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.