Jewelry designer Kathleen Murphy is the only Charlottean to make it into the group of 15 finalists vying to win Belk's Southern Designer Showcase competition. She and her fellow competitors will gather at the Belk headquarters tomorrow for more events surrounding the contest. The final prize is a big one: The winner will have their designs produced for sale at Belk stores and featured in advertising campaigns for spring 2013.
To qualify, the contestants had to be from the 16 Southern states where Belk operates stores, or have strong connections to the South. They then submitted samples of their works and photographs to Belk. Categories were women's, men's and kids' apparel, shoes and women's accessories.
Murphy, 32, has a day job as a dermatology sales rep. But since she was 8, her hobby has been making jewelry. She has her own web site (www.murphyjewelry.com) and sells her wares at 12 boutiques including two in Charlotte (Scout & Molly's and Ruby's Gift).
As the daughter of a Navy doctor, she moved all over the world. While attending N.C. State as a college student, she realized she wanted to make the South her home because it's where she felt the most comfortable and she loved Southern style. It's also when she became a fan of Belk. "In college, a cute boy asked me out," she says. "I went to Belk and bought a really great dress to wear on our date. He asked me out again and I was convinced it was because of that dress."
That love of Belk and fashion led her to follow the blog of Arlene Goldstein, Belk's vice president of trend merchandising and fashion direction (her blog is titled Arlene's Closet and can be found at www.belk.com). While Murphy was reading the blog around the first of the year, she saw the announcement about the competition.
"I thought hey, I’m a Southern designer, I’m in 12 boutiques across the Southern U.S. - I'll give it a shot," she says.
Murphy quickly went into overachiever mode. "They asked for photos and samples of 10 pieces of your collection," she says. "I made 60 pieces, then edited them down to what I thought looked good together and made a cohesive statement. I probably took a hundred photos of each piece, then narrowed them down to the photos that showed them off the best. I put together a Look Book with a biography, list of stores that sell my jewelry and a CD with all the images."
At first, Murphy didn't tell anyone but her closest family and friends about entering the contest. "I thought that there was no way they were going to pick little ol' me," she says.
After making it to the final 36 out of hundreds of entries, and then into the group of 15 finalists, she's begun to tell more people so they can keep their fingers crossed and say a prayer for her.
"It's really exciting to even be considered. Every night I do a little dance at the thought of winning."
What will she do if she wins?
"I'm going to throw a party!"