You’d be forgiven if you thought “Nashville” and “fashion” automatically included a certain amount of bling. While few of us can resist a little bit of shine, the new aesthetic of the city’s leading fashion houses is more nuanced and subtler than you may realize.
“The Nashville design scene is not flashy,” explains local designer Ceri Hoover. “Everyone is focused on quality, detail and story. We want people to have a personal connection to what they buy, and not just to have something in their closets.”
Take a look into the minds and collections of five of Music City’s most creative women, working in jewelry, handbags (and shoes), clothing and textiles.
Judith Bright had long wanted to make jewelry, even when she had other careers, including nursing and in the film and TV industry.
With her family, she lived for a year in Italy, learning the time-intensive art of silversmithing. Back in Nashville, it was time to try to turn her dream into her occupation, but she needed items that were easier and less expensive to make. From her basement, she started crafting pieces from non-precious metals, such as 14-karat gold fill.
The wire-wrapped pieces were so popular (particularly when the economy slowed in 2008 and people wanted affordable luxuries) that Bright expanded several times, eventually to her own studio in 12South where customers can watch the team of artisans at work and pick out the stones they want in their pieces.
Expansion led to a production studio in Berry Hill, although customers can still select, shop and watch in 12South. Bright trains the 16 women who make the jewelry, no experience required. “Anyone who is open and kind can work for us,” Bright says.
Jamie + The Jones
Friends who met in design school (in suburban Franklin, Tennessee), Jamie Frazier and Hannah Jones are known for their clothing made from natural fibers, like raw silks, in easy flowing silhouettes.
“Nashville used to be cowboys and fitted clothing,” Frazier remembers. “In school, a lot of what we were learning was costume-y.”
The two women, both of whom grew up in Nashville, became noticed for doing the opposite after launching in 2009. Frazier and Jones have a bigger worldview when it comes to fashion trends.
“Like food—where people now want to know where their food comes from, and who makes it—we think increasingly people want to know where clothing comes from, who makes it, and what the inspiration is for the fabrics,” Frazier says.
Jamie + the Jones also bucks norms by creating looks that work for all women. “We have very different body types,” Jones says. “I am short and curvy. Jamie is tall and thin, so we make silhouettes that fit everyone. I feel lucky that we are so different.”
“I am not reinventing the handbag,” Hoover says modestly, although many in Nashville think she did just that since founding her premium leather accessories company in 2013.
Influenced by her mother, who Hoover says was a minimalist before minimalism was cool and “never had a flashy logo on her bags,” Hoover and the brand that sports her name is known for simple, clean lines, such as the cutout handle of her Alys collection.
“Leather handbag production ends up with a lot of waste, and it drove me crazy,” Hoover recalls. “My brand is about sustainability so I wanted to find ways to utilize that waste without making keychains. Tassels and keychains are not me.”
But shoes are, so Hoover added those to her line (including apparel and accessories), made with leather scraps from the handbags to her line. Production of the products themselves now takes place in Los Angeles, and shoppers can see, touch (and smell, it’s leather) in the 12South showroom.
“I can’t stand stuffiness. Anybody is welcome to come in and touch and feel and not buy a thing,” Hoover says.
Andra Eggleston is the daughter of famous artist William Eggleston (many call him the father of color photography), and develops her designs in collaboration with him, using his drawings on repeat in some of her collections. When she decided to start a textile business in 2015, she named it the name her dad wanted her to have when she was born: Electra Eggleston (Mom vetoed that).
The Electra Eggleston fabrics are primarily for home décor, but also used in collections by dressmaker Agnès B. and in collaboration with local bow-tie and hat-maker Otis James.
Electra Eggleston prints are only sold through the trade (meaning you have to work with an interior designer to buy them), but you can see them around town, including on furniture at Rare Bird, the rooftop bar at Noelle Hotel, and on pillows for sale at Germantown’s Wilder shop.
Eggleston hopes that licensing more prints to fashion designers is in her future, but it will always be a smaller part of her business. “I always wanted to stay focus on fabric by the yard so I can stay focused on the art. I am a textile designer, not a fashion designer, “she says. “The part of the process I enjoy the most is seeing how people would use the prints.”
These creative powerhouses are charting new courses in the local fashion scene for more up-and-comers to follow in their footsteps, no boots necessary.