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