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Designing women to watch 

It's difficult to describe the way a woman feels when she walks into a party and spies someone wearing the exact same outfit. The tightness in her chest and shortness of breath? That's pure agony and despair. No woman wants to be caught in that predicament.

But thankfully, people in the creative community recognize the importance of being one of a kind. Here, we've profiled three local designing women who don't necessarily follow the trends determined by mass consumerism. Read on to find out how these inspiring ladies are making big splashes in the worlds of jewelry, interior design and fashion.

Laura James

Local jewelry designer Laura James sleeps with a pen and notebook by her bed, for those moments when inspiration comes in the middle of the night.

"I will actually see the layout of a necklace or earrings," she says. "Or maybe a stone I saw a few weeks ago will flash through my mind, and I'll dream it on this necklace. I'll sketch it because I know I won't remember it the next morning."

James has been handcrafting jewelry since 2005; she's always loved antique pieces and working with her hands. She often uses distinctive vintage stones and components in her designs.

Her business has been incredibly successful, with items for sale in local stores and online at — and being featured in Lucky Magazine, on Gossip Girl and the Today Show. So much so that in 2009, she was able to open her own shop in Dilworth (1419 East Blvd.) where people peruse her selection of jewelry or watch her work. Customers can also bring in their own pieces and have them revamped.

Now that the boutique is doing so well, the next step for Laura James Jewelry is to continue making a name for itself, returning to being available in stores nationwide (which she pulled out of when she opened her own). "Charlotte has always been amazing to us since day one," she says. "I have the time ... to make jewelry for other stores in other cities so I am working on that now."

Tara Davis

Body types are what catch Tara Davis' eye — not fads. "It's not about following the trends — it's about creating trends for yourself, based on what you're inspired by," says the local fashion designer.

Davis' line, Flow By Tara Davis (, is named for the types of materials she likes to work with — that which accentuates women's curves and flows around the body. "As long as you're cosmopolitan, you're chic, you're modern, then you'll like my designs," she says. "I try to do day and nighttime dresses, where you can wear them to work and then maybe take the sweater off, add a small purse or some sandals and dress it into the night."

Currently, Davis, who recently completed her Master of Fine Arts in fashion design from Academy Art University of San Francisco, is working on designs for fall 2012. This collection will utilize a quilting technique, which features top stitching and padding, and will be on display at Charlotte Fashion Week and the Southern Women's Show, both happening in September. The newest to the line, though, is the launch of leather clutches and accessories. These are available at Davis' studio (Hart Witzen Gallery, 136 E. 36th St., Studio 5) or at Ruby's Gift (3204 N. Davidson St.,

Emily Clark

On interior designer Emily Clark's blog (, she admitted that although it was common practice to place a TV above the fireplace, she just couldn't bring herself to do it in her own living room. "I'm fine with the TV being in the room, but I don't necessarily like seeing it as the centerpiece of the room," she says.

And it's those minor details, in which she goes against the trend, that make her stand out as an interior decorator.

Interestingly enough, Emily A. Clark Interiors was started in 2009 from the blog she created when she decided that after five years of being a stay-at-home mom, she needed a creative outlet. With training from a stint at Ethan Allen and the help of social media, Clark is now at the point where she needs to hire an assistant. In addition to taking on local clients, half of her business is online design.

"I just finished a house in Beverly Hills," she says. "People send me their measurements and send me pictures of the rooms and then I just put a whole plan together just by e-mail. More and more people are getting excited ... sometimes it's so intimidating to have a designer come into your house."

And while the services of an interior decorator might not be an option for many people because of the economy, Clark says she's had no problem picking up jobs. "I think the blog is helping a lot because I talk about budget-friendly decorating. You can find good knickknacks at Goodwill if you spray-paint them all one color, for instance. I don't recommend the $20,000 sofas because I don't have that in my house."

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