Nashville Fashion Week, Panel 3: Southern Fashion Now

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The big news in the third fashion industry panel is that Jamie and the Jones are breaking up! The winners of last year's nD Festival emerging designer competition, subjects of this year's Scene People Issue — and my personal hair icons — announced that they're going on hiatus during yesterday's panel on Southern fashion at The Frist. But there were other discussions had, and no one seemed convinced that Hannah and Jamie were gone for good.

The topic broached was Southern fashion — if it's even a thing, and what it means if it is. The overall consensus was that there's no real "Southern" fashion, but that there is a trend toward American fashion, artisan fashion, grassroots boutiques, and slow pacing — and all of those ideas also happen to be nurtured in the South. Matt and Carrie Eddmunson of Imogene + Willie spoke about their business development, how they began by making 250 pairs of jeans for friends who bought them for $100 each, how they had nothing more than unemployment checks in the beginning, and how they quit buying papers and watching TV when they were starting out (in 2008, at the height of the economic crisis) as a way to keep out negative ideas.

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Paris-based fashion journalist Dana Thomas brought a wealth of knowledge to the discussion, having worked in fashion since the mid-nineties and publishing her work in New York Times bestselling books (Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster) and in Wall Street Journal's monthly magazine. She was bright but extremely blunt, so when she said things like, "The next movement is going to be a backlash against the Internet," you really, seriously believe her. She also said that, in fashion, a similar return to the handmade was on the horizon, and Nashville is well-situated for that kind of counter-movement.

A recurring idea throughout the panels (I missed the second one, but Libby Callaway pointed out that it had repeated) was that fashion is following in the footsteps of the slow-food movement. People are gravitating away from the mass produced in all areas of life, and it's becoming more widely accepted that people will pay more when they know they're buying a quality product, and that they're supporting their local economy and not some international marketing campaign.

I left the discussion feeling filled up — like I'd gotten a good dose of creative ammunition. Here's hoping there will be more like it in the future. I can't imagine a better way for Nashville to pave our own way in the fashion world than by creative summits like these.

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