We have passionately joined the farm-to-table movement in Nashville. We take pride in dining in restaurants that promote locally grown and farm fresh foods. The trend of local production and local consumption allows us to be educated about what we are eating and where it comes from. One of the reasons Nashville thrives is because our community holds our eateries to high standards. So, why don’t we hold our clothing and the fashion community to the same standards? Are we failing to raise the questions of where our clothing comes from and the story that they tell? Three women in the Nashville community have opened my eyes to this movement. They provide inspiration for us to take a stand and purchase clothing that tells a story. Martha Montiel-Lewis, founder of aDARable, Amanda Valentine of Valentine Valentine and Elizabeth Pape of Elizabeth Suzann are catapulting the movement of “clothing with a story.”
aDARable by Martha Montiel-Lewis
aDARAble was founded by Martha Montiel-Lewis with the intention of giving women in need a hand up instead of a hand out. Her children’s clothing line benefits Haitian women by allowing them to be responsible for the complete production of the garments. She saw the creativity, the skill and the need in a Northern Haitian community and this propelled her to create a children’s clothing line that inspires. The Spring/Summer 2014 line is a collaboration of Maarika Mann, a former O’More College of Design student and Martha. Together they have created clothing that is purely Nashville. Their inspiration does not derive from traditionally Southern children’s apparel but embodies the diversity of Nashville. It tells the story of a young girl who is a little bit of an urbanista and little bit of a country cowgirl, the “Concrete Pioneer.” Family and generational connections have driven Martha since day one. Her background of extensive travel led her to “whole heartedly believe that the only way we can put a dent in poverty is by empowering people and giving them jobs.” Later in life, her young daughters have shown her the importance of sharing knowledge. Communication through generations is how she intends to share her undying passion for ethical business.
Valentine Valentine by Amanda Valentine
You may recognize Amanda Valentine as a competitor from Project Runway’s 11th season. Since her television debut, she has continued to pursue her love for fashion by creating her Valentine Valentine line, which utilizes local production methods. She grew up in a Mormon community “watching [her] mom sew and shape her own career while being in control of how her life was setup.” Amanda’s passion for local production coupled with her desire to help women govern their lives is what drives her clothing line. Her goal is to help local women maintain control over their finances, their careers and how they spend their time. She is inviting these women to be part of the conversation. Why does she want to stay local? “I cannot stand the idea of using a factory I have never been to. In light of everything that is happening all over the world, we have concrete proof that bad stuff is going down. I do not want to contribute to that in anyway. I could never live with myself.”
Elizabeth Suzann by Elizabeth Pape
Elizabeth Pape is an advocate for handmade sustainability. Her line, Elizabeth Suzann, is handmade in a studio right here in Nashville. It is her hope “that by producing and consuming mindfully, we can focus on craftsmanship, reduce waste, and truly love the clothing we put on our backs.” She is driven by a passion for smarter garments, simpler clothes and better fabrics. Mindful production and consumption is at the top of Elizabeth’s list while creating her garments. This self-taught designer is propelling the movement of “clothing with a story” forward by asking women to thoughtfully consider the production of the clothing they purchase. According to Elizabeth it has been a process; she says, “Over time, my style and aesthetic evolved, and I became so disillusioned with the fashion culture and the way we consume clothing.” The natural simplicity of her designs is an inspiration to remember the basics. Elizabeth’s clean lines and natural tones encourage everyone to feel comfortable in their clothing and in their own skin. She says, “Wear things that will reflect well on the legacy of our generation. I, for one, would like my clothing to speak about my love for handmade, well-crafted, quality clothing and not the insidious, wasteful, cheaply produced and quickly discarded fast-fashion this decade has been so notorious for.”
I am vindicating everyone, myself included, who does not always shop with a purpose. The point of this article is not to condemn you for shopping at Nordstrom but rather to open your eyes to other possibilities. Nashville is on the forefront of many things and these designers deserve our support. They are pushing the fashion community to consider the ethics behind production, design and consumption and I, for one, am ready to be pushed. These three designers prove that locally sourced and ethically made clothing is not more expensive than many brands we are already buying without the quality, and certainly without the story, these local brands have. Supporting a local designer may put a little strain on our wallet and a meal at Husk and Lockeland Table is not cheap either, but we feel good knowing that we are sustaining locally sourced production. Yes, this exact same attitude can drive our apparel choices.
Take a step to support Nashville’s fashion community and find more about our local designers. Join in on the festivities of Nashville Fashion Week (NFW). It promises to be fun and to fill you with pride about what is seriously happening here in our city. Each night April 1-5, 2014 will showcase a way to embrace Nashville and the fashion designers gracing our community.
While each night of NFW is going to be amazing, I wanted to specifically point out NFWs ‘Fashion Forward Gala’ on Thursday, April 3rd at OZ, featuring Fern Mallis, the creator of New York Fashion Week, as the guest speaker. Very exciting! This is the perfect time to support the local designers who are changing the way we look at fashion as a whole. This event will celebrate the spirit of the Nashville Fashion Forward Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. This fund was established in 2011 to “recognize the individual achievements of a fashion industry professional and provide them with financial resources intended to allow them to further advance their career in the fashion industry through experiential growth opportunities.” Previously winners include Elise Joseph of Pennyweight, Lauren Leonard of Leona and Julianna Bass.
Guests are invited to dress in fashion-forward attire and celebrate the week’s theme: ‘fashion as art.’ The Gala will include cocktail hour in the Zen Garden, pop-up performances presented by the Metro Arts Commission, a special Nashville Fashion Forward Fund presentation, and a seated dinner. Tickets to the gala can be purchased for $150, tables of eight for $1,000, or access is included with purchase of an All Access Pass, for $350, at NowPlayingNashville.com.
For all other NFW events, including Runway Shows at The Rosewall (April 1), Ruby (April 2) and Marathon Music Works (April 5) and the Celebration of Fashion and Art at 5th Avenue of the Arts (April 4) click here.
I hope you’re as excited as all of us at StyleBlueprint are!