Creativity – In the Studio With Designer Katherine Mullins McDonald

Jun 25 2014

by The Southern Coterie

In this series on The Southern C, meet some great Southern creative minds – the artists, designers, makers and doers – that are shaping our landscape with their vision and ingenuity. Go behind the scenes to see where they work, what they are working on, the path that led them to this moment and just what made them “take the leap” from idea to doing.

The subjects may vary but most share many of the paradoxical traits of creative individuals – they daydream, observe, ask big questions, people watch, seek new experiences, view life as an opportunity for self-expression, take risks and bounce back all while following their true passions. We hope you will be inspired as we spotlight the creativity that abounds in our region. According to Einstein, “Creativity is contagious” and this is one thing we are happy to spread!

Katherine Mullins McDonald of LulaKate

Describe your brand:

LulaKate began in 2003 above Croghan’s Jewel Box in downtown Charleston, SC. A realization of a childhood dream, LulaKate designs bridesmaid, social and bridal gowns. Though now a national company, selling to over 60 boutiques nationwide, the corporate headquarters is now located next door to my original apartment. Our dresses are proudly made in the USA. The bridesmaid line consists of numerous skirt and bodice combinations with an array of fabric choices. The styles are classic and chic and are designed to flatter a range of figures. The bridal line is influenced by romantic silhouettes constructed with the finest European laces and novelty fabrics.

What is a day like in your studio or gallery?

Organized chaos. Currently I am juggling between my boys’ summer schedules, designing the 2015 collections, paying bills and planning dinner! No day is ever boring at LK!

How has your background influenced your work?

I grew up listening to stories of my mother when she was a flight attendant for Pan Am. I loved (and still do) imagining her in foreign countries in her shift dresses and pillbox hats. I am sure I have made it more glamorous in my mind than it actually was in real life. However, her stories and the list of countries she visited by the time she was 25 is quite impressive. I also grew up vacationing a lot in Charleston and around the water. The history and beauty of this city along with a nautical element has always been a part of my aesthetic.

What was the catalyst to “take the leap” from idea to doing?

Back in a former life I had a really high-stress, yet very boring corporate stint in a cubical kind of job. It was awful and not for me at all. With a huge dose of naivety, I thought it would be better to starve and make skirts than to cold call people to buy software. I was also severely allergic to authority at the time and wanted to be my own boss. So one day I quit and started waiting tables. I worked night and day to make ends meet. I was so lucky I started LK in Charleston. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive environment as a women business owner.

Best and worst part of being a “creative”

Best: My creativity has led me to meet fascinating and wonderful people. I have been able to travel which I love. I appreciate the details in things whether it is a mix of color or pattern, a unique brushstroke or complex lace or embroidery. It has also allowed me an amazing job. I am truly lucky to be able to take a childhood dream and turn it into a reality. I try to remember that every day, especially on the days when things are crazy.

Worst: My mind NEVER, EVER stops. I am always constantly thinking about work or new ideas. Sometimes it is a challenge to decipher which ideas I should turn into a reality. There is no crystal ball in this industry and of course I want the ideas that are executed to make money.

Favorite blogs or websites that inspire you:

Mrs. Lilien

Glitter Guide

Matchbook Magazine


The Honest Toddler


Speed Round – Five Favorites


Currently, I love local gals Sarah Boyts Yoder, Sally King Benedict and Way Way Allen. All three of these utilize color in a way that really speaks to me.


The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald. Probably the only book I have read multiple times. I also love the Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck.


Hot Krispy Kreme Donuts


India, Jackson, Wyoming and any spa in any place


“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Matthew 7:12

(photo credits: KT Merry and Corbin Gurkin)

To read about more Southern creatives “In the Studio” click these links:

Erin Gregory

Harrison Blackford

Meredith Anne Sutton

Elizabeth Stafford White and Jacquelyn Stafford Buckner

Amy Kinslow

Whitney Wise Long, co-founder of The Southern C and contributing editor for Southern Living, loves to connect with Southern entrepreneurs and learn more about their creative endeavors. This series – “In the Studio With” – offers her the perfect opportunity to do so!


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