The mannequin at the entrance to the Liberty Street boutique was wearing a straw hat – despite being headless — plus a Navaho print vest, a feather necklace and an over-the-shoulder bag edged with fringe.
The outfit reflects the shop’s eclectic mix of wares: feather earrings, necklaces featuring with blue and green beetle wings and a crystalline stone called druzy. There are also vintage boots trimmed with crochet, fabric and fur; loose-flowing pants of blue velveteen and orange cloth; and a blue and brown vest.
“We call it our Atlas print because it’s got the water and the land. See where it says Gulf of Mexico and (an outline of the country) Mexico?” said Emily Bargeron, the vest’s designer and maker.
Bargeron, a Georgia Southern fashion design major, is part owner of this unique boutique, which is split into halves to put equal emphasis on clothing and jewelry.
Bargeron owns Mamie Ruth, which focuses on clothes.
Mary Liz Craft, a metals and jewelry major at Savannah College of Art and Design, owns the jewelry half, M.Liz Jewelry.
Nearly everything in the store is designed and made by Bargeron and Craft at their studios in the boutique. The store, called Mamie Ruth/M.Liz Jewelry Studios & Boutique — naturally — opened 10 months ago.
The owners say the style of their shop is natural, colorful and funky.
“Bohemian is very big in fashion,” Bargeron said.
And Bargeron and Craft said their styles perfectly complement each other and give the business a chance to thrive.
They sell retail goods as well as their own wholesale accounts: Bargeron’s clothes are sold in 50 shops from Florida to California, and Craft has about 30 wholesale clients from North Carolina to Florida and Alabama.
“We go to trade shows and sell at trade shows,” Bargeron said.
In a workroom in the front of the store, Craft uses an acetylene torch, hammers for her metal work, buffers for polishing stones and a torch for soldering — although, she said, “I don’t solder much now that I’m pregnant. I still do, but I need to be careful. I just have to wear a respirator.”
Bargeron’s studio is in the back of the boutique. Here, she has three sewing machines, colorful bolts of cloth and beads. Also in the studio is a small, box-like machine with blades that she pulls strips of leather through to make fringe for the vests.
The two entrepreneurs met in March 2014 through a mutual friend.
“We found that her jewelry complemented my clothing very well. So we teamed up,” Bargeron said.
Also that March, they showed their work together during Charleston Fashion Week, and they worked together again in May during Savannah’s Fashion Week.
“We showed the same collection,” Bargeron said. “We kind of decided (during the fashion weeks) that we might want to work together” all the time, Craft said, adding that they originally worked out of their homes in Savannah.
“After several successful trunk shows, we decided we had a market in Savannah. So we decided to open a store,” Bargeron said.
Craft and Bargeron have been making and selling crafts since they were young.
“I started my first business when I was 12,” said Bargeron, who grew up in Louisville, Ga. “I made the jewelry.” Her younger sister Beth, who was 11, made purses. They called their business a fanciful name, Bubbetty, and they sold their goods at country fairs and festivals. Bargeron began making and selling clothes professionally in 2009.
“I just worked for myself,” she said.
Craft, who hails from Akron, Ohio, started selling friendship bracelets at garage sales around age 8, and as a teen she worked for her dad as a project manager for his company, Illumetek, which made lights.
“It was interesting,” she said. “I definitely learned a lot about lighting — and business — from my dad. I still learn from my dad. He helped me set up and figure out a budget.”
While at SCAD, Craft had a summer internship in 2008 with Judith Ripka in New York City. “She does high-end jewelry,” Craft said. In 2009, Craft started designing jewelry professionally. From 2011 to 2013, she worked for Zia, a Broughton Street jewelry store, as a production manager. Zia’s owner sold wholesale to other stores.
“That’s where I learned the wholesale side of the business,” Craft said.
The nearly year-old business is doing well, the duo said, and they have a mailing list of 230 customers. And they have employees. Jessica Hewins, a fulltime graphic designer, works for both businesses. Part-timer Amy Sanda greets customers and works for the store as a salesperson. Bargeron also supervises five women who manufacture her clothing from samples that she makes.
They also have interns, some of whom get college credit for working at the boutique.
“We’ve had 10 since the store opened,” Bargeron said.
One of those interns, Stefanee Cherico, a third-year SCAD student majoring in fashion design, is usually working hard at a sewing machine.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s pretty cool. I got to bleach some shirts and sew on some tags.”
These days, both Bargeron and Craft feel successful.
“I get to come here every day and do what I like to,” Bargeron said. “We went from having a studio out of our apartments (to this). We’re a growing company and each year we’re becoming more successful.”
Added Craft: “We really say we’re creating American-made awesomeness.”