The UGA alum combines fashion and affordability with the business of embroidery | Art and culture

In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down almost every aspect of Laura Floyd’s life. Now a graduate of the University of Georgia, her income from working part-time in music halls during school in Athens was cut off. Revisiting her passion for embroidery that she discovered in high school, Floyd used her free time to make embroidered garments for friends, thus reviving her Dirty South Stitches brand.

In the past year, with the help of the Atlanta Braves’ World Series victory, UGA’s national championship victory, along with achieving stalls in various markets in Athens and Atlanta, Floyd’s small business has skyrocketed and continues to grow in popularity in hearts of the Athenian community.

In 2017, Floyd had her sights set on college. After deciding to attend UGA, Floyd began saving the money she made as a babysitter for an embroidery machine.

Laura Floyd’s business grew rapidly over the course of several years, appearing at pop-up markets and partnering with local businesses in Athens. (Photo/Emily Rose Hamby)

“I was like, ‘OK, I need some buzz, I need a job at UGA, and I’m going to UGA where Greek life is the most prevalent thing.’ What do girls like? Monograms, Floyd said, and she began sewing Greek letters onto sweatshirts.

This plan helped Floyd discover his passion for embroidery. She also focused on making money and perfecting her desire to make her own music merchandise.

After discussing a name for her new embroidery business, Floyd and a friend decided on the name Dirty South Stitches.

“It takes the swagger of Atlanta, the swagger of the South. Because I think when people think of embroidery, they think, cute little granny flowers. I feel like people don’t think it’s cool,” Floyd said. “No, it’s not your grandmother’s embroidery.”

Although Floyd bought his first embroidery machine in 2017, the early days of Dirty South Stitches are nothing compared to the current business operations. In the beginning, Floyd occasionally sold her clothing on Depop and made sweatshirts for her friends, but she didn’t rely on that for income until the early 2020s.

After creating a simple UGA-themed sweatshirt, she sent it to a group chat of her sorority, Sigma Alpha Iota, and found that several people were interested in purchasing one.

“One of Laura’s greatest values ​​about Dirty South is that it is accessible to students. She packs it, delivers it by hand. She’s really hands-on,” said Liv Paniagua, a third-year UGA student and Dirty South Stitches intern.

When thinking about his customer base, Floyd credits UGA’s Redcoat Marching Band as a huge help in promotion.

For Yara Manasrah, a second-year sousaphone player in the Redcoat Band, wearing Dirty South Stitches means more than a sweatshirt. “I’m a first-generation college student, I’m a first-generation American. I love being able to represent the brand. I love being able to represent UGA,” Manasra said.

In late October 2021, as the state of Georgia celebrated and anxiously watched the Atlanta Braves’ World Series appearance against the Houston Astros, Floyd fired up his embroidery machine and began creating commemorative sweatshirts.

“With the Atlanta sweatshirt, I didn’t want to do something like, ‘Braves win the 2021 National Championship,’ I wanted something subtle that you could wear to Atlanta, another place, a Braves game, where people go, ‘Oh, that’s great merch!’ Floyd said of the inspiration behind her World Series sweatshirt.

After 41 years, UGA won a national championship title at the start of 2022, and along with the celebration of UGA’s historic victory over one of their most challenging rivals, the hunt for national championship merchandise and memorabilia has begun. Once again, Floyd found himself at his embroidery machine, making a holiday souvenir for his beloved alma mater.

“I had something ready when we won the National Championship,” Floyd said.

Floyd’s inspiration behind Dirty South’s “Natty” neckline was a play on UGA quarterback Stetson Bennett’s nickname, “The Mailman,” and her retro approach to national championship merchandise struck a chord with Dirty South’s customers.

When asked about the impact of UGA’s national championship win on the Dirty South brand, Floyd said, “My biggest sales week was Natty’s week. The night the Natty necks went on sale, they went up at midnight and I woke up to $1,500 in Natty sales.’

Dirty South has partnered with several bars and breweries in Athens to host pop-up shops selling curated merchandise while customers can sip and shop.

In addition to Dirty South’s collaborations with local businesses, Floyd has taken its small business locations outside of Athens. In February 2022, she traveled to Atlanta for the Atlanta Artisan Market, where she sold sweatshirts and other Dirty South apparel to customers outside of her typical Athens buyers.

For the future of Dirty South, Floyd wants to expand his market and clientele by making merchandise for schools other than UGA. “I want to build Dirty South until it’s ready to fly,” Floyd said.

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