Mother-daughter duo Alison Bruhn and Delia Folk were both fashion industry veterans by April 2018, Alison working as a stylist and Delia working at high-end names any fashion aficionado has heard of, like Versace and Barneys. They found themselves getting asked the same questions over and over again: Alison, a wardrobe and image consultant, about how to age gracefully through style, and Delia about how to break into the fashion business, just as she had. They created a blog which has now morphed into a full-on brand – in addition to the blog there’s a podcast, a YouTube channel, and a community that is the cross-section of style and culture, where anyone with a passion for style and fashion is welcome.
“We are for those who want to live a stylish and fearless life,” Delia says. “We took our backgrounds and joined them together” – and The Style That Binds Us was born, a play on both their familial ties and the melding of two careers into a superpower brand and community.
The Style That Binds Us offers everything from styling services to brand consulting to content across multiple platforms; the duo also hosts events like VIP shopping experiences and gives tips on its website about topics like “How to build a core wardrobe” and “How to get started in the fashion industry.”
“Coming from Alabama, I didn’t know anyone,” Delia says of relocating from Birmingham – where Alison still lives – to New York City. “Working at Barneys and Versace didn’t happen just like that. I wanted to create resources I didn’t have.”
Alison, for her part, had a career as a schoolteacher and retired to become a full-time mom. After she became an empty nester, she felt she still wanted to teach – and now, she says, she does get to teach, except instead of reading and writing, she teaches adults how to live out their best style.
“I didn’t think at 50 that [styling] was what I wanted to do, but, in a roundabout way, I’m teaching again,” she says.
And, while Birmingham might not be able to compete with New York City, London, Milan, or Paris for the title of fashion capital of the world, it produced at least two women who are taking the fashion industry by storm – and bringing fellow Birminghamians along with them.
“I love the spirit of Birmingham these days,” Alison says. “It is changing and evolving in so many ways. People are moving here, and people that moved away are moving back. A lot of young people that left after college are coming back and bringing friends they met in college. It’s a destination now for many reasons, and it’s exciting to bring fashion to Birmingham through our connections with emerging and established brands. There are many brands people in Birmingham are now familiar with – we’ve introduced new brands and designers to the community, which is kind of magical.”
In addition to bringing fashion to Birmingham, the pair are bringing Birmingham to fashion hubs like New York City, where their VIP shopping experiences take guests to after hours cocktail parties with fashion designers, one-on-one makeup lessons with makeup artists, and behind the scenes experiences at art museums – a true behind-the-curtain look at the Big Apple.
“We bring out a part of New York most people aren’t involved in,” Alison says. “Even for people who travel to New York all the time, we offer a completely new vertical to their experience with New York City.”
Oftentimes, Delia is privy to brands who, because of their talent, will certainly become mainstream, but haven’t just yet. In addition to helping those who want to break into fashion do so, Delia also enjoys telling the backstories of these brands – about their founders and the designs they create.
“I get to know founders of these incredible companies before they become mainstream,” she says. “Oftentimes we know the brand, but not the person behind the brand. I hope to introduce our audience to these brands.”
Alison says she loves to see people get excited about getting dressed, and, thanks to increased vaccinations and more time outside of the home as of late, people seem to be pushing sweatpants and oversized T-shirts to the back of the closet again in favor of trendier looks. As for color trends, think French blue, marigold, and bubblegum pink, Alison says. And she points to Daniel Lee, creative director at Bottega Veneta, as the one to watch right now for trend inspiration, calling him “the it guy in fashion.” As to what’s hot, think barely-there sandals and flat slides for footwear, and less-structured suiting, floral sundresses, and cutouts in garments.
“There are ways to do cutouts at any age,” Alison says. “It’s a way to show a little bit of skin for summer.”
In their own way, Alison and Delia have become Birmingham ambassadors thanks to the work of The Style That Binds Us. They love to talk about sitting outside on a beautiful day at Bottega, shopping at Pepper Place, grabbing a bite at Chez Lulu or Continental Bakery or Big Spoon Creamery – all some of Alison and Delia’s Magic City favorites.
“It has been really fun to be in New York or anywhere else in the country and bust the myth about Birmingham,” Alison says. “Everyone ends up saying ‘I can’t wait to come visit – I had an antiquated vision of what Birmingham might be like.’ It’s great to spread the news about what Birmingham has to offer.”
Cover photo: Tracy Dungo