Countdown to nD Fest: What it's Really Like To Be a Stylist in Nashville

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Today's nD Fest countdown spotlights Milton White, local fashion/celebrity/wardrobe stylist, jobs he says are all different and often confused. White (no relation, although he is one of my favorite Nashvillians) is also a fashion show producer and proud uncle to 13 gorgeous nieces, which he says is his favorite job. Aw.

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Country Life: How long have you worked in the local fashion industry?
Milton White: I worked in Nashville before living here again. I lived in the Washington DC area, and I used to produce the fashion shows for The Mall at Green Hills. Castner Knott was still Castner Knott. Melrose Place was on the air. Initially, when I moved back here, I mostly worked in New York. Go figure.

CL: Do you feel that there are more opportunities for the type of work that you do now compared to when you first started out?
MW: Absolutely! The climate of retail here is so different — it has grown tremendously. The design community is very talented and, thankfully, is nurtured more than it was. I am delighted that our local designers and labels like Jamie And The Jones, Prophetik (Jeff Garner), Leona Collection (Lauren Leonard), Manny Cuevas, Charles Lord, Olia Zavozina, Black by Maria Silver (Poni Silver) and Valentine Valentine (Amanda Valentine) are receiving recognition. I try to pull from them as often as I can both for editorial as well as red carpet. As celebrity culture here has changed, the need for talented and knowledgeable stylists has grown.

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CL: What do you think is the hardest thing about or the biggest barrier to working in the fashion industry in Nashville? What would need to happen to overcome this?
MW: People’s mindsets. So sick of hearing that they are going to make Nashville fashionable — it already is. Also sick of hearing that they are going to make it the third coast. Nashville isn’t New York or Los Angeles — it's not a bad thing at all. We don’t have the [fashion] resources and industry that New York does. I loved working there, but love what I have here.

I wasn’t happy living here and working here until I stopped comparing Nashville to every other place I lived and worked.

CL: What is the biggest complaint you hear about Nashville’s fashion community?
MW: Honestly? I have heard that it’s small, cliquish and there is too much inexperience. I think every town is a small town once you get to know everybody. As physically large as New York is, everybody in fashion knew each other, just like any small town.

As for inexperience, I think it benefits any serious professional to work under someone that knows more than you do whether you are a designer, stylist, buyer, model or retailer. There are so many things I have done and been exposed to, I love sharing that with others. On the flip side, there are things I don’t know, and love working with someone with a wealth of knowledge to share.

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CL: Alternately, what is the best thing about Nashville’s fashion community?
MW: The raw talent, drive and individual style of the city itself as well as its fashion leaders. Also, its diversity. I attended many of the events connected to the Golden Age of Couture exhibit at The Frist. Jane Dudley and Claire Armistead would be there as were several fashion (and probably non-fashion) students and everything in between. They were all so different, and yet had one common interest: fashion.

CL: Do you feel that, at some point in your career, that you’d want or need to move to a larger market such as L.A. or NYC to explore more work opportunities?
MW: I may, but I’ve done that. I loved it but I make it work wherever I am. Talent and style don’t reside in a single zip code, except of course the one that I give it. What would keep me here in Nashville? Family, friends and fashion. On a professional level, I have fantastic clients here that allow me to do what I do best. I love what I do and have a tremendous amount of creative freedom. Nashville’s wonderful. ABC is doing a show about Nashville, why would I want to go anywhere else?

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CL: What is the biggest misperception that outsiders have about the Nashville fashion scene?
MW: That there isn’t one, or that its all blinged out denim and cowboy boots. That has its place, but there’s so much more. We have local fashion designers, labels, brands and retailers that evolve stylistically. Most of which are always on trend, and many — I am proud to say — are ahead of curve.


Photography: Amy Phillips/Eye Photography
Fashion and Style Director: Milton White/The Fashion Office
Hair & Makeup: Betsy Briggs-Cathcart/Studio BBC
Styling Assistant: Tyler Minor/The Fashion Office
Model: Leona Watson/Amax

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