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How Nashville Emerged as the Country's Slow Fashion Capital
04-02-16 By Melissa Cantor
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The interior of the recently opened Two Son boutique in Nashville, Tennessee.

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The new Nisolo showroom in the city's Buchanan Arts District.
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Elizabeth Suzann's Nashville studio.
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The Imogene + Willie store in Nashville's 12 South neighborhood. All photos courtesy of brands.

There is, of course, the potential for a Taylor sighting. But these days, the draw of the Music City is as much about its fashion scene than its live acoustic sets, thanks to a growing number of independent brands that are putting down roots in the Tennessee state capital.

Perhaps it’s the city’s vast supply of Instagram-ready lofts (does all Nashville real estate come with a stellar rug)? And there are also the efforts of the recently formed Nashville Fashion Alliance, which was launched via a $100,000 Kickstarter campaign. Whatever the reasons, Nashville is home to an enviable share of sustainable and independent fashion, from artisan-crafted shoes to American-made denim. Below, discover six brands that are making us want to head south for some mindful shopping.

Elizabeth Suzann

elizabeth suzann
At a time when some brands are trumpeting same-day delivery, Elizabeth Suzann asks its customers to wait two to three weeks to receive its made-to-order clothing, bags and shoes. Delaying gratification while each order is “cut, sewn, packed and shipped” seems to be alright with shoppers, though–the company has reported revenue projections of nearly $5 million for 2016. More importantly, the decision to shun speed allows Elizabeth Suzann to focus on quality and creating products that are worth the wait: “Our hope is to return to the days of a minimal, functional wardrobe worthy of care and passing on,” the brand says in its mission statement. “We cut and sew all of our garments locally in our Nashville design studio using only the highest quality, natural fiber cloth.”

Han Starnes

nashville han starnes
With a tightly edited palette that is mostly free of patterns, Han Starnes’ eponymous label doesn’t immediately say “textile designer.” But textiles are indeed at the heart of this Nashville-based brand, which started as a collection of accessories crafted from handspun wool on vintage sewing machines. Today, the selection has evolved into a range of relaxed and timeless womenswear, but with a continued focus on traditional fabric-making techniques. The styles span Alabama-made jersey pieces fashioned from U.S.-grown organic cotton, to heavily textured natural fabrics that are handspun, handwoven and then sewn into garments in Starnes’ Nashville studio. The infinitely layerable black dress above has sold out since this piece was first conceived, but you can still snag yourself a pair of wide-leg white pants made from surplus denim.

Imogene + Willie

nashville imogene willie
Imogene + Willie started with a 3 a.m. email back in 2009, in which founders Matt and Carrie Eddmenson outlined a dream: “We wanted to make something that would last. We wanted to make things in the U.S.A. We wanted to build community.” Seven years later, it is mission accomplished for the couple, whose flagship Nashville boutique–a former gas station–has become a destination for anyone visiting the Music City (the company hosts regular Song and Supper concerts in its backyard). The site is also where the Eddmensons originally cut and sewed their denim, which is still made in America with a focus on process and fit.

Annie Williams

nashville annie williams
Annie Williams’ past is written all over her brand aesthetic. Her campaign images–all long-haired girls lounging in beat-up cars, kicking up dirt on country roads, and leaning on gas-station walls–resemble album covers and hark back to what originally brought Williams to Nashville: a record deal. The rugged sensibility of her Wyoming upbringing, too, comes through in her work. Williams’ minimalist handbag designs highlight the thick leathers she favors, which come from vintage sources or from famed American tannery Horween. The range of sturdy totes, slender wallets and oversized envelope clutches are all made locally in-studio in limited-edition quantities.

Nisolo

nashville nisolo
Most ethical fashion lovers light up at hearing the name Nisolo, a brand that pays premium wages to the skilled Peruvian cobblers that make its shoes, as well as to the Kenyan artisans that craft its new line of jewelry. Though Nisolo’s workshops are located abroad, the design aesthetic is in line with that of its Nashville counterparts: clean lines, a penchant for neutrals or versatile colors, and a visible emphasis on quality craftsmanship.

Two Son

nashville two son
A newcomer to the Nashville fashion scene, Two Son is co-owned by Bleubird blogger James Kicinski-McCoy–a helpful detail that earned it an instant following and even a writeup in Vogue. The boutique stocks Ethica favorites like Ace & Jig and Ryan Roche, but it also boasts a namesake private label of meticulously designed wardrobe staples. Find domestically made denim–a standout is the skinny black “Bird” style–and on-point basics, most notably in the form of vintage-wash box tees.

Melissa Cantor is the co-founder and editor of shopethica.com. A longtime journalist, her writing has been published by New York, CNN, NBC and others.