During her audition for the hit reality show Project Runway, when host Tim Gunn asked Greenville designer Carolina Soma if she liked drama—her answer was a resounding “no.” She didn’t make the cut, surely due to her answer, because her talent isn’t in question. One peek into Soma’s newly opened eponymous boutique in the Village of West Greenville clearly shows it.

That peek is all it took for musician Drea Tremols, visiting from Vermont, to walk into the store one day in early May. She walked out with a pastel sage-hued jumper and gold cage-style statement necklace. The look balanced the feminine and frill with a bit of edge and art—what seems to be Soma’s hallmark. So is affordability. “I thought when I walked in everything was going to be $300,” says Tremols. It isn’t, and Soma doesn’t think it should be otherwise. “I want to offer my customers something custom-made and affordable. Why not?” she says. 

Photo by Eli Warren

Soma, who admires the aesthetics of iconic designers like Alexander McQueen, Valentino, and Johanna Ortiz grew up in Cordova, Argentina, going on shoe-shopping expeditions with her beloved grandmother, Maria. Her aunt taught her to make “the tiny dresses for her Barbies” when she was a little girl, and by nine-years-old, Soma had her first sewing machine. Following her passion, she spent four years at a fashion design school in Argentina, and then opened her first boutique, which she ran for four years, until love called. She hopscotched to various cities depending on where her husband Carlos’s job landed them. Carolina, Carlos, and their daughters, Valentina and Bianca, have been in Greenville since 2008.

And, now, the city is about to get a whole lot more stylish with her new boutique. Not only does she sell her own designed pieces—hand-crocheted opera coats for fall, playfully patterned perfect-for-summer dresses—but Soma also offers ready-to-wear items by a few select designers out of California and New York. What sets her apart, aside from her welcoming—and yes, drama-free presence—are her custom creations, including her gown and bridal lines that feature such distinct details as beading, lace, and pleats—all sewn intricately by hand in fabrics such as toile sateen, shantung, organza, brocade, and chiffon. “It’s so rewarding to me that my customers trust me to dress them for special occasions,” says Soma, “and be part of that moment and see their faces when they try on the dresses.”

And never mind that thought of twinning with your bestie by mistake in some cookie-cutter ensemble at your next party, as Soma doesn’t like to repeat many of any one design. Such big things have come from those tiny dresses from years ago.

Carolina Soma Boutique, 1239 Pendleton St, Greenville. (864) 421-8206, @soma.carolina