," Whitley says. "Willa always wore classic pieces, Martha enjoyed experimenting with clothes." 

Whitley's grandmother, Martha Whitley, and great-grandmother, Willa Bridges.

Whitley's grandmother, Martha Whitley, and great-grandmother, Willa Bridges.

True to her well-mannered roots, Whitley politely took time from her A-List roster of clients to answer The O Report's questions about her stylish legacy.

What are the most important things you learned from your grandmother and great-grandmother?  

"They set the bar for proper standards and everything to do with, well, everything...manners, social graces, how to dress, how to set a table, how to act, how to say thank you, how to cook and entertain, how to take your cocktail, how to interact with others, the importance of posture, poise and etiquette, the importance of sophisticated airport attire (which includes no denim for me), how to be a lady... all of the really important things."

Willa preferred to wear suits; Martha was more experimental with her fashion choices.

Willa preferred to wear suits; Martha was more experimental with her fashion choices.

What are some of your favorite pieces of theirs that you inherited?  

"A 1950s-era black velvet Mr. Blackwell knee-length cocktail dress with intricate beading around the collar. The neckline goes just off the shoulder bones. The cut and fit of the dress is sophisticated, refined and demure which I think makes it sexy.

I also have a 1980s gunmetal sequin blouse with puff sleeves and a cinched waist. It's very Falcon Crest/Dynasty avant-garde, but since it is a top and not a dress it can be fashioned with modern day attire for a wearable yet one of a kind look.

From my great-grandmother, I have a few structured handbags that I carry quite regularly along with a couple of mink pillbox hat toppers that I adore but don't wear as much. My grandmother had amazing over-the-top accessories:  brooches, belts, necklaces, scarves, rings, purses, all of it. Too many bright, shiny baubles to name!"

It's in their DNA: While home on Christmas Eve, a college-aged Whitley models an outfit for the amusement of her equally fabulous grandmother. 

It's in their DNA: While home on Christmas Eve, a college-aged Whitley models an outfit for the amusement of her equally fabulous grandmother. 

What are some of your favorite tips for making their vintage pieces look modern?  

"I'm afraid I don't have any grand tips of my own beyond wearing what you love. At least that's how I get dressed every morning. If you love vintage but don't want to look like you stepped out of an episode of I Love Lucy or Mad Men, instead of pairing the vintage dress with the vintage shoes, bag and jewelry, just pick one item, maybe two, and pair it with a more current piece. 

if I was styling the sequin top for me, I'd wear it with black leather shorts, tights and knee boots for a hip-meets-mod look in the winter. I'm also big on layering. Since the sequin top is short-sleeved, I have layered it over a long-sleeve blouse with amazing sleeves worn over a dress or paired with fitted denim pants and modern stiletto booties."

What from their era would you like to bring back in style both in regards to fashion and manners.

"I love 70s fashion, in particular - the flowy, silky, sexy mysterious movement of the clothes. Long dresses with sleeves and fabric that floated across the body but not a lot of skin showing with the exception of an occasional deep-V plunging neckline. Wide flare high waisted jeans to make everyone look leaner and taller. Feather trim, pussybow blouses, groovy patterns, head scarves, so much Boho glam.  

Good manners and proper etiquette transcend time. I think it starts at home. My great-grandmother taught my grandmother who taught my mom. My mom heavily engrained the importance of good manners in me. I'd like to think I do the same with my two boys."

Four generations of ladies: Whitley as a baby with her great-grandmother, grandmother and mother.

Four generations of ladies: Whitley as a baby with her great-grandmother, grandmother and mother.

For those who want to pass on their favorite pieces to their younger family members, do you have any tips to make the process smooth and organized?  

"I was the recipient of luck in that none of my grandmother's four children or seven other grandchildren were mad for fashion the way I am. I played dress-up in my grandmother and great-grandmother's closets my entire life and so some of their pieces were given to me early on because they knew how much joy I had wearing their things. 

My uncle's wife also really appreciates fashion and so she did inherit a few great pieces of my grandmother's that I love. It makes it fun to have someone else in the family who gets equally excited over an amazing top or dress. I remember when my grandmother passed away my mom and her siblings went to her home and divided up everything. They worked hard to fairly distribute memorabilia based on sentiment. There was even some trading going on once it was all divided.  My aunt also generously shared a few pieces with me that she didn't end up wearing. In the end, everything tells a story and holds a memory."

Even as a youngster, Whitley had a flair for fashion. 

Even as a youngster, Whitley had a flair for fashion. 

DESIGNER TORRY STRAYHORN'S NEW VICTORIA CULLINAN BRAND

Emerging fashion designer Torry Strayhorn of Victoria Cullinan with, from left, her brother, Nick Strayhorn; mother, Kerry Strayhorn; and father, Ralph Strayhorn, 

Emerging fashion designer Torry Strayhorn of Victoria Cullinan with, from left, her brother, Nick Strayhorn; mother, Kerry Strayhorn; and father, Ralph Strayhorn, 

Emerging fashion designer Torry Strayhorn, creator of the Victoria Cullinan brand, describes herself as a minimalist who creates pieces for all ages that are modern yet classic. On April 27, the Charlotte native launched her brand in her hometown during two private showings of her Fall 2017 collection held at the home of neighbors and friends Aundrea and Stephen Wilson, a fellow textiles-obsessed artist. 

A model wears a hand-painted Victoria Cullinan gown inspired by the Japanese art form of kintsugi during the brand's launch party. 

A model wears a hand-painted Victoria Cullinan gown inspired by the Japanese art form of kintsugi during the brand's launch party. 

A world traveler who's influenced by her experiences exploring different countries and cultures, Torry's inspiration for the collection was kintsugi, the Japanese art of using gold to mend broken pottery. "It makes the pottery more beautiful and valuable yet you can still see the cracks," Torry says. "To apply that to clothes, I used very clean lines, gold chains and slightly off-kilter angles."

Gold chains embellish a coat from the Fall 2017 Victoria Cullinan collection.

Gold chains embellish a coat from the Fall 2017 Victoria Cullinan collection.

A self-described perfectionist who likes for things to be done properly, Torry travels to L.A. and New York City to find material that meets her standards. "I have to touch it and see it myself," she says. Sustainability is also very important to her. She estimates 93 percent of her materials are natural fibers - especially silks, wools and cottons. 

Sustainable fabrics including cotton are part of the Fall 2017 Victoria Cullinan collection.

Sustainable fabrics including cotton are part of the Fall 2017 Victoria Cullinan collection.

Along with designing her creations, she also embellishes them herself whether it's painting on the fabric or making the crushed velvet pieces in the collection by hand. "It takes an iron, water and a lot of patience," she says of the process. 

A handmade crushed velvet gown from the Fall 2017 Victoria Cullinan collection. 

A handmade crushed velvet gown from the Fall 2017 Victoria Cullinan collection. 

As a young girl, she was always sketching clothes and using her big imagination. Originally interested in dance, she would take apart her tutus and redesign her dance clothes, and she made her own prom dress. But it was a Fashion 101 class at Savannah School of Art and Design that convinced her that she wanted a career in fashion.

While still a student, she won the prestigious YMA CFDA Competition and the Cotton Inc. Design Competition. That set her on the path of working in New York City with designers Rebecca Taylor and then Francisco Costa at Calvin Klein. "He's brilliant," she says. 

The Victoria Cullinan collection on the runway at Charleston Fashion Week.

The Victoria Cullinan collection on the runway at Charleston Fashion Week.

She describes working there as an incredible place to learn and grow, but the hours were crazy. She often worked until 3 a.m. and then had to be back in the design studio at 7:30 a.m. So she decided to return to Charlotte and launch her own brand. To challenge herself, she applied to show at the 2017 Charleston Fashion Week and was one of 16 from a field of 600 who made the cut. The positive feedback convinced her she had made the right decision to go out on her own.  

This custom Mother of the Groom gown and jacket created for the designer's mother was on display at the Victoria Cullinan brand launch party. 

This custom Mother of the Groom gown and jacket created for the designer's mother was on display at the Victoria Cullinan brand launch party. 

From a bright design studio in her home, she works on her collections and makes bespoke pieces for weddings and special events. She also loves to create custom couture for her mother, Kerry Strayhorn, including a Mother of the Groom gown and jacket when Torry's brother was married. 

Surrounded by her models, designer Torry Strayhorn talks to guests about the inspiration behind her Fall 2017 Victoria Cullinan collection during the label's launch party. 

Surrounded by her models, designer Torry Strayhorn talks to guests about the inspiration behind her Fall 2017 Victoria Cullinan collection during the label's launch party. 

The age range of Torry's clients generally falls between 20s and 60s. Here's her fashion advice for those 50 and up:

The basics. "Keep adding classic pieces to your wardrobe. They make you feel put together."

The key piece. "Coats transcend any age group. If you want to cover your arms, coats can do that and they tie a look all together.

Age is just a number - explore, have fun and try different colors. "Why do we hold back? Why do we have to live in fear? Always be open to trying something new and updating your wardrobe."

The one rule you should never break. "Clothes should not be too tight."

Don't look at the size, look at the fit. "There is no standard sizing anymore. Sizes can be completely different from one company to the next."

To learn more about Torry's designs, go to www.victoriacullinan. Follow her on Instagram @victoriacullinan. 

 

 

 

 

 

PRIDE AWARDS GALA GUESTS NAIL THE DRESS CODE

THE O REPORT LOVED THE WAY TIFFANY CAPERS MELDED BOTH FORMAL AND CASUAL LOOKS THAT SUITED THE GALA'S FUN DRESS CODE PERFECTLY.  PHOTOS BY PAUL WILLIAMS III.

THE O REPORT LOVED THE WAY TIFFANY CAPERS MELDED BOTH FORMAL AND CASUAL LOOKS THAT SUITED THE GALA'S FUN DRESS CODE PERFECTLY. PHOTOS BY PAUL WILLIAMS III.

The Pride Awards, an annual gala hosted by Pride magazine, is always a stylish evening that includes a dinner and awards ceremony. In keeping with this year's theme, Building Communities - Changing Lives, a collaboration with Habitat for Humanity, the gala organizers really had fun with the dress code. Normally it's a black tie event, but this year guests were told to either stick with formal wear or opt for "Jeans and Other Creative Things." As you can see from the photos, the partygoers reached into their fashionable tool boxes and pulled out an array of chic outfits. 

Besides watching how everyone interpreted the dress code, other highlights were seeing honorees take the stage including the West Boulevard Neighborhood Coalition, Reid Park Neighborhood Association president Rickey Hall and Mallard Creek High School senior Taye Martin; and Raising The Roof, the After Glow party featuring DJ Kool

Nepherterra Estrada Best

Nepherterra Estrada Best

Pride Magazine editor Lashawnda Becoats and syndicated radio journalist Francene Marie Morris. 

Pride Magazine editor Lashawnda Becoats and syndicated radio journalist Francene Marie Morris. 

Francene nailed the fun mix of evening glam and casual chic. 

Francene nailed the fun mix of evening glam and casual chic. 

The evening's hostess, Dee Dixon, center, the president and CEO of Pride Communications.

The evening's hostess, Dee Dixon, center, the president and CEO of Pride Communications.

Janine Davis, left, and Sonja Gantt, right, executive director of the nonprofit Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Public Schools Foundation. 

Janine Davis, left, and Sonja Gantt, right, executive director of the nonprofit Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Public Schools Foundation. 

Pride12.JPG
Sharon Holm, left, of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. 

Sharon Holm, left, of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. 

Dana Davis and Mary C. Curtis. 

Dana Davis and Mary C. Curtis.