Nashville Fashion Week: A Real Education for Emerging Designers

By Nina Thomas

Nashville Fashion Week– a riot of nonstop events teeming with glamour and good times–may be over, but its effect on emerging designers lives on.

Every night brought the fantasy of fashion to the runway. During the day, events were scheduled to educate and support independent designers. The business side of fashion was discussed in panels and lectures, bringing to light the harsh realities of a seemingly glamorous, yet extremely tough industry.

Panel discussions on Web 2.0/social media and American/Ethical luxury featured Project Artisan’s own marketing director Rachel Lang and PA founder Robin Keyser.

Rachel offered practical advice about using the Internet and social media as part of an overall marketing campaign.

Robin talked about American luxury and how the term “ethical” has been added to the mix: sophisticated shoppers are concerned about how the merchandise is made; the use of local, eco-friendly materials, and the fair treatment of those who bring the products to life. There is a new-found appreciation for progressive design made with old-world craftsmanship. Logo-laden goods are losing appeal as people find that true luxury is getting to know the designers’ back-story and acquiring unique, finely-crafted pieces from them. Soulful shopping has re-defined the true meaning of luxury!

Kelly Cutrone, PR maven, author and reality TV star, was greeted by a packed house at the Belcourt Theatre, filled with emerging designers, fans, and other fashion industry folk.

Her presentation was candid, brutally honest, and sprinkled with many F-words– a few being “fashion”. Her delivery was a mix of stand-up comedy and practical advice for emerging designers. She highlighted the many steps and obstacles faced to get a line produced and sold including creating the design; researching fabrics and embellishments; solving manufacturing issues; and ultimately, dealing with marketing and sales. Yet she emphasized how important it is to follow your passion–at all costs.

And costs there are. She spoke in concrete terms about the financial and emotional toll of breaking into the fashion industry—a reality check which was both discouraging and inspiring.

Encouragement came by way of Robin Keyser, founder of Project Artisan. If you are reading this blog, you have an idea of how PA helps emerging designers bypass many of those obstacles. PA is a web portal for a tribe of designers who want to market their lines directly to the consumer and use the PA brand to connect with others in the industry who are socially conscious and progressive in their design.

It is fitting that Robin, who has a company that offers support and connectedness to like-minded fashion talent, sponsored and hosted Kelly’s visit Nashville.

The week brought connections in so many ways. PA designers Elizabeth Brunner of Piece x Piece, Pamela Tuohy, and Steven Oo were able to collaborate and feel part of a collective of like-minded souls. I personally felt a strong connection with the designers represented, my dear Nashville community, and to the enlightened future of the fashion industry….what true inspiration!

Kelly Cutrone speaks her mind at The Belcourt

Project Artisan marketing director Rachel Lang speaks about the power of social media.

Project Artisan's Rachel and Robin shared their industry expertise with emerging designers.


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