Thursday, March 30, 2023
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Nashville leather goes Hollywood

At the new Los Angeles outpost of Nashville-born leather atelier Savas, all one has to do is ring the leather-tasseled doorbell and step through the glass and brass door to enter the alluring fantasy of Savannah Yarborough. The company’s founder and creative director, Yarborough, made a name for herself crafting robust, yet precisely executed, personality-driven leather jackets. With tobacco-colored calfskin coats dangling from disco balls and paper drape patterns showing the evolution of their designs in the window, the recently opened store offers an undisturbed oasis amidst the heat and noise of Melrose Avenue. “I want you to feel like you’re stepping into a new realm,” says Yarborough.

Like its gleaming front windows reflecting the palm trees outside, Savas is reminiscent of West Hollywood. Velvet, brass and marble accentuate the whitewashed walls, which change from blue to green to gray depending on the incidence of light. You might spot a celebrity on the calf hair sofa, custom-made by local designer Cooper Reynolds Gross. But Yarborough’s equally mischievous and chic ethos also references her own roots: Birmingham, where she grew up; Nashville, where she founded Savas in 2015 after breaking her teeth as head menswear designer for Billy Reid; and London, where she first learned the tricks of the trade while studying at Central Saint Martins.

There, just a stone’s throw from Savile Row, Yarborough fell in love with menswear form and function and began to play with its boundaries. “I learned all about the intricacies of tailoring and realized that there is no one in the world who makes Savile Row-style clothing out of leather and suede,” she says. “So I started designing weekend looks for the guys who wear these suits during the week. Sort of a rock and roll country club.”


A trio of Yarborough designs in (from top) calfskin, lambskin and suede calfskin.

Yarborough took this aesthetic to heart and opened her custom shop in Nashville. After frequent trips to the West Coast to meet with clients, she turned her sights to LA last year. “We have clients from all over the world, but LA felt magnetic,” she says. “It’s leather jacket weather here every evening. It’s also a city where men love to look good.”

On Melrose, the right half of the new shop offers a handful of ready-to-wear pieces. Jackets of various styles hang from two-metre-tall brass stands in the shape of a hook that Yarborough subtly sews onto the pockets and linings of her designs. (“This brand also kind of looks like the ‘Batman Building’ in Nashville,” she admits. “Not my intention, but I love the coincidence.”) Yarborough only produces three to seven items of a jacket. “Part of my belief system is that I never want to make things that won’t have a life outside of here, so I’m really careful not to overwork things.” Nearby is an exhibition of boots, belts, bags, guitar straps and Yarborough’s extensions stand out among a handful of women’s looks. (She also intends to duplicate the entire LA location in Nashville later this year.)

However, Yarborough’s bread and butter remains their bespoke jackets, designed and patterned in the store’s back room but designed in the bespoke lounge, where a giant tailor’s mirror dominates one side of the room. In the corner, a Yarborough-designed and Gross-manufactured brass and onyx sculpture mimics Cracker Barrel’s beloved board game, trading kitsch for grandeur. Yarborough drapes calf, lamb, alligator and kangaroo skins on its gigantic “golf tees” so customers can see how the materials hang.

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A photo of Wilco’s Pat Sansone and a Gibson guitar add to the boutique’s rock-and-roll vibe.

With locations in two high-profile postcodes, Yarborough has become a star draper. When John Prine accepted his Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in early 2020 – just months before his death – he was wearing a Savas creation: a black calf leather sports jacket with suede collar and lapels, a western yoke and an embroidered Popeye on the purple coating. The likes of Jack White, Norman Reedus and 1883‘s LaMonica Garrett has also showcased Yarborough’s work. Jason Isbell is also a fan and collects a Savas guitar strap, a pair of gas-colored boots and a green kangaroo jacket, which he first donned at Carnegie Hall for a benefit where he improvised his entire set. “I purposely challenged myself that night, and the jacket made me feel good both mentally and physically,” says Isbell. “Only the best clothes can do that.”

But Yarborough’s designs can shine even brighter in the office or the corner bar. She estimates that only 10 percent of her clients are celebrities. “I’ve made jackets for a lot of studio musicians and financiers and lawyers and car enthusiasts and chefs and watch collectors – and I don’t even know what they do,” she says, laughing. “I always say the grocery store is the best catwalk.”

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