How the Does the Trade War with China Impact Your Business?

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 4.18.36 PM.png

Even more big changes are afoot for American businesses – specifically apparel companies. If your company uses textiles and threads that are sourced overseas (specifically from China), your imported purchases may soon come with a 10% tariff. That’s potentially a 10% cut into your margins, 10% shaved off your revenue, 10% of your income that you can no longer put back into growing your business.

Do you have an opinion about how that would impact your livelihood? The Trump administration is taking public comments and they need to hear from the American businesses these tariffs directly impact. Click here to do so! (Go to and search for Docket # "USTR-2018-0026" ** please note that the USTR prefers comments to be submitted as attachments - for the most impact, write your comments in a separate document and attach as a PDF!) 

For more on the nitty-gritty, here’s a word from the chairman of the NFA Board, Bob Antoshak:

This week, the Trump administration announced a list of $200 billion in Chinese products that will be subject to a potential 10% retaliation tariff, a response by the United States to China’s retaliation to the U.S. tariffs on some $50 billion worth of products just imposed by the U.S.

Although this may sound a little technical, imports are classified according to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HS) and are grouped in broader chapters covering like products. For example, all cotton textile products are recorded in HS Chapter 52.

NFA members should know that the latest round of retaliatory tariffs does cover some key products of importance to our local industry including the following:

  • Rubber gloves and rubber clothing in HS Chapter 40
  • Leather products, including apparel, gloves, handbags, flatgoods and travel goods in HS Chapter 42
  • Fur apparel and products in HS Chapter 43
  • Rattan bags and products in HS Chapter 46
  • Paper products in HS Chapter 46 (this includes hangtags and labels)
  • Textile products in HS Chapter 50 through 60 (all yarns and fabrics)
  • Headwear in HS Chapter 65
  • Tableware and articles of precious metals in HS Chapter 71 (heads up to our jewelers!)
  • TVs and monitors and machinery in HS Chapter 85 (Need equipment for your workspace?)
  • Furniture in HS Chapter 94 (How about expanding your warehouse storage?)
  • Plastic hangers 

Although there will be time for public comment on the proposed Trump administration action, and it is possible that some products will ultimately be excluded from the retaliation list, NFA members should understand that these tariffs, if enacted, will possibly result in higher prices paid for any imported products mentioned above. To review the full list of products covered, along with procedure for filing public comments, please click here

Further reading:
Press Briefing from the USTR

Refresh feat. Lindsey Stewart Sherrod

Collaboration is an essential part of any creative community. In the Nashville fashion industry, many collaborative projects are the result of all of the other things touched on this month: a creative community, connections to industry resources, and opportunities to learn from others. We at the NFA feel honored to serve as a catalyst for many of those things, and to offer platforms for our wonderful partners to make collaborations happen. In 2017, we held our first Brandology event – a day of discussion about what having or being a “brand” really means. Alongside the event, we partnered with AMAX to launch the AMAX Brand Builder Competition. Cherylann Stephens and her all-star team at AMAX Talent selected a prize-winner from a large stack of applications for an amazing opportunity: a creative direction session with the AMAX team and a digital lookbook, editorial, and e-commerce product photoshoot with art direction and professional hair, makeup, models, and photographer. That’s over $2,500 in valuable time, resources and creative energy that would provide a gust of wind under the wings of a growing brand. 

The 2017 winner of the AMAX Brand Builder Competition was Lindsey Stewart Sherrod of Lilyan James. In a recent conversation, Lindsey said the process allowed her to focus on the ethos of her brand and her ideal customer. “Someone told me that branding is ultimately how we make people feel. The woman who fully encompasses what Lilyan James stands for is fascinating to me, so I spent time thinking about how she would want to feel as I completed the application,” she said. But the experience of working with the AMAX team helped refine her vision. “The woman who reflects our ethos feels comfortably confident to show up in any circumstance completely and unabashedly as herself. The team at AMAX truly worked with me to reflect this idea. I am exceptionally grateful that their industry experience allowed us to reflect to this kind of woman and bring her to life.” said Lindsey. 

We are pleased to announce that the AMAX Brand Builder is happening again this year! For this year’s applicants, Lindsey has this advice: Be true to who you are. “No one understands the vision of your brand better than you,” she says. “Other people can come alongside of you, but the story begins and ends with you. I searched for certain types of bags that reflected a different story and never found them—so I created my own. The AMAX Brand Builder is an opportunity for you to fully articulate what you see for the future and allow others to come alongside of you and make it a reality.” She says that the application form also asks you to think about the value that you retain and add to the Nashville fashion community. “As a designer living in Nashville, I am thankful for all of the experiences that I have had. To create here is about learning from a wider creative community. When we bring everyone to the table, it produces greater experiences and allows our stories to be told in new ways.”

If you do win, Lindsey advises that you “enjoy your time with everyone.” This opportunity is for the winner to develop their brand, yes, but Lindsey feels that she learned from the models, photographer, and production team on a much deeper level than simply how to develop a photoshoot. “There is meaning in the process behind the shoot. Every person teaches me something along the way and it is ultimately reflected in the final work. The four models on this shoot had incredible backstories and life experiences. The photographer had recently relocated from New York. And, the hair and makeup teams were people whose paths have crossed with mine along the way in Nashville. It was interesting to see all of their talents come together. Collaboration isn’t about one person—it is about being open, honest, and listening. ” she said. 

The 2018 AMAX Brand Builder competition is open today, April 30, 2018 through Friday, May 25, 2018 at 5pm. Find more information on qualifications and application process here

Best of luck! 


Refresh feat. Liz Hodder

RE copy 2.png

Nashville is blessed to be a creative vortex – it seems that this place attracts makers, dreamers, doers and inspired folks of all mediums. We at the NFA want to make this a place for that to flourish! Of all the places designer Liz Hodder has lived, including New York, Los Angeles, and Berkeley, she can attest to the fact that Nashville is a good place to get your creative mind right. Though she had lived here for a while in the 90s while involved in the music industry, her return to Nashville in 2014 was for keeps. “As I settled into my new life, I discovered the amazing creative community that was here. It wasn’t just music anymore, and not that it was only ever music, but creatives of all sorts were consciously moving here. I was thrilled,” she said in a recent conversation. 

As a designer and multi-disciplined artist, Liz’s work often incorporates paint, clay, paper, and of course, fabric. “For the past 2 years, I have been digging textile design. This process naturally led me into designing clothes. At this point, I am learning volumes everyday,” she said. Her kaleidoscopic patterns involve layers of processes to achieve their vibrant results. “My designs for clothes are very straightforward, the designs on the fabric are not! I think the simplicity of the clothing or object is a nice juxtaposition with the color and design of my fabrics.”

For Liz, much like many of the members we’ve heard from in recent blog conversations, the community of creators in the NFA is an amazing resource. She said, “I find the events that NFA offers are important for me. I am able to network, meet other designers and artists, and I am beginning to feel part of a community. There are so many talented people who are forging out on their own. I spend a lot of time on my own making, therefore, I enjoy any opportunity I can reach out and learn from others, and of course, have some fun.”

The learning process is something that the NFA takes very seriously, particularly for designers. Whether it is learning techniques for construction, dyeing, or digital patternmaking, or skills on the business side of things like bookkeeping, how to have an intern, or maximizing social media, the NFA tries to offer a variety of opportunities to grow. In May, NFA Members are invited to attend a Google workshop on How to Grow Your Business Online. The class will cover the basics of how customers find your business online and how to promote your online presence with methods like search engine optimization (SEO) and online advertising. It will also introduce tools to help you run your business online, including Google Analytics and GSuite. (The class is free for NFA Members, but please RSVP to Stay tuned to the NFA calendar, newsletter, and social media throughout the year for more learning opportunities, workshops, and member gatherings! 

If you don’t see Liz at one of our member hangouts, you can find her and her beautiful pieces at the Five Points Street Market on Mother’s Day Weekend and American Artisan Festival in Centennial Park June 15-17. 

Refresh feat. Mollie Decktor


Community is all about connection – connecting people to each other, connecting makers to materials, connecting customers to makers, connecting students to mentors, connecting everyone to the resources and opportunities necessary to make their businesses thrive. NFA Member Mollie Decktor can certainly speak to the power of connection to Nashville’s deep bench of fashion industry resources.

Mollie is the creator of a start-up called mbody which creates custom-fit bras using cutting-edge manufacturing technology. (Ladies, can I get an amen?) When NFA CEO Van Tucker spoke at her alma mater, Owen School of Business at Vanderbilt, Mollie knew that this was a person she needed to connect with. “As a fellow Owen grad, she stood out as someone in the fashion community who would be passionate about our startup and able to provide useful insight as we were building our model. I knew that there was a vibrant fashion community here & I knew Van would be an amazing point person to help us navigate it,” said Mollie in a recent conversation.

“It feels like every interaction I have had with the NFA has led directly to a step forward in our development,” she said. When asked how the NFA’s resources have supported her work, she shared, “Top of mind right now is an introduction to the team at AFFOA, a federally-funded organization supporting the R&D of future fabrics and manufacturing innovation. Unbeknownst to Van, I had been trying to connect with this organization for about a year when she just happened to mention that she had a meeting with them the next day. It was not a public meeting, but Van found a way to get me a seat at the table. AFFOA has since built a headquarters at MIT and launched an incubator program for textile-focused startups. I'm thrilled to report that mbody was accepted into the first cohort of this program, which means I'll be moving this operation to Boston at the end of the month! It's hard to describe the enormity of this opportunity without getting into the weeds, but suffice it to say our connection to AFFOA opened the door to resources that will make our product development possible.”

Though she’s headed to Massachusetts for a moment, Mollie will carry the support of the NFA with her. She said, “My NFA membership isn't only about the connections, it's also a contribution to organizing and fortifying the industry in Nashville. Especially when it comes to startups, a lot of the energy tends to collect around the healthcare and music industries. The NFA is building a coalition of the designers, artisans, and entrepreneurs here, and in doing so is creating an ecosystem that will support new ventures like mine!”

We are so proud of Mollie’s work and look forward to tracking her time at AFFOA closely! 

Refresh feat. Gavin Ivester

Refresh Gavin Ivester.png
Gavin Ivester

During the month of April, we’ll be discussing refreshing and resetting your mind, your practices, and your wardrobe – and we will also be revisiting the benefits of membership with the NFA. As some of you may have seen on social media recently, we are celebrating an all-time high number of active NFA Members! We’re 400 strong and growing! That’s 400 designers, brands, trade specialists and fashion enthusiasts who believe that we are capable of achieving more together than we are individually.

This moment of celebration inspired us to look back over our membership roster and reach out to some of our standout folks. Our members each have a story to tell about what the NFA means to them and how the member benefits have specifically impacted their lives.

When newcomers ask us why they should be a member of the NFA, our response typically begins first with the answer, “Community.” Board member and first-week-joiner Gavin Ivester agrees wholeheartedly. “Nashville has such a rich mix of creatives and a fantastic culture of collaboration— it’s part of being a Nashvillian to help your neighbors,” said Gavin in a recent conversation. Gavin’s rich background in global brand development and consulting gives him a very broad perspective on good neighborliness. He is passionate about the community that is developed and supported by the NFA not just because of Nashville’s deep bench of talented individuals, but because they are working together toward a common goal. He said, “It’s the perfect place for the world’s next fashion capital, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of people.”

Of course, close-knit communities don’t take over the global fashion industry overnight, and Gavin recognizes that. “I joined [the NFA] because I’m passionate about elevating and growing the fashion industry in this place I love. … But it needs a push. From all of us.” That push will look different for everyone: from intentionally purchasing from local designers and makers, to joining the NFA to lend your or your company’s expertise to the pool of resources that we represent. We hope that you, dear reader, will join us in refreshing your commitment to the NFA.

Stay tuned for discussion of all of the amazing NFA member benefits with other makers, designers, and wonderful human beings who are part of this rising tide in the Nashville Fashion industry!




Doing the [Small Biz] Hustle feat. Hunker Bag Co.

Hustle - Hunker Bags.png
2018-03-06 16.57.00.jpg

A pearl is the oyster’s reaction to a little grain of sand that is annoying the heck out of them – and many good things come from working around something that is irritating you. For Denton Hunker of Hunker Bag Co., that little grain of sand came while on the road with his band. “I had this black wheelie suitcase – like everyone has – that I used for years and years,” Denton told me in our recent chat in his workshop/garage, “and other folks on airplanes kept grabbing it thinking it was theirs. I finally even wrote ‘THIS IS NOT YOUR BAG’ in silver Sharpie all over it and someone still tried to take it!” After that last incident, Denton decided to take matters into his own hands. His grandmother taught him how to sew when he was younger, so he designed and made his ideal suitcase: a dufflebag with rope handles – something no one else had, something totally unique because he had made it himself. He started carrying this creation while on tour and attracted a different kind of attention as folks stopped him to ask where he got his bag, and the pearl that would be Hunker Bag Co. began to take form. As his band geared up to release a new album, Denton channeled this creative energy into preparing to launch his business. “It felt like now or never, so I said, ‘let’s do it!’” he said.

As the orders started rolling in, Denton juggled touring for weeks at a time with fulfilling them during time spent at home in Nashville. Having these kinds of competing commitments has definitely shaped his business, he says. “There was a huge wholesale opportunity that approached me a while back, but it was for way more than I could produce by myself in the two weeks that I would be at home.” Denton has a part-time assistant who comes in during high-volume seasons, but in this particular case, he had to turn it down. “Since then, I’ve been thinking and planning so that the next time that happens, I can make it work. But I don’t have the answer to that yet. I want to grow smart.”

Growth is something Denton wants to be very intentional about due to a heartfelt goal. His father’s business ethic has had an important impact on his own plans for the future of Hunker Bag Co. “My father works for himself, essentially, building houses, but he also makes opportunities for other people to work. And while working for myself has always been appealing to me, whether it’s with the band or making bags, the real goal is to create a business that is sustainable enough to give other people a job – to help the community and support folks who need work,” he said.

One day, Denton would like to have a retail space that expands on the idea of the workspace he built for himself in his garage – a space where the process is on view, where folks can come in and see bags being made, hang out, listen to a record, drink a fine bourbon on a leather couch, and maybe buy a piece to take on the road. Between here and there, there is plenty to learn and plenty of hustle to do in his own way. “I’m a terrible hustler!” Denton laughed, “I don’t like to impose on folks … but things move fast. There’s no time to doubt yourself – you have to dig down and go for it.” 

Doing the [Small Biz] Hustle feat. Garner Blue

Hustle - Garner Blue.png


When Lou Garner of Garner Blue first experimented with indigo, she wasn’t looking for a side hustle, she was looking for an expression of creative release. While working in real estate, Lou started hosting creative workshops for folks in her community. For one of these, a retreat focused on “Curating Artisan Methods and Provisions” (or CAMP), Lou learned about the indigo dying process in order to teach the group, and she was hooked. Indigo offered her a variety of methods, applications, materials, and history to keep her engaged long after the weekend retreat. “I have gone through a lot of hobbies in the past – but I tend to lose interest after I figure things out and get comfortable with the process. Indigo offers me more. It’s been a few years now, but I still love the process,” Lou said in our recent phone conversation.

As she continued to play around with techniques and designs, Lou began to develop Garner Blue, her line of hand-dyed textiles, clothing, and home goods which she sold at craft markets and pop-ups in the area. Now her go-to application method is rice paste and stencils, and her studio is full of odds and ends that can be used to create unique patterns through dye resist or exclusion.

If you’re reading this as a creative person with a hobby-turned-full-time-business, you might think you know what comes next in the story: woman meets passion, passion becomes business, business takes off and turns into full-time job. But for Lou and Garner Blue, the story has a different twist. That’s because Lou’s full-time gig is serving as the executive director of the co-working entrepreneur and maker center in Jackson, Tennessee, called theCo. “My company is my side-hustle,” she says. She spends her evenings and weekends with her hands in buckets of dye, and her days assisting other creatives with getting their businesses off and running. And that, says Lou, is really just the way she likes it. “I absolutely appreciate and am very grateful for the luxury of my situation,” she said, “Not relying on Garner Blue to support me gives me the freedom to create at my own pace.”

But that doesn’t mean she’s casual about the business of running Garner Blue. Lou opened a brick and mortar shop in downtown Jackson in the last year, sharing the retail space with another local artisan. This retail space, she says, is not a culminating achievement but a new thing she’s enjoying. She also continues to lead workshops in indigo dyeing at theCo and at her studio. “I’m ready to teach more – I am still learning myself, but I have so much to share,” which she says goes for both textile dyeing and business practices.

The NFA is proud to have members who are doing beautiful work in many ways! 

Doing the [Small Biz] Hustle feat. Walker Jewelry

Hustle - Walker Jewelry.png

Screen Shot 2018-03-05 at 2.39.07 PM.png

When someone gives Lindsay Walker of Walker Jewelry a chance, she’ll take it and run wild. When she got her first metalworking job with Urban Electric Company in Charleston, South Carolina, she had a background in ceramics sculpture and the drive to learn the trade from the folks who knew what they were doing. “I chanced my way in bit by bit,” Lindsay shared when we caught up at Fort Houston recently, “I got one of the old timers to teach me how to solder – and that was when I was like, oh, I love this!”

From there, Lindsay’s path took her to Denmark to work as a musician, where she applied for a jewelry design program. “The course was really designed as a master’s program for metalsmiths, but they let me participate. My teacher told me I was the wildcard and that they just wanted to see what I would do,” she said. Through the program, Lindsay absorbed the Danish dedication to process and went on to continue her studies with a course in sustainable design – this time focusing on applied business practices. “It was in this program that I really established my aesthetic – I had been using a lot of plastics before, but this course showed me the value of creating with reusable, valuable materials. Of course, my designs were still ‘wild’ by Danish standards!” she laughed. 

To fulfill a requirement for the sustainable design program, the “wildcard” jeweler moved to Nashville for an internship with Southern Lights Electric, then located at the original Fort Houston. She made herself at home, bartending on the side, which she said was a great way for her to meet people in town and learn about the city. And though she took her jewelry business full-time about a year ago, she still worked nights behind the bar for a while. “Bartending taught me a lot of customer service skills, particularly now in talking with my custom clients to make sure that they are as satisfied as possible,” she said. Lindsay currently also works as an art handler at Cheekwood Museum of Art, assisting the curatorial staff with installing exhibits and caring for the permanent collection. Art handling, she said, helps because it requires attention to detail and thoughtfulness.  

The journey is beginning to shift again as Lindsay gets herself settled into a new live-work space in Old Hickory. While around half of Walker Jewelry trade comes from markets, fairs, and online retail, the other half of Walker Jewelry is custom work – wedding rings, engagement rings, and the odd belt buckle for good measure. She says that the biggest lesson that she has learned so far is to not be proud and to not turn down work because you think you’re too good for it. She knows she’ll eventually be able to turn things down, but for now she says, “the hustle is constantly being hungry to learn more and being open minded – I’m not being dogmatic about my art.” Right now, she says, she’s working on planning for the long-term, applying what she learned about sustainable practices to her own business model. “Everything counts, everything matters – the longevity of a business is different from the everyday hustle.”

Amen, sister!


Doing the [Small Biz] Hustle feat. Lemon Laine

Hunker - Lemon Laine.png

2018-02-23 10.09.04-1.jpg

If you want something done right, sometimes you have to do it yourself. Laura Lemon, founder of East Nashville’s Lemon Laine, is dedicated to reinventing the beauty retail experience. Her early experience working within the traditional beauty world left her deeply dissatisfied, so she decided to do something about it.

“I started all of this with a chip on my shoulder, honestly,” Laura said in our recent chat, “So many of my friends and family were sharing with me that the department store or mall retail skincare and beauty experience left them feeling intimidated or overwhelmed. And I feel like the beauty industry likes to tell you things you need to change about yourself and want to sell you a miracle cream.” Thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit in her DNA, Laura was motivated to take matters into her own hands to change the way that women interact with products.

Her storefront on Eastland Avenue is arranged not by brand but by step in the skincare process – Cleanse, Treat, Hydrate. “Women don’t like to shop by brand anymore,” she said, but rather they’re looking for the best product for their needs. Displayed like the best-stocked medicine cabinets you’ve ever wanted to peek into, the store’s shelves invite testing and sampling. “We encourage folks to take home samples – I want you to absolutely love this product.”

But for Laura, even the most elaborate and intentional skincare regimen isn’t the whole solution. “You can’t fix a bad diet with skin cream!” she insists. While working for natural beauty brands in San Francisco, Laura took night courses on health and nutrition in Berkley. There she learned the many ways our bodies react and respond to our diet and habits. “That is really my passion – the fact that we have beauty and skincare products in the shop really just opens the conversation to health and overall wellbeing.” The full wall of nutrition resources and a friendly and knowledgeable staff makes for an informative and accessible conversation. 

After 9 months of consistently providing Nashville with hands down the best skincare shopping experience, Laura says she has learned a lot and is looking forward to the next parts of growth. “Of course, there are things you can’t predict when starting a business,” she said, “You learn something new every day, and then just when you get comfortable with them, you take on a new role or a new hat.” Team-building has been a huge part of learning the small business hustle for Laura. In hiring a team that is passionate about the mission of the company, she says, “I love discerning and tapping into what each team member’s strengths are. When the team is relied upon to bring their very best, this allows Lemon Laine to build trust that goes so much deeper than a traditional retail store.”

Another part of that team growth has been adding her husband, Evan, to the roster. He recently went full-time with Lemon Laine, providing Laura the number-crunching support that allows her to grow into other areas of the business. “There is never a time when we’re not talking about the shop,” she says, “The most important thing is setting the tone for the day, deciding what needs to be focused on, and having the right team to get it done. … The hustle is now working smarter, not harder!”

Keep up the boogie, Laura! 

Completed Qs- Lemon Laine.jpg

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.


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.


Libby Signature.jpg

Libby Callaway

NFA Board Chair


Van Tucker


Your Participation is Key...

Click here to start the survey.


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 

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.