Fashion, history collide at Southern Accents in Cullman

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Models hit the runway at Southern Accents Architectural Antiques in Cullman Saturday night for the Build-A-Bride by Heidi Elnora Runway Show. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Downtown Cullman played host to gorgeous models for Saturday night's Build-A-Bride by Heidi Elnora Runway Show. The show was presented by Southern Makers in collaboration with Southern Accents Architectural Antiques, where the event took place. Hosted by Southern Accents (SA) owners Garlan and Heather Gudger, it was also a celebration of SA’s 50 years in business, drawing a huge crowd, including a few celebrities.

Alabama native Heidi Elnora is a wedding dress designer and star of the TLC Show “Bride by Design.” She is also a “Project Runway” alumna. She describes Build-A-Bride as “the first Direct to Consumer, In-Home Bridal Boutique Experience (IHBBE). The process starts with a blank canvas silhouette and allows the bride to build onto the dress with add-ons to create a custom gown at a more affordable price point.”

Build-A-Bride’s connection to Cullman is through Cullman native Felicia Lane, photographer and Build-A-Bride’s north Alabama bridal curator. Cullman was selected as the kickoff for what will be 20-city tour of the Southeast and a great opportunity to introduce both Lane and the Build-A-Bride product line. The runway show featured local models, and showcased the Build-A-Bride line’s versatility. 

Former University of Alabama quarterback Jay Barker and his wife, country music star Sara Evans, came out not only to support Elnora, but also to watch daughters Audrey and Olivia, who took part in the runway show.

Evans said to the crowd, “I’m here to give Heidi my support. Build-A-Bride is so amazing. I cannot tell you how excited I am about it. I’m so excited I asked my husband, Jay Barker, to marry me again so I can wear one of these gowns.”

The crowd cheered and whistled as each model walked the runway, accompanied by Southern classics “Song of the South” and “Sweet Home Alabama.”

Mayor Woody Jacobs said afterward, “It’s not every day you get to see a professional runway show, especially in Cullman. I really enjoyed it, and what a great turnout!”

Evans sat down with The Tribune after the fashion show and spoke about Build-A-Bride and her family.

She explained, “I met Heidi about six years ago. She made me a gown for the ACM (Academy of Country Music) Awards. We just instantly became fast friends. She made this beautiful gown for me and some time went by and I recently got in contact with her for another reason. She was like ‘I need to tell you about my new line, Build-A-Bride.’ She also wanted to know if my daughters would be interested in modeling in some fashion shows for it. I am absolutely stunned and overwhelmed with Build-A-Bride and what an amazing idea it is. She invited us to be here tonight.”

When asked about Olivia and Audrey modeling, Evans said, “Tonight was their first night. They did great and they LOVED it. They’ve grown up on the road with me. They’ve grown up on the tour bus, and they’ve watched me on stage their whole lives so they are very comfortable on stage and in front of people.” 

Evans is currently on tour after the release of her album “Words” in 2017. Fans can expect a new album from her in April. Evans’ son Avery plays guitar in her band right now. Olivia and Audrey are also talented singers.

As for husband Jay Barker, Evans said, “Jay has a lot of musical talent, believe it or not. He has perfect rhythm, he can sing, and he’s an amazing dancer.” 

Guests were treated to cocktails and beer from Cathead Vodka and Goat Island Brewing throughout the evening. Once the show was over, the crowd transitioned into dance mode as DJ Russ Pollard from Nashville played dance favorites. As the evening wound down, the Gudger family and employees of SA gathered everyone for a champagne toast. 

Employee Jason Mauldin shared, “It takes really good folks to be able to sustain a business for 50 years. It really is a family atmosphere here and we genuinely do love it, guys. When Garlan and Heather ask us to do events like this, I’m always the one that’s like, ‘Ugh, really?’ But I love it! It makes us feel part of the community. We love meeting artists like Heidi, business owners like Felicia, and it raises the level of culture in a place like Cullman. Thank you all for coming out.” 

Garlan and Heather Gudger led a 10-second countdown before popping the champagne while surrounded by friends and family. Guests were treated to Frios popsicles and champagne before returning to the dance floor. 

All proceeds from Saturday night’s event will benefit Head Start. 

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