savannah yarborough atelier savas
Savannah Yarborough shows off her first collection of ready-to-wear leather jackets in New York
Rose Callahan
By Lauren Joseph / October 9, 2019 9:20 am

Savannah Yarborough is urging me to try on one of her leather jackets. The Nashville-based designer behind Atelier Savas doesn’t have to ask twice: I slip on a black jacket in a supple suede that’s surprisingly lightweight and velvety to the touch. A row of small, brushed bronze snaps down the front and at the breast pockets are the only adornments, save for two subtle gold dots at the back collar.

“My version of a logo,” Yarborough explains. It’s cut close to the body without being too snug, and has an easy-wearing feel to it. The Denham was Yarborough’s first style — she pulls the original jacket out of her suitcase, worn so soft you could sleep in it. 

Up until now, this jacket was only available through a made-to-measure order at Yarborough’s Nashville studio. But as of this week, it’s available online for $2,700. Yarborough’s debut collection of ready-to-wear consists of a shirt cut from honey calf suede and nine jackets, from a classic navy bomber to a distressed lambskin hoodie in a cool greyed sage. Prices, which range from $1,900 to $3,500, are a far cry from that of a completely bespoke jacket, for which the starting cost is $5,000. Each piece in the collection is lined in a different shade of silk, which is topped with chain-stitch embroidery — varying motifs inspired by art deco stained-glass windows, a favorite of design buff Yarborough.

savannnah yarborough suede jacket
Commissioning a bespoke jacket — like this suede piece — starts at $5,000 (Rose Callahan)

Despite her expansion into to e-commerce, every piece is still made one at a time from a rotating collection of uniquely varied hides she keeps in her Nashville atelier. It’s still slow, slow fashion in a fast industry, and it’s very much worth the wait. 

Yarborough, who grew up in Alabama and trained at London’s Central Saint Martins, came back to the South after school to begin working full time for Billy Reid. Something of a design wunderkind, she was picked up as an undergrad by Reid and very quickly became the brand’s senior menswear designer. Surprisingly, it was actually a women’s piece that piqued her curiosity about leather.

“I designed a leather jacket for the women’s collection — but when it came in, it was really dull and flat,” she tells me. “I put it in the washing machine and wore it while it dried, so it really molded to my body.” The jacket became a best-seller and a staple for the brand, and Yarborough became the designer in charge of building out the leather collection. “I was spending a lot of time in factories, asking how each leather came to be, and I realized there was no end — you could keep asking questions and keep learning about leather forever,” she explains. 

“Having ready to wear is a natural progression — so many people come to the studio for bespoke and fall for one of our showroom pieces instead,” says Yarborough (Rose Callahan)

Not long after, Yarborough decided it was time to venture out on her own, and in 2015 she began creating custom jackets out of a Nashville studio under the name Atelier Savas. While bespoke often conjures up images of suits or wedding dresses, Yarborough’s pieces had not a hint of stiffness about them, and the surrounding music community took note. Soon, everyone from Jack White to Reba McEntire was coming by.

For White, a baseball fanatic, it was a 1930s Detroit Tigers jacket that had brought him in. He couldn’t buy the original, so Yarborough created a replica with a cashmere body and leather sleeves, “down to every one of the patches,” she tells me.

“With people like him, it’s really interesting for me, because it’s a really creative collaboration, which changes depending on what he’s working on,” she continues. Unsurprisingly, plenty of Reddits have been dedicated to trying to find the various leather jackets White has been seen on stage in since; hopefully they hear about the e-commerce launch as well. 

atelier savas gainsbourg jacket
The Gainsbourg can be custom made with kangaroo leather, like Yarborough’s sample (Rose Callahan)

Yarborough, clearly, is not someone to let a single detail pass by, which is perhaps why she’s so perfectly suited for the bespoke industry. She’s just shown me a little black and gold placard — a gift card, she tells me. “We do custom engraved messages for each one … the trophy shop down the street from me makes them, and they definitely think I’m insane for doing this,” she admits.

I’m admiring the pebble-sized variations marked into a kangaroo skin jacket called the Gainsbourg. The dappled grey leather has been sanded by hand under Yarborough’s watchful eye, with scattered oval fingerprints appearing where the sander pressed a little hard. 

The result is striking, and completely unrepeatable. “A lot of people would view this is as defect, but I think it just adds to what it is; tells a whole story,” says Yarborough. The Gainsbourg, which is vegetable tanned and unfinished, will only show more color variation over time. In an era of never-ending new, a piece that’s meant to show wear is a refreshing change.