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Style Stars

Julie Sayers

You may not know the name Julie Sayers, but for the past 34 years she has played an instrumental role in Texas politics. Since 1980, Sayers has served as president and publisher of the Texas State Directory, an almanac cataloging every elected official in Texas from the local to the federal level. Along with their photographs, the Texas State Directory gives political affiliation, personal and contact information, and a host of other details unavailable anywhere else. For legislators and lobbyists, the Directory is commonly referred to as “the Bible,” and the information inside has led to wheelin’, dealin’ and real legislation being passed.

Though her stepfather published newspapers in West Texas (he also briefly owned — then sold — the Directory when Sayers was in high school), publishing was never her dream. A native Austinite, Sayers met her future husband, Scotty, when the two were attending Austin High School. The couple attended UT together, and following graduation, got married and moved to Dallas.

While living in the Big D, Sayers put her education degree to use teaching elementary school. But in 1980, nine years after the couple moved north, the Texas State Directory came back up for sale, and the Sayers’ decided to purchase it. “It was a way to get us back to Austin,” explains Sayers. “Everyone [in our family] lives in or near Austin.” The couple worked together until 1985 when Scotty left to pursue another career. “When my husband went on, I kept up with the book. It became my baby,” says Sayers.

And so with each election and legislative session that came and went, Sayers worked to gather information, sending requests for information to every single elected official in the state of Texas. “I solicit every person that is in this book,” says Sayers. “People in this book, if you mention my name, they would say, ‘Yeah, I hear from her every year. Don’t know her, and I never met her but [I hear from her].’”

Today, the Texas State Directory operates a bit differently. Sayers no longer handwrites letters to elected officials, opting instead for e-mail. And though the book is still published (and popular), Sayers says she’s growing the Directory’s online presence. Throughout her years as president and publisher, Sayers has maintained a thoughtful vision for her business that, in turn, has made the Directory indispensible.

It’s a business that has evolved as Sayers has, one that has allowed her to spend time with her daughters and two grandchildren (they all live within a mile of each another in West Austin). “I get up, go to work. I’m in a great time of life,” says Sayers. “Once you’re over sixty, you don’t have to compete, you’ve got it down. It’s a wonderful time.”

When it comes to her success, Sayers credits an attitude of gratitude and openness. “I say every day gets better – there is usually a surprise somewhere and usually a good one,” says Sayers, adding later, “I think you need to be open you need to be the moment – I believe that totally. And be open to new things. If you box yourself in, you never have the chance for people to enter.”

The Directory has indeed offered Sayers a front-row seat to Texas politics for nearly four decades, to be among politicians but not of them. Though Sayers says she finds politics interesting (she reads two newspapers every morning), she prefers to count politicians as friends, not colleagues. In the office she shares with her husband, it’s not unusual for the governor to pop in one day and a pro golfer the next. Because of that, Sayers says she has made it a habit to always look her best. “My mother was kind of bohemian, but I always thought she had great style. She was always dressed nice, and I always try to look my best.” Says Sayers, “It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.”

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Julie Sayers

Top by Tangerine, available at The Garden Room. Skirt by Rebecca Taylor. Shoes by Sam Edelman. Necklace by Chanel. Rings and bracelet by Phil Shaw, Goldsmith.

A.J. Bingham

Here’s the thing about AJ Bingham: He always looks good. Whether at a charity event (he’s on the board of several) or stopping into the Quickie Pickie after a Saturday morning at the gym, Bingham always looks simultaneously put together and at ease with his surroundings. “I’d rather be overdressed for an event than underdressed,” he says, echoing fellow style star Julie Sayers.

As a kid, Bingham moved around a lot. The son of an Air Force officer, Bingham was born in New Mexico and spent much of childhood in Germany. In 1991, his father was stationed at Bergstrom Air Force Base and in 1992 when the base closed, the Binghams settled in South Austin. After graduating from LBJ High School, Bingham landed at North Carolina’s Wake Forest University. “It was a good experience. I was looking to get away … I needed to grow up a little bit.” The skills he had picked up as “a military kid” were such that Bingham felt comfortable with pretty much anyone, in almost any situation. That, coupled with his love of history, made law school seem like a natural path.

Following Wake Forest, Bingham decided to go to law school in Kansas. During his final year, Bingham had a revelation: he didn’t want to be an attorney. “I was looking for alternative paths so I could still use my education, but more aligned with my personality,” explains Bingham. “I thought about being an agent or lobbying — and I thought lobbying was the better route. I didn’t want to go to D.C., so I started networking to get back to Austin.” He spent two legislative sessions working unpaid in the Texas State Capitol and living at home with parents.

When the legislature wasn’t in session, Bingham worked as a job coach for Goodwill, helping young men and women find job placement. It was rewarding work, but he wanted back in the Capitol, among the lobbyists and lawmakers. Following his second unpaid session as a staffer, Bingham was offered a full-time job for an Austin-based lobbying firm.

Today, Bingham is working in the private sector and continuing to volunteer for everything from the Young Men’s Business League to Caritas to the Black Chamber of Commerce. “I realize I’m at a point in my life where I just have the time do it,” says Bingham of his philanthropy. “Being a citizen is being involved. At least vote. Vote!”

Whether he is on the floor of the Capitol or at a charity happy hour, Bingham remains effortlessly stylish. “It’s presentation right? Before you know anything about me, you see me.”

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A.J. Bingham

Suit by Jack Victor available at Capra & Cavelli. Watch by Android. Button down available at Nordstrom Rack.

Nick Simonite

Certain things are written in the stars. For San Antonio native Nick Simonite, the son of a photography professor and brother to celebrated cinematographer Peter Simonite and New York-based artist/photographer Francesca Simonite, it seems only natural that he should take up the family business. But in speaking with Simonite, it is clear that becoming a photographer wasn’t something he fell into — it was his calling.

“I kinda grew up around it. We had a dark room in the house growing up,” Simonite explains over coffee at Figure 8. Though he tinkered around with photography in high school, Simonite still started his freshman year at Southwestern University unsure of what he wanted to major in.

Towards the end of school, Simonite took an internship with the Austin American-Statesman that led to a post-graduation job with the Statesman’s sister publication, the Waco Tribune-Herald. “I never imagined I would be taking pictures for a living, but it seemed like the thing I would most like to do,” says Simonite.

After a year in Waco, Simonite says he was ready to move to Austin and be closer to family. He took a 9-to-5 job with The Austin Business Journal and began freelancing in his spare time. Before long, his reputation and talent landed him advertising work with companies like Uber, Capital One and Absolut and he was counting some of the biggest tastemakers in Austin among his clients and collaborators (Bunkhouse, Preacher and Guerilla Suit, just to name a few).

“I’m super fortunate to be working with them,” says Simonite. “Just by working with them I get more credit than I probably deserve because those are the people are really influencing Austin and, on a greater level, other areas.”

Earlier this year, the state tourism board approached Simonite about shooting a campaign. He was told that would require him to quit his job and spend the next several months traveling across Texas taking photographs. He jumped at the chance.

“The last couple months have been travelling which [has been] a pleasure and joy,” says Simonite, who has crisscrossed all of Texas taking exquisite photographs of our beloved state. (Don’t believe me? Just take a peek at his Instagram.)

Now that it’s fall, the campaign is winding down and Simonite is looking towards to future. When asked about his next step, he muses, “I could never get hired again after this or I could get more work,” before quickly adding, “Hopefully, I’ll get more work from this.” We’re betting on the latter.

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Nick Simonite

Shirt by S.K.U. Jeans by Nudie Jeans. Boots by Helm Boots, Muller Black Butcher Boot, $485.

Katie Kime

When designer/lifestyle guru Katie Kime began college at Duke University her freshman year, the religion and visual arts double major wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to do. “I was always really creative, making things from a really young age, like seven,” says the North Carolina native. “I just never thought of it as a job.”

Throughout college, Kime found herself making custom stationary for friends or popping into local thrift stores in search of vintage furniture to reupholster. During her senior year, a friend by the name of Debbie Krzyzewski (daughter of Duke basketball’s legendary Coach K) helped Kime organize a trunk show. Kime says it was the first time she saw all of her smaller creative projects together in a cohesive collection. “The trunk show, seeing it all together and seeing them make sense, I decided from them on that I was going to do this. Like all 22-year-olds, I was audacious,” she adds with a laugh.

After graduation, Kime left Durham for Atlanta where she gained a whole new education. She apprenticed with upholsters and interior designers, took sewing lessons, learned how to make Lucite, sourced fabric and textiles, and taught herself the basics of graphic design and product photography. What she couldn’t learn from apprenticing, she tried to teach herself through books. “I would pore over books literally [asking myself], ‘How do you do this?’” In 2008, after three years in Atlanta, Kime decided to make the move to Austin. “I just fell in love with Austin the way everyone else does,” she says. “The fact that it’s a creative, cool town was the icing on the cake.” The designer says it was her college best friend — an Austin native — and a well-timed Wall Street Journal article touting the city as a future design hub that finally convinced her to make the move.

If Atlanta was where Kime received a crash course in how to run a business, Austin is where she developed her brand. For the first five years, Kime found herself taking creative jobs wherever she could. She landed small interior design projects and even a gig where she designed both the invitations and the bridesmaid dresses for a Michigan wedding.

While she was working for others, Kime continued to refine her own line, making things that interested her whether it was a line of monogrammed stationary or a birdcage chair. In October 2013, Kime launched her e-commerce site, katiekime.com. Less than two years later, Kime decided to open a brick-and-mortar shop in her adopted hometown. “I’ve envisioned having a store in Austin since I moved here,” she says. In September, Katie Kime will open its first storefront at 500 N. Lamar Blvd. Suite 150, just down the street from the brand new interior design showroom JAMES by Meredith Ellis and the soon-to-open Supply.

September is poised to be a busy month for the lifestyle guru. In addition to opening her first brick-and-mortar, Kime is getting married and her company is making its first-ever public relations push (which includes Katie Kime presenting TRIBEZA’s 12th annual Style Week, September 24 - October 1). Though others might scoff at such an ambitious undertaking, Kime laughs it off. “The timing of the launch and the brick-and-mortar happened to be perfect.” Kime adds with a laugh, “October will probably be boring.”

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Katie Kime

Dress by Alexis, and photographed in front of pieces from Katie Kime’s collection, available at katiekime.com.

Mallary Carroll

When Mallary Carroll decided to launch her own clothing line, she knew she wanted to “comb the belly of the goat.” Working as a buyer and manager for a high-end cashmere shop in Nantucket, Massachusetts, Carroll began working with Johnstons of Elgin, a Scottish cashmere manufacturer known not only for softly combing the belly of goats in order to get hair for their famed cashmere, but also for outfitting their employees with proper benefits. That sort of thoughtful treatment of both people and animals appealed to Carroll when she launched her own line, SBJ Austin, in 2010.

Well, to be fair, she didn’t exactly have a full line when Carroll first approached By George about selling SBJ. After a meeting with the posh boutique, By George agreed to carry Carroll’s entire stock of SBJ which, at the time, consisted of only 11 dresses. Within a day, they had sold out. “It’s still the most popular dress,” Carroll laughs. It was also a turning point for the mother of two. “It was pretty quick,” says Carroll of the move from one dress to a full line that includes shirts, dresses, jewelry and, beginning in 2016, shoes.

Following her success selling at By George, Carroll found a manufacturer in Dallas (for whom the Ellen Dress is named) and began searching for fabrics that were humanely made and could keep their shape with a wash-and-wear lifestyle. For the designer, keeping her clothing thoughtfully-sourced was a critical tenant of the SBJ Austin business model. “It’s just a part of my life, living sustainably. Our house is a five-star green build. And the whole movement of sustainable living and living kind and giving back and being grateful, I think of all those things go hand in hand.”

It is a movement that has resonated with her customer base, too. Rather than bend to the latest trend, Carroll’s staple pieces like the Ellen Dress (the one that sold out in By George in less than a day) and the Oxford Dress (a classic button down look) feel timeless. “I think that’s the beauty of what this is; it’s ageless and you can make this your own,” she says.

As for the future, Carroll will be taking SBJ to New York City and Los Angeles over the next few months in order to get in front of other buyers. And though she’s excited about the prospect of SBJ growing, Carroll says she is grateful to have launched SBJ in Austin. “When you come to this city, you feel [love],” she says. “Local means something here more than anywhere else I’ve ever been.”

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Mallary Carroll

Top by SBJ Austin. Pants by SBJ Austin available at By George. Jewelry by SBJ Austin.

CREDITS

Photography by Alison Narro.

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