Culture // 5 min Read

Superwoman of Southern Design

Written by Palmetto Bluff

Dec 09, 2015

Lindsey Carter is a renaissance woman. She is a mother of twins, a wife, a business owner and a fashion designer. As the founder and designer for Troubadour Clothing, a Charleston-based contemporary clothing line, she’s also a very busy woman.

Founded in 2010, Troubadour is a collection of women’s clothing lauded for its saturated colors, well-made garments, luscious fabrics and unexpected prints. Splashes of color. Bold patterns that balance. Textiles you want to make a pillowcase out of. These are the marks of the Troubadour collection – covetable, wearable pieces that make you feel red-carpet-ready at even a ladies’ lunch. With Carter’s careful, discerning passion for beautiful silhouettes and artistic inspiration, this Southern gal proved that contemporary fashion doesn’t belong only on the busy streets of New York City; couture can be just as cutting-edge and impactful in the sauntering, sanguine streets of Charleston, too.

As a native Tar Heel hailing from Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, Carter studied at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but knew she wanted to pursue a career in design. After snagging her undergraduate degree, Carter then enrolled in the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City. Between her design studies and internships at well-known fashion houses such as Rebecca Minkoff, Elie Tahari and White + Warren, Carter cut her teeth in both fashion design and running a business. Upon graduation from FIT, Carter joined the design start-up team at Concept M, a new brand owned by clothing behemoth J.Crew, which would eventually be renamed Madewell.

While at Madewell, Carter not only helped establish the innovative brand that Madewell is today, but also affirmed her desire to create her own collection. It was also at this time that she rekindled with her college sweetheart, and so began the gentle tug of her heart strings and the South calling her home.

Carter finished her first line for Troubadour in spring 2010, and Women’s Wear Daily named her a “Designer to Watch” after her solo debut. She has spent the past five years working tirelessly to grow and expand her fashion brand, which is now sold in specialty boutiques across the U.S as well as international retailer Anthropologie. As a woman of the fashion and business world, Lindsey has made her indelible mark on both with the grace and humility that Southern women wear so well.

Fall in Line

Like many other virtuosos, Carter draws inspiration from the ever-changing world of art. While she also is stimulated by the work of other fashion designers, her most valuable muse is modern art, which she not only uses in a figurative sense, but in a literal one as well. The work of Charleston artist Brian Coleman is the actual print on several pieces of Troubadour’s fall collection. Taken from Coleman’s painting, The Encounter, the clothing mirrors the painting’s unique undulating, bulbous forms in a stark black and white, turning the garments into something more than just a skirt on a hanger.

“The actual piece ends up looking like its own little piece of artwork,” Carter said. “Working hand in hand with these artists is an amazing thing.” Lindsey collaborates with many regional Southern artists, but she doesn’t limit herself to talent below the Mason-Dixon line; she also partners with artists from around the world on her design projects, keeping her aesthetic fresh and modern.

The 2015 fall line, in particular, is dubbed “The Art Gallery Girl,” citing stimulus from American socialite and art collector Peggy Guggenheim.

“She was way ahead of her time in regard to contemporary art,” Carter noted. “Her whole story was really inspiring.”

As a bohemian socialite in New York City, Peggy Guggenheim made a name for herself not only for her vast collection of modern art, but for her modern personal style as well, an uncommon novice in post-World War II Manhattan. She also spent a lot of time in the French countryside, the colors and landscapes of which Carter used in some of the beautiful fall pieces.

“There’s this blurry, floral element on that it was picked out of a picture of a landscape in the French countryside,” Carter said. The element was taken from Peggy’s extensive travels.

As for Carter’s favorite piece of her fall collection, “I’ll be wearing all of The Encounter-inspired pieces,” she said.

We’re Not in New York Anymore

Not only is balancing a full-time career and a full-time family a tall order, running a fashion line outside of New York City is no cakewalk, either.

“During my second year , I flew to NYC 26 times,” Carter laughs as she recalls her beginning with Troubadour. “But now, we can do everything from here that any other company can do.”

Carter keeps her fast-paced fashion business on track by staying hands-on with all parts of the operation, but she now can conduct most meetings virtually, giving her Chairman-level frequent flyer status a much-needed break.

Despite the undeniable charm of her Holy City, Lindsey noted that being located in the South slowed the pace of Troubadour’s brand awareness because it’s not in a “fashion-hub city,” but she also sees her Southern roots and heritage as a major advantage and a way to set herself apart in the overcrowded fashion marketplace.

“Defining yourself as a Southern brand is difficult because people just think it’s all seersucker and pink and bright prints. We had to change the mentality of the buyer,” Carter said. “There’s a level of differentiation from other brands by being from the South, which does work in our favor.”

Carter’s next objective is to expand her reach online, drawing people directly to Troubadour.com to make their purchases there. She also notes her commitment to remaining a contemporary brand, which in this instance refers to the affordable price point as compared to designer labels.

“In the beginning, our on my own, and I wanted to change it,” she shared. “The clothes are now at a much more manageable price point, and we’ve seen a huge uptick in sales ,” exhibiting Troubadour’s, and Lindsey’s, valuable ability to adapt and change, based on consumer demand.

Fashion is Not for the Faint of Heart

As for Lindsey’s advice to fledgling entrepreneurial designers, she tells it like it is:

“Go out and get as much experience in the garment industry as possible,” she said. “It’s a fast-paced, multi-layered business that is incredible, but it’s not for the faint of heart. You’ve really got to have thick skin to survive.”

For her own survival and success in the fashion world, Carter credits her “warrior-like mentality” as her secret to holding her own. “Otherwise you won’t make it,” she said honestly. “I have twins at home. I’m 37, and my husband works full-time. It’s really hectic, and there’s no downtime. As a busy mom with a growing business, life is pretty crazy,” she laughed.

But amid her hectic schedule, she still makes time for what’s most important to her.

“Work-life balance is key. At 4:30, I go home each day to see my kids, even if I have a lot of work to do,” she said. “Even if I work after they go to bed, at least I’m spending that time with them.”

Photography by Kristin Lonyai

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