Louisiana native Cara Jackson came to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt University and subsequently moved to New York to attend law school. After a stint in the book and magazine publishing industry, she moved back to Nashville for a job opportunity in 2007. She worked in a law firm environment for years, but explored her love of (mostly local) fashion on her blog, and it was this love of all things sartorial that led to her next venture.
Cara left the corporate world behind when she launched her own business management company. We caught up with her between work meetings and running home to East Nashville to let her dog out.
How did you get involved with the NFA?
I feel like all roads lead to Van Tucker! I met Van a couple of years ago through a mutual friend at the Symphony Fashion Show; I asked her what she did, and she said she was a creative consultant. I looked her straight in the eye and said, “I want to be you and I want to take you to coffee and find out how to make that happen.”
So, what do you do now?
I have recently -- as of four months ago -- started a business management firm for fashion designers and creative companies. I work closely with designers to help them manage everything from their finances, to their vendor and customer relationships, their calendars, social media, email marketing, website updates,, intellectual property issues—I was an IP lawyer in my past life. It varies from client to client. I think sometimes the biggest value that I can offer is that I'm a thoughtful sounding board they can bounce ideas off of.
What is your business called?
[Pause] Cara Jackson! [laughs] I want to come up with a name that will grow with me as I grow the business. I'm hoping it comes to me on my yoga mat.
Where most good ideas are found! So, how can people find you right now?
People find me through word-of-mouth and referrals. Right now, that's because I'm just getting started, and that's how I want people to find me. I'd rather have a face-to-face conversation with someone to see if we're a good fit for each other.
Speaking of good fits, what is your role with the Nashville Fashion Alliance?
I am vice chair of the Nashville Fashion Alliance and co-chair of the Education Committee. The Education Committee is putting a curriculum together for any creative company that wants to learn more about how to run a business. This includes basic business skills like accounting, legal issues, social media, marketing, branding and managing content.
What do you think people should know about the regional fashion industry?
I think one of the biggest things that people should know is that you can do it here. You can run a successful fashion brand outside of New York and L.A. We still have some ground to make up in terms of infrastructure, resources that are readily available, and skilled labor, but it is possible. Billy Reid is doing it, Natalie Chanin is doing it, Peter Nappi, Elizabeth Suzann -- so many brands who are able to make this region their home, and I think that's fantastic.
Do you feel that Nashville is poised to be a major player in the global fashion industry?
Absolutely. I think we're on our way to doing that now. I think we have a lot of brands who are very committed, brands who know who they are and what they want to do. They know where they want to take their business and they're working hard to make that happen. I don't think there's any limit to the way our region can represent ourselves on a global scale. I think it's going to take time, but it will happen.
What are some of the barriers that could make that difficult?
Shared resources is a big one, such as access to small batch manufacturing. Omega Apparel is doing great things in that area, but there's such a huge demand. Skilled labor is a significant need as well, we need more people who know how to sew or who want to learn. Catholic Charities' Sewing Training Academy is making great progress, but we also need to get the word out to people who would be interested in learning a skill like sewing. There are so many people who are unemployed or underemployed, and we have to get that message to them so they know about the Sewing Training Academy.
And then there's just general education. We need education that's targeted to fashion companies so they understand how to run a business. Most designers start a business because they want to create-- that's the part that excites them. But they don't necessarily know how (or want) to run the actual business side of things.
How would you describe your personal style?
Classic with an edge, maybe? I love to support local designers any chance I get. I've also committed to not buying any more fast fashion. I can't support it, after watching movies like The True Cost -- it's scary what fast fashion does to the communities where clothes are being produced. It's destroying the environment in those communities and workers aren't being paid a fair wage. I certainly do not judge anybody who buys fast fashion; it fills a need for people who need clothes at a very affordable price, I totally get that. But for me, if that means I can't shop as much, I won't shop as much. My goal is to curate a closet filled with quality pieces from Nashville designers.
How would you describe Nashville's style?
I think we're a melting pot of style—what with the college students here, the music industry, a very corporate population like the health care industry. You see everything, you see people in designer suits and people in Imogene + Willie jeans and beat-up boots.
I feel like Nashville is a town that's more casual, but when you tell people to bring it, they bring it.
When you're not working, what are you doing?
Checking out new restaurants, yoga, traveling, which I don't do nearly enough. I work a lot, I'm starting a business. I also work a lot with the NFA, and I serve on the Nashville Opera board.
What's one item in your closet you can't live without?
You know the calculus I'm doing in my head (laughs)! Only one thing? I would say, right now, my Seraphine Design bracelet.
Special thanks to Tabitha Tune for the photos!