A Unique Collaboration Between Local Artists and Fashion Designers Opens at Zeitgeist August 4–26
WORDS Elaine Slayton Akin
According to the recent Economic Impact Study from the Nashville Fashion Alliance (NFA), the local fashion industry currently contributes $5.9 billion and 16,200 jobs to the Nashville creative economy and is poised to contribute $9.5 billion and 25,000 jobs by the year 2025. In fact, according to the study, Nashville is home to the “largest per capita concentration of independent fashion companies outside of New York and Los Angeles.”
An April 2017 article titled “Nashville: America’s Next Fashion Capital?” by Business of Fashion—a London- based online journal publishing interviews with the likes of Vogue editor Anna Wintour and former First Lady Michelle Obama—points out Nashville’s unique tie to the fashion world because of our humble country music beginnings.1 “Yoked suiting embroidered with gowns boasting unironic shoulder pads modeled by the community’s biggest crossover stars” have come a long way, now replaced by Nicole Kidman in Alexander McQueen or Reese Witherspoon in her own brand Draper James.
This emerging interest and impressive display of capacity for growth in fashion has caught the attention of Nashville design supporters and appreciators, such as Anna Zeitlin and Hunter Claire Rogers who co- founded Fashion Happening Nashville (FHN) together in 2014. Zeitlin, the milliner behind Fanny & June and the manager at Zeitgeist art gallery, and Rogers, the director for opportunity at the NFA and the fashion blogger behind Rouge-Rogue.com, “started FHN as a way to support local designers with a pop-up-style venue to showcase their work to a broader audience,” says Rogers. “At the time, fashion in Nashville was just starting to take off, and we wanted to provide an artistic platform for all types of designers, not just focusing on apparel or the traditional and sometimes alienating runway show.” As Nashville continues to boom, the need for more creative space is only increasing.
Their fourth project to organize, Wearable Surfaces, opening August 4 with a special preview event at Zeitgeist, features seven collaborations, each with the goal of exhibiting an original garment or accessory from a local fashion designer that incorporates a textile pattern created by a local visual artist. As with their previous events, Zeitlin and Rogers were committed to taking local fashions outside the typical consumer context while conceptualizing this exhibition, focusing more on level of detail and craftsmanship than mere retail value—really viewing fashion as art.
For Zeitgeist, this is the first exhibit to directly examine the art of fashion, although it does fall in line with the gallery’s long history of applied design, including a Memphis-designed furniture show and a Philippe Starck installation, both from the gallery’s Hillsboro Village years. While Zeitgeist specializes in contemporary fine art, “we notice when applied designers working in fashion, furniture, graphics, and architecture are thinking through the same rigorous processes as fine artists,” says Zeitlin, “and we want to bring attention to and celebrate their significant skill.”
Zeitlin and Rogers considered fashion first in organizing Wearable Surfaces. Splitting the curatorial duties down the middle, the FHN co-founders selected a group of seven fashion designers from the Nashville community with a variety of styles—from children’s apparel to high-end accessories—and a healthy mix of new and returning in mind. Then, the co-founders and designers worked together to select artist partners for each collaboration: Project Runway star Amanda Valentine and her husband Will Morgan Holland, a filmmaker and painter; Maria Silver of streetwear line Black by Maria Silver and realist painter Kelly Williams of David Lusk Gallery; handbag designer Ceri Hoover and ceramicist Sarah Cihat; Emily Herron of fashion label Emlee and wallpaper designers Kelly Deihl and Elizabeth Williams of New Hat Projects; menswear designer Eric Adler and landscape painter Megan Lightell; Kate Brown of children’s-wear brand Morton and Mabel and muralist Emily Miller; and Ashley Balding of womenswear brand Ona Rex and photographer Brett Warren.
The collaboration of Ceri Hoover and Sarah Cihat, for example, highlights nature-inspired similarities in their individual styles. Cihat’s most recent work—the Stellar series—is based on galactic space and the gratifying notion of feeling small. Layers of blue, pink, black, and seafoam green porcelain swirl around a circular vessel in a pattern that mimics an astronaut’s view of the earth and underscores earthy tones from Hoover’s marble-print leather Simone handbag. Megan Lightell’s landscape painting, another example, recalls the imagery from collaborator Eric Adler’s recent time in Spain, which was formative to his current work.
“Collaboration between creatives is so important. FHN’s goal is to bring together different players within our creative community so that they can learn from each other,” says Rogers. “Our hope is that the gallery setting will eliminate the pressure to buy, and instead encourage conversation between designers and the public, and between designers and artists,” concludes Zeitlin.
Proceeds from the Wearable Surfaces preview event on August 4 benefit the Sewing Training Academy, a program of Catholic Charities in conjunction with the NFA and Omega Apparel established as a pipeline for jobs in local manufacturing. The exhibition runs through August 26 at Zeitgeist art gallery.
For more information, visit www.zeitgeist-art.com.