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Is Nashville the Next American Fashion Capital?

A new report claims that the Southern city has the largest per capita concentration of fashion companies after NYC and LA.
nisolo shoes

Nashville-based brands like Nisolo are on the rise. Photo: Nisolo

The American fashion industry has long revolved around New York, with Los Angeles becoming an increasingly important second. But Nashville may be poised to join the ranks of these coastal cities as a key player in the industry: According to a new report released on Wednesday, the town best known for its honky-tonks has the highest concentration of fashion companies per capita after New York and Los Angeles.

Produced by the Nashville Fashion Alliance (NFA) trade organization in partnership with the Zurich-based Gherzi Textil Organisation, the study evaluates the economic growth and potential of the Nashville fashion industry based on data from the past few years. Yes, the report was underwritten by entities like the NFA that have a clear stake in Nashville being perceived as a growing fashion destination, but it presents data that makes a compelling case for the city's potential to become a serious fashion force.

"Nashville enjoys a number of the key success factors needed to become a regional fashion player," claims Karim Shafei, an international partner at Gherzi. "The sector has experienced phenomenal growth over the past five years and has the potential to double in the coming eight to ten years to reach over nine billion dollars in total economic impact."

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With a low cost of living, a convergence of creatives drawn by the music industry, a less-saturated fashion scene than NYC or LA and an economy that's grown at almost twice the rate of the national average over the past year, it makes sense that Nashville would be ripe for significant growth. And while some New Yorkers and Angelenos may scoff at Tennessee as a flyover state, its central location places it within a day's drive of major markets that possess 70 percent of the nation's buying power.

If the NFA is serious about the claims made in the report, Nashville's ascendency could be a good thing from an environmental and labor ethics perspective, too. "Another of the region's key advantages is that we're starting with a relatively clean sheet of paper," explains Van Tucker, NFA CEO. "Consumers [increasingly] demand environmental and social responsibility, responsiveness and a more direct relationship with brands. We intend to lead and create lasting value in this climate."

So will Nashville be the next city that major designers start cheating on NYFW for? Maybe not immediately, but we wouldn't be surprised if the Southern hub starts to rise on the fashion radar over time. Who knows, maybe we'll start seeing more un-ironic cowboy hats in the front row, too.

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