As Seen In Carolina Spark, Summer 2021
Jewelry designer and creative Haleigh Thompson wanted to create a lifestyle accessory brand that represented her style and family life. She founded Vidalia Outfitters to reflect her unique southern finesse with a bohemian twist inspired by her life in Western North Carolina. Her creations are fueled by her passion to design, baby snuggles and black coffee.
IF I WANTED TO BUY ONE OF YOUR CREATIONS TODAY, WHERE COULD I FIND THEM?
You can find me on my website (www.vidaliaoutfitters.com) twenty-four seven! I am also so thankful to stock special assortments at Traveling Chic Boutique and MTN Merch (both in downtown Asheville) and Pigeon River Mercantile in downtown Canton!
DID YOU GROW UP IN WNC?
Yes, I am Texas-born, but I have been here in the Asheville area since I was six months old. I went to school at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. You might say that I like it here in WNC, but you will see a lot of lusting for the southwest in my work!
HAVE YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A ”MAKER?”
I've ALWAYS been a maker! It took 21 years to find this medium and a bit longer to believe it could contribute to my income.
WHAT KINDS OF THINGS DO YOU DESIGN / MAKE AND WHICH ARE YOUR FAVORITE?
At the gem show, I buy from a Nepali vendor that just has the sweetest spirit. I know I am a small fry to her and she treats me with the same level of care as a big buyer. Her pendants are so unique, totally my style, and made from coin silver so they have a natural patina and wear well for a lifetime! I love to build around her pendants! Often on my website you’ll notice a featured collection called “Nepali Silver Spotlight.”
DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST PIECE OF JEWELRY YOU MADE / SOLD ?
Yes I do, at my home church's fall festival. I sold a couple bullet casing / quartz crystal necklaces that day, and a collector spoon necklace. I had bent it in half over the chain and tucked a tiny crochet doily, a resin cameo, a button, and some rhinestones. I bet I still have pictures somewhere. I had even sewn a few drawstring sacks for things that sold that day from a hem I took off my friend's dress. I remember those first customers, and they still shop with me!
HOW OFTEN DO YOU KEEP THE THINGS YOU MAKE?
I “wear-test” just about everything and that's a slippery slope. I'm always contemplating keeping something, but in reality, I only keep something maybe every couple of months.
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO CREATE VIDALIA OUTFITTERS? & WHAT INSPIRED THAT NAME (IT’S SO UNIQUE AND PERFECTLY SOUTHERN)?
I am so glad you asked. It's so sobering when people ask, “Like the onion?" or “Are you from Georgia?" It (possibly) is even more redneck than that. I branded myself after a Sammy Kershaw song. It's about a man named Dale and a woman named Violet having the sweetest child, and they name her “Vidalia.” To me, it represents “him" and “her" and I try to have things that intrigue both and all!
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE / AESTHETIC / VIBE?
Southwestern, bohemian--a lot of one-of-a-kind pieces. An upbringing in Asheville inevitably shaped me to appeal to the hillbilly and the hippie!
HOW HAS YOUR WORK FLOW CHANGED SINCE BECOMING A MOTHER?
I cringe at thinking about how little time I thought I had before having a kid. It pains me. There's the nap time hustle, building invoices while blowing bubbles over bath time, taking product photos while she plays outside, and occasionally asking for help.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE (OR FOUR OR FIVE) LOCAL CRAFT SHOWS? OR ANY THAT YOU PARTICIPATE IN YEARLY?
Some of my favorites (that I know are still happening post-COVID) are Show & Tell Pop Up Shop and The Big Crafty. My newest favorite is actually down the mountain in Lawndale, NC. It’s called Gypsy Farm Fair hosted by Red Bone Willy's Trading Company — look it up!
WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR MATERIALS?
I set out to find them at gem shows and occasionally on Etsy or locally at Cherry Tree Beads in Swannanoa. But sometimes they find me at an antique store, in my moms “I'm- not-wearing-this-anymore" pile, or my friends spent bullet casings. You wouldn't believe all the things. I've made a necklace from roadkill, from a decorative plate, from someone's faucet in their childhood bathroom...all sorts of things.
WHAT’S ONE OF THE MOST UNIQUE / FAVORITE PIECES YOU’VE EVER CREATED?
Oh, come on now, that's like asking which pet is my favorite! Okay, admittedly on my Instagram profile, there's a story highlight called “ALL TIME FAVES” but the real magic lies in finding the perfect person for each piece.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE AN UP AND COMING MAKER IN WNC?
Keep creating, keep putting your ideas out there, keep making connections, and remember no one is going to advocate for you better than you. Be true to yourself, play nice, and you will find your people. There's a customer for everything. Believe in community over competition.
Written by Victoria Grace
Photos by Victoria Grace Photography