A new generation of designers is chasing (and finding) their dreams and making their mark on Nashville and the city’s fashion community. Widely known for its country music, Nashville continues to showcase — and surprise folks with — the array of talent and achievements across many creative fields. Many moons ago, Nashville’s beloved Manuel defined Music City fashion with his artistic designs that continue to be worn by stars across the South and around the country. Attending events for Nashville Fashion Week, you’ll find it hard to believe that Nashville fashion was once characterized solely by these designs of rhinestones and cowboy boots and hats. A group of creatives is challenging this memory by offering a fresh infusion of talent and style. Nashville Fashion Week originated in 2011 with the intent to foster this growing community of talent. Their dedication to and passion for sustaining the local fashion community continues to flourish with the ever-expanding pool of talent that calls Nashville home.
During Nashville Fashion Week, designers present their new collections and make you fall even deeper in love with the thriving local fashion scene. “Anna Wintour said, ‘You either know fashion or you don’t,'” shares local celebrity stylist Milton White of The Fashion Office. “Thanks to an assortment of talented fashion and design creatives, Nashville knows fashion!”
Today, with Milton’s help, we introduce you to past, present and hopefully future fashion week participants who will make you proud to call Music City home.
Cavanagh Baker of Stowe
Cavanagh first shook the fashion world as a senior at Savannah College of Art & Design, where she showcased her all-black collection based on Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven.” As her pieces continued to makes waves, she headed to Boston to work in Reebok’s athletic design department. She eventually made her way to Nashville, home to her first design studio (found in Cummins Station), which opened in early 2016. From that studio she produces a luxury collection of limited edition, made-to-order garments.
Brooke Seraphine of Seraphine Design
Raw Peruvian pyrite stones are the distinguishing element in Brooke Seraphine’s line of cuffs, bracelets, pendants, earrings, lariats and rings. Brooke’s love of gems and minerals developed at an early age and continues to be inspired by natural beauty and other creatives. It took no less than five careers to help Brooke realize her undeniable desire to create.
Nashville Fashion Week Participation: Accessories as Art Designer, 2015
Poni Silver of Black by Maria Silver
Poni (Maria) Silver, who hails from Queens, NY (as first-generation Dominican), landed in Nashville by way of the Fashion Institute of Technology (where she studied), Carelli Costumes (where she trained) and the tour bus of The Ettes, the band for which she was the drummer. Music City is where she launched Black by Maria Silver, a contemporary women’s sportswear line, in 2011. Since then, she has been designing collections that can be described as modern, urban and glamorous.
Nashville Fashion Week Participation: Designer, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Judith Bright of Judith Bright
Judith Bright’s longtime passion for jewelry can be seen in each of her designs, which are fashioned from metals and semiprecious stones, creating timeless pieces that can be worn every day. 12South has become home to Judith’s jewelry design studio and retail shop, and visiting the space is a treat. It’s not only locals who love her pieces; celebrities have been seen donning them, as well.
Nashville Fashion Week Participation: Boutique Events, 2011
Annie Williams of Annie Williams
Like many before her (and presumably after), Annie Williams made the trek from Wyoming to Nashville to explore her career in music. Craving another way to express her creativity, Annie began fashioning handbags and leather goods. She launched her company in 2012 and it has continued to grow at a steady pace that allows her to evolve while maintaining quality. The bags are crafted in Nashville and loved by all.
Ceri Hoover of Ceri Hoover
Ceri Hoover has become a household name for her beautifully designed handbags. “Ceri Hoover came to fashion by way of interior design,” explains Milton. “While working on a custom cowhide pillow she made a discovery — when folded over it made a fantastic clutch.” This led her to launch her namesake company in 2013, and thanks to the expansion of her line, we can now have shoes that are as good looking as her bags.
Nashville Fashion Week Participation: Fashion Forward Fund Recipient, 2014
Leslie Stephens of Ola Mai
Leslie Stephens’ designs are inspired by her grandmother’s ability to freely express herself with great joie de vivre. The brand, which is in fact named for her grandmother, exudes elegance — paired with a unique, playful aesthetic. “Leslie Stephens is a Nashville native who believes in supporting a positive body image,” Milton shares. “Her clothing reflects that support.”
Nashville Fashion Week Participation: Designer, 2015
Mclaine Richardson of Margaret Ellis Jewelry
A former apprentice to Margaret Ellis, Mclaine Richardson took over the business and continues to advance it, producing ready-to-wear pieces and custom-designed items. Each piece that McLaine creates is a work of art — wearable art. Sterling silver, bronze, 22-karat gold, pearls, and precious and semiprecious stones comprise classic statement pieces made in her Nashville studio.
Nashville Fashion Week Participation: Boutique Events, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015; Jewelry for Participating Designers, 2011, 2012 (Sylvia Heisel, 2011 & Sylvia Heisel and Magid Bernard, 2012); Accessories as Art Designer, 2015; NFW Steering Committee Member, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016; NFW Creative Director, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016; NFW Registration, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
Amanda Valentine of Amanda Valentine
“Amanda Valentine’s start in fashion sounds as if it were inspired by Gone With The Wind,” says Milton. “As a young girl, she adapted the family’s old drapes into edgy children’s wear.” Today, she has made a name for herself through her appearances on “Project Runway,” where she debuted her collection at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. Thankfully, she returned to Nashville and has continued to develop her label, Valentine Valentine (recently renamed Amanda Valentine). Her work is characterized by her unconventional designs and rock ‘n’ roll aesthetics, which are translated into women’s wear (and a few tees for men).
Nashville Fashion Week Participation: Designer, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016; Panelist, 2013, 2015
Each year, the fashion community gathers for Nashville Fashion Week’s citywide celebration of the area’s creative talent to benefit The Nashville Fashion Forward Fund of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. Local, regional and national designers showcase their work during a wide variety of events, including a designer showcase, parties, runway shows, panels and the Fashion Forward Gala. Experience three nights of catwalks, each with a different emphasis on talented designers. For a full schedule and listing of participants, visit nashvillefashionweek.com.
Thank you to the folks below for making this shoot possible:
Fashion editor: Milton White, The Fashion Office
Photographer: Ryan Hamlin
Photo editor: Grannis Photography
Hair and makeup: Jessica Arnholt, Studio BBC Salon
Model: Briann Bowhall, EYE Model Management
Photographed on location at Nashville Public Library and Studio NPL
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