At the beginning of March, before any of us realized the impending effects of the coronavirus, we gathered to shoot our yearly luxe edition of What to Wear, inspired by Nashville Fashion Week. Although the event is now rescheduled for August 4-8, 2020, we’re here to bring a dose of style to your living room. And while our current reality may not allow for a lot of trend-setting couture (many of us aren’t making it out of our sweatpants at the moment), there’s a lot to be said for the feel-good inspiration of fashion. So, rather than scrap this month’s edition of What to Wear, we’re honoring the designers who’ve worked so hard to give us an exciting glimpse of what’s to come.
Leslie Taylor Stephens, the Nashville-based designer of Ola Mai, lent her style and stunning pieces to our photoshoot at 14TENN, a beautiful venue in The Nations. She also worked in collaboration with creative director and Nashville Fashion Week co-founder, Connie Cathcart-Richardson. Check out the gorgeous collection from Leslie’s line, along with other high-fashion ensembles from Gus Mayer and fellow Nashville designers Article X, Rank & Sugar and Laura Citron, brilliantly modeled by Brittany Jenkins and Jenner Johnson.
Nashville Fashion Week
We asked Connie about the difficult decision to postpone all of the Nashville Fashion Week events. “Back when we made this decision,” she tells us, “we were absolutely devastated to have to go there. Even though [the spread of the virus] wasn’t to the point that it is right now, we could see the writing on the wall. We got the one-two punch with the tornado — so many of our friends and businesses associated with Fashion Week or affiliated with us were affected by that. And the next thing you know, here comes this. It just felt like it wasn’t the right time to be moving forward.”
Though they canceled much of Fashion Week, they still planned to continue with the Shop Nashville initiative and learning labs, however that has also now been postponed. “We really hoped to do that because our push is always to promote our local designers and businesses and shop small,” says Connie, “but between when we made the decision and now, this thing escalated. It became more and more apparent that we couldn’t even do that. So, we have moved everything to August.”
On a positive note, Connie adds, “We have the biggest and best 10-year celebration ever planned for this year. As of this minute, it appears we can pick that up and move that to August. Everybody is supportive and encouraging and onboard. We have 84 events planned for August 4-8, and let me just say that canceling 84 events was much easier than planning 84 events!”
Designer Leslie Taylor Stephens tells us things look very different in the Ola Mai atelier these days.” Currently, I’m sewing masks for our local hospitals instead of putting finishing touches on my collection,” she says. “I’m certainly sad that Nashville Fashion Week is being postponed as we deal with the pandemic, but I feel like I will come to the runway even stronger this August. We will all be in dire need of some fun nights out and to celebrate 10 years of our beloved fashion week.” If her goldenrod pantsuit is any indication of what’s to come, we can’t wait!
How You Can Still Support Local Businesses & Designers
Despite having to be postponed, the purpose of Fashion Week lives on. “Our mission from day one has been to support the local fashion community and focus on our commitment to small businesses,” says Connie. “That’s what we plan to continue doing through social media. We went ahead and launched our Shop Nashville webpage. It had local businesses that were going to be our partners in Shop Nashville. Instead of connecting to the events that they had planned, we’re reposting from their websites, updating socials and spreading the word. Instead of worrying about selling, it’s worrying about surviving at this point — for everybody.”
Fortunately, the fashion community has rallied around Nashville Fashion Week’s rescheduling. So, what can we expect in August? Connie says, “Exactly what we had planned. Plus, hopefully, even more good stuff that we can add between now and then.” With 21 designers showing their work throughout four nights, as well as seven learning labs, there’s a lot to look forward to. “As of this moment, we anticipate that all of our special guests will be able to attend the big one, which is a panel discussion on diversity inclusion,” Connie tells us. Fern Mallis, the creator of New York Fashion Week, will moderate the panel, which also features Timo Weiland, Tanya Taylor, Peter Som and Barry Grider. They are also planning to move forward with their suffrage discussion and exhibit with the Tennessee State Museum, about which Connie quips, “We’re going to celebrate women’s rights and the fact that we can wear whatever the heck we want to now!”
One of the most inspiring elements of Nashville Fashion Week, in partnership with OZ Arts Nashville, is its philanthropy. Committed to helping our fellow Nashvillians who are facing devastation and in need of disaster relief, the event is directing its attention for now from the Nashville Fashion Forward Fund to support the Middle Tennessee Emergency Response Fund, both managed by The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.
To best support all of these incredible local designers during this time of uncertainty, please consider shopping at their online stores. You can also follow their social media pages for all of the latest updates. About her own collection, Leslie says you can direct message her on Instagram for gift certificates. She also recommends keeping your eyes on the Ola Mai Instagram page for the huge sample sale they are organizing, that’s not to be missed. Additionally, while Gus Mayer may have temporarily closed its physical store location, you can find updates and the latest spring looks by visiting its social media pages, especially Instagram, where the store is posting new arrivals daily. You can also call (615) 383-4771 for assistance and to place phone orders.
Leslie concludes with a plea that we can all get behind: “Please keep all small businesses at heart during these times. Every sale matters!”
Behind the Scenes
RESOURCES & THANKS
- Models: Brittany Jenkins and Jenner Johnson of AMAX
- Photography: Leila Grossman
- Stylist: Leslie Taylor Stephens of Ola Mai, in collaboration with Connie Cathcart-Richardson
- Makeup: Taylor Stephens of The Cosmetic Market
- Clothing and accessories: Gus Mayer, Article X, Rank & Sugar, Laura Citron
- Location: 14TENN
For more fashion inspiration, check out our What to Wear archives!