Bozeman, Montana native Heidi Ross moved to Nashville 12 years ago, and since then she’s built a portfolio of photography work that you’ve likely seen on album covers, book jackets, or the walls at Third Man Records, which recently hosted Heidi’s ILK: Similars 2004-2016 exhibit. The show, which ran for four days at the end of April, featured the talents of several of Heidi’s friends and subjects: DJ sets by Butterfly Boucher and Club Macho, a visit from the Parnassus Books bookmobile, treats from a Steadfast Coffee Bar, a pop-up bakery by Lisa Donovan, and a gospel brunch with Courtney Jaye, all part of a creative and dynamic community that surrounds Heidi.
We caught up with Heidi, who makes a living in creative strategy and content creation, and learned a little more about her background, her role with the NFA, and her favorite pants. Turns out, sometimes the most interesting person is actually behind the camera.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
My background is in advertising. I started out as a copywriter working for ad agencies in New Orleans after I graduated college with an English literature degree. Eventually I began producing on the visual side as well, first in photography and then graphic design. Now I do creative strategy and content creation. I like to see a project through from concept through execution, whether I'm producing all the components myself or overseeing the process.
How did you get involved with the NFA?
I got involved after meeting Van Tucker, although I already had a number of friends who were either members or on the board. It was such a strong and much-needed organization. I'm a member.
What do you think people should know about our fashion community?
That it's not just about fashion design. It's producers, manufacturers, marketing and branding experts, photographers, programmers, retail specialists, writers, tailors, educators, bankers, attorneys, business consultants ... it's an entire ecosystem.
Do you think Nashville is poised to be a player in the global fashion industry?
Poised, yes. Whether it becomes that or not will depend a lot on the next couple years. Both Nashville and the fashion industry at large are changing significantly and rapidly. In some ways, the traditional infrastructure and model of the fashion industry is no longer sustainable, but there are other models that are, and Nashville is in a good position to support and benefit from that shift. There are already some successful brands located here that make strong case studies — it's a relatively affordable place for designers to live; it's centrally located for manufacturing and production; and it's in the national press and media spotlight constantly now.
However, the rapid growth means that housing and cost of living prices have skyrocketed, and per capita, Nashville spends less on art than cities of comparable size. Those two factors are a big deal for small brands and designers. I hope Nashville can evolve in a way that supports and continues to attract the kind of skill that made it what it is.
What are the biggest barriers and opportunities that the regional fashion industry faces, in your opinion?
Lately, the region is its own biggest barrier. Recent legislation in the south is making it clear that only certain people are welcome and wanted. That directly affects the decisions companies, brands, and individuals make about bringing or starting their businesses here. In terms of opportunity, this could be a chance for Nashville and Tennessee to offer a counterpoint, to provide an example of the thriving, symbiotic economy that exists when art, business, and diversity coincide.
How would you describe your personal style?
Half Georgia O'Keeffe, half Edward Scissorhands.
How would you describe Nashville’s style?
This is tough. I wouldn't describe Nashville in general as being aesthetically interesting in this regard, yet many of the individuals I consider most stylish live here. And they all look distinctly different from each other and anyone else. They're not dressing to be different or to stand out, per se; they're dressing for themselves. And I love that.
When you’re not working, what are you doing?
Reading, or wandering Parnassus finding more things to read.
What’s the one item in your closet that you can’t live without?
The honest truth is my running shoes. They save my sanity. Aside from those, an immaculately fitting pair of trousers by Sophie Simmons. So far, she refuses to make more of them, which would be a good thing if I cared about being the only person wearing them, but I don't. Every woman should own at least one pair. Sophie, I hope you're reading this. Make me more pants!