OZ Arts Nashville | April 3–7
WORDS Karen Parr-Moody
It’s a New York City function for a different sort of place—one that’s country, but isn’t just about cowboy boots and Nudie suits, thank you ma’am. It’s Nashville Fashion Week, now in its eighth year, with many a success under its natty belt, including Andrew Clancey, whose Any Old Iron label is worn by Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, and Ceri Hoover, whose leather handbags are sold in her eponymous store in 12South and far, far beyond.
The shows are back, running from April 3 to 7 in partnership with OZ Arts Nashville in a move that represents a catwalk maturation: It’s the first year all the runway shows will be held at a single location. Sure, it was fascinating to see a variety of fashions in Nashville’s various spaces and places. But all that traveling was a little tough on the Louboutins. There will be no more scurrying all over the city, but many of the events will remain the same, including the Nashville Designer Showcase for designers who have established their names, and the Emerging Designer Showcase, for those who hope to promote their names.
A collaboration of six founders debuted NFW in 2011 and has since thrived under the direction of managing partners and co-founders Connie Cathcart-Richardson and Marcia Masulla, who helm the organization as unpaid volunteers. Naturally, evolution has occurred throughout the years. Masulla says, “Our production value has gone way up with our partnership with OZ Arts Nashville. By working closely with the OZ team and hosting all four runway shows at their beautiful facility, we are able to be more consistent and creative.” To reflect these refined production values, the buzzword for this season is “elevated,” says Cathcart-Richardson.
Nashvillians are known for vocalizing their feelings through music, but within the creative milieu there are those who find that fashion serves as a conduit for creativity. Cathcart-Richardson says that NFW has plugged into that conduit, amplifying it with a Nashvillian flair for friendliness.
“What makes us special is that we really herald the community spirit and the diversity within our creative community,” she says. “When I say that, I’m talking about the types of people who are involved behind the scenes, to the designers, to our audience. At the very beginning, I joked that I would know we were successful when Mrs. Belle Meade was sitting next to the pink-haired, pierced blogger from East Nashville on the front row. And that happens. And that doesn’t happen anywhere else in Nashville very often as a community.”
Another unique aspect of NFW is the Nashville Fashion Forward Fund, an endowed fund that provides an annual financial award to a fashion industry member with ties to Middle Tennessee. With the award, the winner is encouraged to seek professional development opportunities that are experiential in nature.
The fund is entirely supported by NFW ticket sales, and the winner is selected by a committee from the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. Designer Maria Silver of Black by Maria Silver is the 2017 Nashville Fashion Forward Fund recipient. “The Nashville Fashion Forward Fund is a gift,” Cathcart-Richardson says. “It’s why we do this.”
When Cathcart-Richardson jumped into this massive endeavor, there wasn’t anything of its nature happening in Nashville fashion. Now, the group represents “the most colorful, diverse, beautiful group of people,” she says.
“Nashville Fashion Week has been a great way to pull our fashion community together,” she says. “It’s always fresh, it’s always new, and the crowd’s always excited. I look out at our sold-out crowd every night and think, this is a community effort and you’re the community. As long as you’re interested and supporting and buying tickets and designing clothes, we’re going to keep doing this. It’s something that we’re able to give back to our community, and we’re really proud of that.”
For more information on NFW, visit www.nashvillefashionweek.com.