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Bierman and Williams: Faces of the modern south
Throughout history, the South has been a breeding place for successful people such as Condoleezza Rice, Jimmy Carter, Suzanne Collins and Louis Armstrong. Now, there are two noteworthy faces making an appearance on the Birmingham scene: Lindsay Bierman, Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living and Heather Williams, designer and founder of Tallullah Designs. I picked their brains on what makes them tick and how living in the south has affected their success.
Heather Williams of Tallulah Designs got her start in what she calls a “very round-about way”. She claims that she never intended to design clothing, but her various jobs always lead her back to designing. Call it fate or destiny but from that, Tallulah, was born in 2011. Williams says that growing up in Alabama has absolutely influenced her successes. She says, “I very intentionally design for the Southern woman. No one wants a poly lining in their dress when it’s 102 degrees in July. We also seem to only have two seasons: unbearably hot and then cold. Keeping this in mind, I try to design clothes that can be worn alone or layered to the max.” Tallulah encompasses unique garments that are so clearly made with love and dedication. Williams says that she was never given direct career advice, but rather followed her parents’ work ethic.
Her advice to aspiring designers is to “Work very hard. Retail is so much more difficult than people imagine; helping customers find the very best item is draining. Working an 8-hour photo shoot is tiresome. Walking three miles in 6-inch heels with a smile is a feat. Fashion is not for sissies”.
Though Williams is small, she is fierce. It is through her demonstration of passion and conviction for what she does that will drive Tallulah to the top.
I would be remiss if I did not mention Southern royalty, Lindsay Bierman. Bierman began working at a magazine in New York and then as a ghost writer for the world-famous architect and author Robert A.M. Stern. After attending architecture school at UVA, he joined a prestigious trade publication and then returned to Stern’s office to practice architecture. In 1997, Bierman heard about the launch of Coastal Living and after making the switch to Southern Living, the rest is history. Although he seems like he’s living a dream in which the Southern Living test kitchen is open at all times, Bierman says that he has off-days, just like everyone else.
He says, “I overcome it by turning to one thing on my to-do list that I know I can accomplish flawlessly, and finish it that day. There’s always something you can do, no matter how minor, that will help give you a sense of accomplishment”. Although Bierman may be in a fast-paced world, he still tries to stay true to his Southern roots. He says, “I’m not necessarily as direct, or some might say as harsh, as a New Yorker might be when it comes to giving feedback, but it makes for a much more pleasant working environment. I’ve seen too many mean bosses drive away great talent.”
Obviously, this Editor-in-Chief is doing something correctly, considering that Southern Living is the country’s fifth largest monthly consumer magazine with over 16 million readers. Bierman’s advice? He says, “I tell young people just starting out that one of the most important skills you can cultivate is strategic agility. That doesn’t mean becoming a robot–it means being totally adaptable and comfortable with constant change.” He also encourages people to find a balance, and to become aware of their limitations. He says, “I’ve seen so many people self-destruct because they can’t seem to admit what they can’t do–no one can be great at everything, so focus on being amazing at a few things.”
These two may seem different in so many ways, but the one common denominator that links them is their passion for their jobs. While one can’t claim that as a regional (read: Southern) trait, it’s inarguably one that has driven their successes. Both Lindsay Bierman and Heather Williams said that you have to love what you do, everyday, and that will translate to your work.