could nashville be america's next fashion capital?

How the Nashville Fashion Alliance is ramping up the Southern city's industry.

by Emily Manning
Aug 5 2015, 9:35pm

Ah, Nashville -- the fair city that Harmony Korine calls home and where a young Miley Cyrus learned to ride a dirt bike naked. Although its population is an eighth the size of New York's, the city is one of America's fastest growing. And while this economic boon is largely due to a healthy entertainment industry, the newly formed Nashville Fashion Alliance aims to foster the city's fledgling fashion community.

The NFA launched a successful Kickstarter campaign back in April, which was aided by one of its higher profile board members--nineties mega model and Nashville resident since 06, Karen Elson. An active member in the city's thriving music and vintage scenes, Elson dished about her favorite local haunts to Vogue, simultaneously publicizing the NFA's ambitions to provide designers with resources and support.

Fashionista recently profiled how the organization is following the lead of America's most successful fashion trade program, the CFDA, starting with a focus on local manufacturing. Later this month, the NFA is slated to begin one of its key initiatives: a sewing training academy which will teach apparel production to underserved populations. Additionally, the NFA also plans to mentor Nashville's bright young brands by helping designers show at platforms like Nashville Fashion Week and with the simpler stuff, like devising business plans.

Nashville has exciting potential as an emerging fashion city, and not simply because Dolly Parton is always gonna need rhinestones and billowing chiffon ensambs. Recent Pratt Institute fashion grads Macy Smith and Juliana Horner relocated from New York to Nashville due to a saturated design market and rapidly rising production costs. The pair now produce a joint line and run a DIY work and event space, Dream House. Following the viral success of her Parsons undergraduate collection, designer Isabel Simpson-Kirsch also decided to move back to Nashville and produce her VFiles stocked-line from her hometown. i-D cover star Binx Walton even repped her home state with a piece from Simpson-Kirsch's Ten-A-Key collection.

"The NFA has already been an amazing facilitator for designers here in Nashville. Strength is in numbers and the NFA brings us all together in the most beautiful and productive way," Simpson-Kirsch told i-D. "Nashville is growing and changing at an outrageous rate and I think now more than ever it's important for the future of our industry to move forward together. Now, there is a future for a fashion industry here."

Although we haven't packed our bags for sunny SoCal or down South just yet, the NFA is wise to learn from the success of New York's support systems for hungry emerging designers like Made Fashion Week or the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and apply these lessons to investing in Nashville fashion's future. 


Text Emily Manning
Photography Arthur Stachurski, courtesy Isabel Simpson-Kirsch