Thursday, September 27, 2012

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

Posted By on Thu, Sep 27, 2012 at 3:45 PM

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  • Photo by Will Holland

Today's nD Fest countdown interview is with local designer Amanda Valentine of Valentine Valentine. You may remember her from her awesome Nashville Fashion Week 2012 show, and Laura Hutson just did a studio visit with her, which you can read about here. Her lovely peplum top is featured on the cover of this week's Scene, and you'll spy her gorgeous tunic and leggings in the corresponding style spread in the magazine.

Valentine, who hails from Lincoln, Nebraska, has lived in Nashville for six years. When she's not working on Valentine Valentine, she works as a wardrobe stylist.

Country Life: How long have you worked in the local fashion industry?
Amanda Valentine: The whole time I’ve been here — six years! When I first moved to Nashville I co-owned Local Honey with Shea Steele for about a year, then worked managing local boutique Two Elle and retailer American Apparel. After leaving retail, I dove back into styling (which I did when I lived in Los Angeles). I was also designing the entire time, whenever I got a free moment!

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?
AV: As far as styling goes, the longer you work, the better your opportunities get. Although that’s a universal idea, I think Nashville has definitely grown as a hub for production and music, and therefore styling work for me!

As far as opportunities for a designer — that is such an individual struggle! Anything I want to accomplish as a designer, I have to figure out on my own. I’ve accepted that because I chose to live in Nashville and not NYC or LA.

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  • Photo:Michael W. Bunch, Model: Esseri Holmes, Art Director: Elizabeth Jones, Hair & Makeup: Betsy Briggs Cathcart, Studio BBC

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?
AV: I personally don’t believe there IS a fashion industry in Nashville. There is a fashion community, for sure, but not an industry. As a designer, my biggest struggle is finding supplies and infrastructure to support my production.

Right now, I have to travel to New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles to buy fabric — at the cost and quantity I need — and frankly, that’s a step in my production process I can’t REALLY afford. My line is totally self-funded, and it is a struggle — to say the least — to put it all together. But again, I’m not expecting Nashville to be New York. I made a choice to leave a big city (Los Angeles) and I accept my tradeoffs. I don’t have what New York designers have at their fingertips, but I get to live in an affordable, beautiful city.

CL: What is the biggest complaint you hear about Nashville’s fashion community?
AV: I can’t say that I hear a lot of complaints! I think the community is still too young. I think it will mature and get a little more diverse. We are still in the early days!

CL: Alternately, what is the best thing about Nashville’s fashion community?
AV: When there isn’t a framework of industry or lengthy history to emulate or pay homage to, designers are free to just make what they make.

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? What would keep you here in Nashville?
AV: I used to live in Los Angeles, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time in New York. Those cities are not my home. Love to visit, would hate to live.

But what I love about “being a designer in Nashville” is getting to do things MY way. There is no guidebook, no examples of what I do here, so that means I get to make the rules. I am inventing my career day by day, and that’s exciting to me.

CL: What is the biggest misperception that outsiders have about the Nashville fashion scene?
AV: I think as more and more designers emerge from the south, people will see we don’t all do the same thing. There is a “look” associated with Nashville that doesn’t totally represent all the artists here. The misperception of Nashville fashion is that it is not diverse, innovative or fashion forward. Let’s prove them wrong!

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