An Update on FAIR from NFA Board Member Ivy Elrod

Portrait by Heidi Ross

Portrait by Heidi Ross

As a member of the Board of Directors for the Nashville Fashion Alliance (NFA), even I sometimes have a hard time keeping up with everything going on at the NFA. This organizations moves swiftly, which is fantastic, but sometimes we just need to all stop, get together, and discuss exactly what's going on. That was the idea behind the NFA FAIR Finalizing Session last week, which we opened up to the entire NFA Membership. FAIR stands for Fashion, Accelerator, Innovation Resource Center - the main recommendation coming out of the NFA's Economic Impact Study released in January 2017.

Photo by Eden Fletcher

Photo by Eden Fletcher

Photo by Eden Fletcher

Photo by Eden Fletcher

Photo by Eden Fletcher

Photo by Eden Fletcher

Photo by Eden Fletcher

Photo by Eden Fletcher

Photo by Eden Fletcher

Photo by Eden Fletcher

Photo by Eden Fletcher

Photo by Eden Fletcher

We asked NFA Members join us to hear an update on FAIR and to provide the final tweaks on six of twenty-eight activities that will be conducted in FAIR. Since not every member could make it, and since we think everyone deserve to know what's going on, we wanted to share that update on the progress of FAIR here, as well as share the updated, post-session descriptions of the six reviewed activities.

Update on FAIR

We are hip-deep in developing the business plan for FAIR, again working with Gherzi International and dedicated members of the NFA community to pull together the final numbers, space needs, etc., to make FAIR a true industry resource that is economically viable. We called our members together for the NFA FAIR Finalizing Session to have the last say on a few specific activities that will occur in FAIR.

Once those activities are finalized, we will be able to move forward with crunching the numbers for FAIR, allowing us to know how much money we’ll need to raise in a capital campaign. Thus, we start on the next phase of this long, messy, wonderful process of working towards our long-term goal of building FAIR in the coming years.

To get to this point of being able to compete a business plan, we’ve made lots of progress over the last two years, completing steps such as:

  • Collecting a great deal of information from our members on what they most need to accelerate the growth of their businesses
  • Conducting many site visits to see and learn from what is happening elsewhere
  • Holding a design charrette that some of you attended
  • Holding roundtables, small groups, and 1-on-1 feedback sessions with members

The Six NFA Member-Reviewed FAIR Activities

Below are the six of twenty-eight total FAIR activities that members reviewed on Oct. 4 at the session:

I.  Business Services Group

A cadre of business professionals, with the fashion industry experience to qualify them as “experts” in their functional field (Finance, Legal, Sales & Marketing, Human Resources, and Operations) to consult with the NFA member base on non-design business challenges.  Staffing would begin with business generalists who can assess needs, answer member questions and if/when appropriate refer to qualified outside resources. Internal delivery of services will include phone and email support, face to face meetings, and on site at member companies.  As demand grows, staffing will increase to provide full business management. Services will be delivered on an “as needed” basis for an hourly fee or a monthly “retained services” basis for part to full time support.  Partnerships with existing organizations will be pursued to leverage available community organizations and ensure a broad range of services. The objective is to provide business services for a reduced fee to member companies until they reach a scale where they would need permanent, in-house staff.

II. Common Space Design – Event Center & Flexible Co-Working Space

Event Center

A large, open, flexible space for multi-purpose use and large events.  This space will have the capability to house the common Flexible Co-Working Space through use of partitions, moveable walls, work pods and mobile studios.  The space will quickly convert to a large meeting area able to accommodate up to 600 people.  Special events, runway shows, large group education events, community participation events, award programs, etc. can be held in some or all of this event space.  Equipment necessary to host these types of events will be permanently installed for rapid conversion including sound system, lighting, projectors, display screens, bars, and catering kitchen.  Adjacent to the event space will be storage areas, a photo studio, the resource library, a “green room”, and a retail showroom/gallery.  The space will be made available for rental to community organizations, member companies, accelerator participants and the fashion community at large.  Size approximately 10,000 sq. ft.

Flexible Co-Working Space

Members can opt for a variety of different affordable co-working situations ranging from digital to private studios with all working situations designed in ways meant to inspire creativity. Members wishing to work on-site can choose between common co-working tables, informal work/lounge areas, semi-private cubbies, or   private studios ranging from 100 to 2,500 square feet (at below market rate while they are in the early growth stage).  The space will host 6-10 accelerator companies with dedicated private space based on their size and needs.  Common work space will include 3 conference rooms (2 small & 1 large).  The majority of the “walls” will be easily moveable so the facility can expand and contract quickly and be reconfigured to meet myriad needs.  Amenity spaces will include a community kitchen/coffee and snack bar, break areas, nap pods, sound proof phone booths, and a shipping & receiving area. 

III. Financial Tools to Scale

To grow and capitalize on opportunities, many emerging companies need access to differing amounts of capital. Different types of funding can be established and managed to allow companies to access short-term capital at a reasonable rate of interest and complimentary structure to help them capitalize on significant opportunities.  An additional option for consideration could be micro venture capital consisting of smaller seed investments, (typically between $25K to $500K in companies that have yet to gain traction).  Rounding out the options, venture capital firms or funds invest in early-stage companies in exchange for equity, or an ownership stake, in the companies. These options can be considered as part of a “menu” of options that NFA Members can and should be encouraged to learn about, first and foremost, to be able to make the most informed capital decisions to grow their company.

IV. Resource/Inspiration Library

A resource room containing an assortment of physical and digital books, catalogs, sample boards, on-line links, films, and reference materials. The resources will focus on the subjects of design, textiles, construction, fiber, fashion, production and sustainability. The primary purpose of the library is to provide inspiration and knowledge for the design community, with the ultimate, long-term goal of creating a fashion district type of resource in Nashville. It will have several workstations for on-line research, an informal reading nook and long tables, and a physical samples "catalog" (similar to BK-DA). This could be in partnership with the Nashville Public Library (curate and update).

V.  Retail Showroom and Gallery Space

A dedicated space that will draw in public and promote brands within the community. The space can function under four levels of usage: 1) managed designer showroom, 2) pop up (varying timeframes), 3) visiting retail merchandised by brands, and 4) gallery space. The space will be available to accelerator companies and member brands, could potentially be rented for visiting artists/designer shows, stylists, etc., and could be used for learning opportunities. The space would accommodate 6-10 designers at a time, with 10 x 10 spaces. This is where visitors to F.A.I.R. will enter and exit "through the gift shop” as in a museum setting, and be able to continue shopping brands online.

VI. Small Batch Production

A small batch production facility containing traditional cut & sew equipment and materials for prototypes, samples and limited runs (phase I); and integrated digital design to manufacturing tools and equipment (phase II).  A large number suggested an interest in leather stitching equipment, as well as jewelry production. There are 6 current priorities within this “activity.”

(1) Traditional cut, sew, & finish (2) Sewing training (3) Integrated digital tools –digital pattern making, fit scan, laser cutting (4) Advanced finishing – computer driven printing & waterless fabric finishing (5) Flat and whole garment knitting (6) Advanced manufacturing – sew bots.

We will be implementing the additional feedback we learned from members on these six activities into the final plans for FAIR.

Again, thank you to our members for contributing to this session and for always being open to providing feedback and input. We exist because of our members, something we actively strive to never lose sight of as we push forward with our many initiatives. We can’t wait to update you as we reach our next major milestones of creating the physical plans and funding plans for FAIR.

Sincerely,

Ivy Elrod

NFA Board Member, Co-Owner of Wilder and Wilder Etudes

An Update From NFA Board Chair Libby Callaway and NFA CEO Van Tucker

NFA CEO (Van Tucker) and NFA Board Chair (Libby Callaway) photographed by Brett Warren for Nashville Lifestyles.

NFA CEO (Van Tucker) and NFA Board Chair (Libby Callaway) photographed by Brett Warren for Nashville Lifestyles.

The NFA Board of Directors has been hard at work on long-term, strategic initiatives that will be monumental to the success and growth of our regional industries. We’re currently laying the groundwork for a business plan for FAIR (Fashion Accelerator Innovation Resource Center), advocating for the regional industry in Washington, DC, and more. We know these initiatives are crucial to the long-term success of emerging fashion companies — and we’re excited to share them with you.

However, we know that you’re thinking: “That sounds fantastic for the future, but what are you doing to help my business to grow now?” That’s why the focus of the 2017 NFA Board Retreat in July was on ways to provide more value to members now while we’re still working towards those longer-term initiatives.

At the retreat, we broke into groups focused on the five tenets of the NFA: production, education, support, connection, and promotion. We came back with nine total initiatives that were sourced from feedback we’ve collected from members in multiple settings. Now, we are aggressively vetting the member-sourced and Board-tweaked initiatives to test their viability. We’ll move forward with the ones that make the most sense.

We plan to prioritize these based on what’s most pressing for members and what the NFA, as a fledgling organization, can do to a degree that makes the initiatives truly beneficial for members as soon as they’re running. We will be swift in our planning and execution, but we will not move forward with specific initiatives if we can’t do them well. Your business’ success is too important to us to take that kind of risk.

Our ultimate goal would be to have the initiatives that make it through the vetting round to be up and running as soon as humanly possible. We want to provide more value for you now.

Now, the fun part. Here are the initiatives that the NFA Board members are taking the charge to vet with the help of the NFA Staff:

  • Member ambassador program to connect members 1-on-1
  • NFA Board of Directors mentoring program
  • Matchmaking professional services and brands
  • Video versions of all educational content
  • Database for small batch production
  • Educational content about production
  • Member feature/takeover of NFA Instagram per week
  • Online and printed map of NFA Member Stores
  • Nashville Fashion Bus Tour for tourists and locals

As always, we thank you for your engagement, especially to those of you who provided the incredible ideas that these initiatives are based in. We can’t wait to update you on our progress. Stay tuned.

Sincerely, 

Libby Signature.jpg

Libby Callaway

NFA Board Chair

 
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Van Tucker

NFA CEO

Your Participation is Key...

Click here to start the survey.

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The Nashville Fashion Alliance is conducting an economic impact study to identify the profile and density of the fashion industry in this region. This capstone study will help us understand our region’s strengths and weaknesses provide a baseline to measure growth, and provide necessary data to better accomplish our mission - building resources for the fashion industry.

We have engaged Gherzi, an internationally renowned consulting firm to the fashion industry, to conduct our analysis. Our goal with this study is that the broader community, as well as the international fashion industry, will better understand not only the current impact of this industry in our region, but also the growth opportunities. This study IS IMPORTANT as it will help us recruit and retain resources to our region for our growing fashion industry. 

What you can do to help:

1. Please complete the survey by Friday, July 4. Answer as many questions as you are able and please know that confidentiality is of utmost importance to us. The NFA staff will not have access to any individual responses and all information will only be reported in aggregate by our advisors, Gherzi.

2. Share the survey link broad and wide... from raw materials to equipment suppliers, manufacturers, retailers, trade support services (models, photographers, stylists, PR, marketing, lawyers, bankers, accountants, etc.) ...anyone who has even a portion of their income derived from the fashion industry enterprise can participate. 

3. Share our social media posts regarding the survey until July 4. Help us spread the word and encourage participation in the survey.

Once the survey is complete and the report is finalized in the fall, we'll look forward to sharing the results with you. Thank you... and as always, if you have any questions please email van@nashvillefashionalliance.com. 

A Message from NFA Board Chair Libby Callaway

It’s hard to believe that the NFA is celebrating its first birthday. The launch of our successful $100,000 Kickstarter program and election of our inaugural board seems like yesterday instead of a full year ago. Time flies.

But, at the same time, it’s also impossible to fathom all that the NFA has been able to do in such a short amount of time. That’s what happens when a community clearly defines and expresses their needs and desires, as Nashville’s fashion community has done over the last year, as you’ve made clear your support of the NFA’s mission to incubate and accelerate the growth of our regional fashion companies through advocacy, economic & resource development and education.

The NFA’s mission has resonated throughout our community. Over 350 of you have joined our ranks over the last year, supporting us as we’ve endeavored to become a force for advocacy of your brands and our regional industry. We thank you, greatly, for your support. It, partnered with the very hard work of your companies and brands, has allowed us to make great strides toward accomplishing the goals set forth in our developmental phase.

Over the last year, the NFA has accomplished some pretty amazing things. During our inaugural year, we’ve done the following:

  • Worked with many of you to make connections to resources, answer questions, solve problems, and help capitalize on opportunities for growth.
  • Hosted CFDA CEO Steven Kolb in June 2015 for 36 | 86 conference.
  • Produced numerous topical professional workshops, all of which have sold out.
  • Launched a commercial Sewing Training Academy partnership with Omega Apparel and Catholic Charities; since September 2015, we have provided 40-plus individuals with jobs as commercial sewers.
  • Recruited a kick-ass board that cares very much about the success of your brand, not to mention what we can do as an organization to help you grow and thrive.
  • Formed the NFA Student Alliance, a group with a goal of education and connection, that aims to better prepare interested parties to work in the fashion industry.
  • Launched a website, which has an audience of almost 8,000 unique visitors per month. It includes the NFA Job Board ) and #shopNFA, a page that lists bio and contact information of our member brands.
  • Recruited the COAST wholesale tradeshow to Nashville. At their second installment last March, COAST doubled the number of buyers attending show from their first venture here in fall 2015. Due to this success, organizer Karen Bennett has announced that COAST’s move to the larger confines of the Music City Center in fall 2016.
  • Piloted a six-week accelerator program with ten companies this past winter. Led by facilitator James Szuch and sponsored by O'More College of Design and The Center for Entrepreneurship at Belmont, this pilot provided us with the information we needed to determine exactly what a successful program would look like for our brands. Eight companies pitched their ideas, with cash prizes provided by Tito's Vodka. Winners were Carden Avenue, ethereal, and Varick Wildwood.
  • Connected local designers with performing arts organizations like the Nashville Opera and Nashville Ballet, to provide costume design services and raise awareness of their brands with their target customers.
  • Continued to raise awareness of our member brands through press relations (please visit our press page to see some of the amazing press for our community) and social media channels. We repost a lot!
  • Launched Roll Call, a section of our website written by journalist Abby White, that highlights individuals in the NFA community.
  • Shepherded the creation of House Of, a partnership with The Center for Entrepreneurship at Belmont that provides our member brands with a low-risk experimental retail environment and access to the school’s business students for assistance. House Of launched earlier this month.

We have a robust agenda for 2016. Our top priorities: 

  • Complete an economic impact study.
  • Develop detailed plans for an expansive and engaging resource center.
  • Present an upscale "market" featuring NFA designers and retailers that introduces the idea of a curated local wardrobe.
  • Present version 2.0 of our accelerator program, aimed at the support and education of mid-sized brands.
  • Host a CEO roundtable to better understand how we can nurture sustainable infrastructure, make more responsible business decisions, and grow American manufacturing in our area.
  • Present “The Reclamation,” an event in partnership with Goodwill Industries that celebrates our values as a sustainable and socially responsible creative community. The Reclamation will showcase the creations of our skilled fashion and accessories designers using materials acquired from Goodwill. The evening will include local food and fashion curated by Buttermilk Road and Fashion Happening, respectively, as well as locally sourced décor and top-tier entertainment.
  • Continue to present topical education workshops. Upcoming topics will include social media, sourcing & production, accounting for fashion brands, and a Brand Camp.

This time last year, when members of the NFA board would introduce our message to new community camps, we’d often be greeted with disbelief. Some folks told us flat-out that we were wrong, that Nashville didn't have a fashion industry of note. Over time, we learned that hard facts quieted and convinced even the most fervid doubter. I mean, how can you argue when presented with data that says Nashville has the largest concentration of independent fashion companies per capita outside of NYC and LA? We will continue to work hard to convince industry outsiders and community leaders that the potential impact of our fashion community is significant, and that it’s growing.

We’ve built up a ton of momentum over the last twelve months and we’re not slowing down. Our pledge to you is that for the next year and beyond, the NFA will continue to execute on our mission. We will work harder than ever to foster an environment where fashion companies can grow their businesses. While we’re proud of all that has been accomplished, there is still a lot of work on the road ahead.

Thanks so much for your engagement and support as we continue on this exciting journey.

The Voice of a Community

Our community sent a loud and clear message earlier this year with the successful funding of our $100,000 Kickstarter campaign…the fashion industry is an emerging economic driver in our area.

The NFA is a community driven organization developed and organized through collaboration, research and careful thought about the initiatives and programs that will ensure our fashion industry survives and thrives outside of New York and Los Angeles. This has been the most magical process -- and something we do not take for granted -- to see a community come together for common purpose.

Our hope is to incubate brands in a way that allows them to emerge and stand tall on the global stage. We are a trade organization focused on advocacy, economic development, shared resources and education for the benefit of our entire eco-system. But this is a creative economy. We must always strive to balance art and commerce. While there is certainly no shortage of creative talent in our area, there is a need to provide access to industry resources so that our creative talent can build sustainable businesses. This is our first priority.

We are community driven and industry focused. As we launch our membership campaign, we hope you will considering joining in our mission and encourage others to join. There is power in numbers. Power in unity to speak and act as an industry force.

In the coming months, we will be asking members of our community to blog in this space about the importance of the NFA work. We hope you will find their words and their work inspiring.

Van