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SoulGrown’s CEO, Courtney Hancock, sat down with Birmingham’s brightest fashion entrepreneur, Randall Porter, at the newly opened Frothy Monkey on 2nd Avenue for a little brunch, a lot of laughs, and a meaningful conversation around style, life in Birmingham, and what it means to Randall to be a born and raised Alabamian. Here is their conversation:
Randall Porter is a name many around Birmingham know. A few titles you might know Randall by are fashion icon, social media influencer, culture curator, President of Young Professionals of Birmingham, brand strategist, personal stylist, and so many more. But behind the titles is the true character of a modern Southern gentleman that close friends and family would describe as compassionate, inclusive, discerning, and yes…damn well-dressed.
Randall is joining the SoulGrown family in a new collaborative partnership. As a style expert and contributor, Randall will be sharing with our readers monthly in his very own column, A Man About Town. He is making Alabama proud with a lot of love—and a lot of fashion advice—to give. Through this column, we hope you’ll connect with him, learn from him, and feel inspired by him to be the best (and best dressed) you. Get to know Randall below.
Courtney Hancock: Tell us where it all began. What made you fall in love with fashion?
Randall Porter: Growing up in the South and living with my grandmother, going to church was like a fashion show. It was such a production! That’s where I got my first taste of putting outfits together, matching things, and being aware of style. I always gravitated towards women and their style, which probably came from being around these female role models in their “Sunday best” who were counteracting the masculine world we live in . Since then, I’ve always just had an instinct for how to piece things together.
CH: What has been your professional experience in the industry?
RP: Once I realized I wasn’t going to be Beyonce, I decided to pursue a communications/PR career in the fashion industry. I went to the University of Montevallo and worked at various retail stores. I eventually became the head of costumes for Montevallo’s College Night (the longest standing homecoming tradition in the nation) for 3 years, dressing every character in our shows. That’s really where I got my first real experience in styling. I was piecing things together to get to the job I wanted. After that I took classes through Parsons, wrote for fashion publications, and continued to work in clothing stores and eventually worked on editorial photoshoots for Good Grit Magazine. I knew I wanted to expand my knowledge in the industry, so I then joined Aviate (a fashion hat brand) to create and tell the story of the brand, before going out on my own and launching a full-service styling business.
CH: Let’s talk a little bit about living in Alabama. What do you love about Birmingham specifically?
RP: As a gay Black man, this city welcomes me. I’ve never had a problem here and have seen that the people here are adaptable and want to see positive change. There is a ton of opportunity here. I’ve been able to open doors for myself and succeed sooner than I might have in a different city. Birmingham is full of charm, is experiencing tons of growth, and for a really fun place to live it’s pretty affordable.
CH: What are some positive traits you notice about fashion in Alabama?
RP: We stick to our essentials and want to wear the best of the best.
CH: And be honest, what needs to go?
RP: Houndstooth! *Laughs*
CH: What is the number one clothing staple someone should keep in their closet?
RP: A white button down. Whether you’re a man or a woman, it can be so chic and requires minimal effort.
CH: Where are your favorite places to shop in Birmingham?
RP: Basic (on Morris Avenue), Billy Reid, and The Summit
CH: What would you like to see more of in Alabama/Southern style?
RP: I think I want to see more individualized expression. I want people to own what they love and appreciate what others enjoy too. When someone asks me for style advice, I’m trying to help them express their own personal creativity and polish the things that they love, not just make them a clone of myself.
CH: What does “Soul Grown” mean to you?
RP: I think of “soul” as rich in culture and history and then “grown” to me is a modern South that’s adaptable and willing to try and experience new things.
Learn more about Randall by visiting his website or following him on social media @randallporter.