THE HISTORY OF NFA
One of the questions that often is asked of someone living here is “What makes Nashville so special?” While each person’s answer can vary – from food to music to art – the core of their answer is always centered around collaboration, accessibility, creativity and sustainability. These are our core values.
From the very beginning, the NFA was formed with great thought and consideration of the over 150 brands that call this area home. What began at a breakfast of four friends discussing the vibrant local style community, the NFA has emerged as a force to advocate for our regional fashion business.
We were inspired by Abby White’s article Does Nashville have what it takes to sustain a viable Fashion Industry? in the Nashville Scene in April 2013. Abby was intrigued by Richard Florida’s Atlantic Cities article from September 2012 naming Nashville 4th in the Top 20 US Metro Areas for Fashion Designers. From her interviews with fashion industry and arts professionals, she identified potential solutions for a sustainable fashion industry:
· Incubator program that provides mentorship, feedback, resources, education
· Solid business planning
· Small-scale production resources
· Advocacy and exposure
· Access to capital
Abby's article postulated that despite clearly having the creative talent, Nashville needed infrastructure to support and grow the local fashion industry. As Jen Cole, Director of Metro Arts Commission, said in the article, “We know how to do this.” The Entrepreneur Center is a clear example of “if you build an eco-system, they will come,” success. The focus and cohesion that the Health Care Council, Technology Council, and the Music Council have brought to their respective industries in Nashville is immeasurable.
With a desire to take the fashion industry to a world-class level on par with our reputation for music, health care and technology, we knew we needed focused initiatives and execution accountability within a central organization. We decided that we needed a fashion council.
With the help of Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management student Lisa Marston, we produced a white paper with research on the industry as well as feedback from our survey to the local community. The results from the data affirmed the needs from Abby article; cohesion, advocacy, idea and resource sharing, education, and supply chain management to help incubate and accelerate our fashion industry companies.
In April of 2014, we presented this white paper, with the support of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Metro Arts Commission and the Arts & Business Council, to 40 fashion industry leaders. We asked for feedback – and overwhelmingly, the decision was made that the next step was to explore the feasibility of forming a governing body – and organization that would represent the local and regional industry.
We spent the summer of 2014, with the help of master facilitators Deb Palmer George and Jody Lentz, to agree on our values and created a plan to move forward.
We formed three working groups: Cohesion & Advocacy, Sourcing & Production, and Education. These groups were given the charge of a) conducting an audit of our current resources, b) determining what resources were missing and c) a gap analysis, with priorities determined.
In October, the three groups reconvened and presented their findings to a group that had blossomed to almost 100 people. We developed a mission statement and agreed on the four priorities of the NFA; Advocacy, Economic Development, Resources, and Education.
In December 2014, we filed our charter, recruited a board of big thinkers and influencers in our community, and in early 2015 the Nashville Fashion Alliance was born. Now we needed seed funding.
Mountain Agency assisted us with the development of a Kickstarter campaign with two massive goals: Raise $100,000 in seed funding, and perhaps just as important, gauge community support for our mission and vision for building infrastructure and nurturing the fashion industry eco-system. On both fronts, this campaign was a success and in June 2015 the NFA was funded and hired CEO Van Tucker to lead the organization.
The NFA mission is simple…to build the regional fashion industry by amplifying early stage fashion businesses with an ecosystem of support and resources.