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You may think of Nashville, TN as  Music City, which as you all know, it certainly is. Although country music is definitely king in these parts, pop stars of all ages and Ona Rex by Ashley Baldinggenres are now making their homes here as well. In fact, the other night, me and a group of my friends actually encountered  Steven Tyler of Aerosmith at a local hang out, and he came over and actually sat himself down and joined our party! Now, that’s Music City for you! But wait, hold your horses! There’s more.....

It’s called Nashville Fashion Week, which happened this year from April 7-11, and featured many amazing fashion shows, shopping spree experiences, accessory showcases, jewelry extravaganzas and so much more than you might imagine. Here’s a rundown of some of the best fashion events of 2015’s season, showcasing the many designers,artists, stylists,  and sexy models both male and female, that are quickly turning Music City into Fashion & Style City, as well.

The first night of Nashville Fashion Week was held at the very Nashville location of Van Hoang Designs by Van HoangAcme Feed and Seed on downtown Broadway on Tuesday, April 7. Seven local designers were featured in the Nashville Designer Showcase, held on the third floor. Nigel Barker, a photographer known to most by his work with Tyra Banks on America’s Next Top Model, watched the show from the front row; he was at the Loews Vanderbilt hotel earlier that day for a signing of his new book, Models of Influence.  

Ola Mai by Leslie StephensThe first line to show was Ona Rex by Ashley Balding, which was launched just a year ago. It seemed as if Balding had stolen our grandmother’s yarn basket and whipped up some wonderfully mod and playful knits; frayed hems created interest in her colorful separates. Second to show was Van Hoang of Van Hoang Designs. One would never guess that the designer had just come back after taking a break in fashion, and that this was her first time showing in NFW. The collection, inspired by minimalism and architecture, was filled with mostly white pieces that were just begging for a summer night out, with sexy cuts, flowing silhouettes, and sheer paneling. Then, Donovan’s “Season of the Witch” played as 60’s bombshells walked the catwalk in Ola Mai by Leslie Stephens; mini dresses, bell sleeves, paisley skirts and giant round sunglasses brought us back a few decades. 

Pink Elephant by Truly AlvarengaTruly Alvarenga. Pink Elephant DesignsNext on the runway was a well-loved veteran, Pink Elephant Designs by Truly Alvarenga. Alvarenga always brings a level of excitement and a certain bad-girl effect to the runway, andPink Elephant by Truly Alvarenga this year her punk-influenced designs fused with romance didn’t disappoint. The spunky designer visited London in October to draw inspiration for the theme of her collection, as she further explained, “It was King Henry VIII's Tudor court and the romance he had with all the wives. Hence, the clocks, how short of a time they all had. All the graphics on the shirts were the last remaining crests of
King Henry and Anne
Boleyn in Hampton Court.”               

                                                                                                                Pictured is Dylan Stephens

Dylan Stephens wearing Pink Elephant Designs by Truly AlverengaBlack by Maria Silver was the next presentation to wow the crowd. The vibe was relaxed with an air of sophistication, Black by Maria Silveras seen in one look that paired a low-cut, slouchy peachy-pink jumpsuit with a dark fur stole. Androgynous model Maria Silver. Black Fashion Design.Dylan Stephens walked multiple runways, equally rocking both mens and womens pieces, but expressed his fondness over his opening outfit for Silver, saying, “We were like super spies. It was like Charlie's Angels meets Bond girls, but it was like, in the Dominican Republic, so it was
really badass.”

Hot on the heels of a Marc by Marc Jacobs campaign, which ran internationally, Stephens has a lot going for him right now. But the most exciting part about NFW for him so far? He shared, “Honestly, it’s that they gave us pizza today and it was really good. So, it was just fun to hang out with all the girls.”

The night closed with none other than Valentine Valentine by Amanda Valentine, who filmed season 13 of Project Valentine Valentine by Amanda ValentineRunway last   summer. She also got to show at New York Fashion Week  in the fall, and has since been working hard on building her brand. Her models rocked large afro wigs and smartly color-blocked maxi dresses and wide-leg jumpsuits. Since so many designers showed Valentine Valentin by Amanda Valentine70s-inspired Amanda Valentine. Valentine Valentine Designs.trends on the New York Fashion Week runways this spring, I asked if that had any influence on her collection. Valentine replied, “I’m always pretty 70’s, but I do like to be on trend and try and pay attention. Definitely, every season will be a little bit 70’s. That’s my thing.”

The remainder of runway shows took place during the Ready-To-Wear Runway Showcase at the Bicentennial Mall Amphitheatre on Friday, April 10. The event was a truly unique experience for both viewers and those walking the runway. Models entered from stage left, stopped in the middle for photos, and then exited stage right, so that everyone got to see the designs from all angles. 

First to show was Megan Huntz, who is based out of Atlanta. Her collection featured many versatile and work-appropriate pieces such as shift dresses and suits in earthy tones, simple silhouettes, and longMegan Hunt hemlines. Huntz explained her design process, saying, “I lived in Italy and Spain for many years. I did my master’s in fashion in Milan and then I worked in the denim Megan Huntzindustry for about five years there, so I have a very Italian approach to what I make and stylistically it’s very day-to-evening and very transitional. It’s very seasonless. Over there there’s much more a mentality of, buy an investment piece, wear it as much as you possibly can. Maybe you change a heel, maybe you change your jewelry, but you have the same dress. You can wear it all times of the year and you can wear it day to night.”

Alfredo Bove, representing UK brand Religion, seemed to be in agreement, as he is from Italy himself. When asked what is the one essential item a woman should have in her wardrobe, he answered, “I think, the simple is the best for me, but sometimes it’s nice to spice it up and to make an accent, to be specific. Maybe it sounds controversial, but I think it’s easier to categorize an outfit with accessory rather than the clothing itself. But, it all depends.”

The European club-culture-influenced line was filled with cool graphic tees, black fringe-lined leggings, leather jackets, and edgy dresses. The line, established in the UK in the early 90’s, is all about no fear of expression, inspired by the young, controversial, up-and-coming crowd of East London. It also showcased several menswear looks worthy of touring with any hot British rock band.

Lagi NadeauNext to show was NFW three-year vet Lagi Nadeau. Nadeau is half Samoan, and was inspired by the beautiful landscapes, tapa cloth, and traditional tattoos from Samoa, but especially by her grandparents. This was evidenced in her use of gorgeous fabrics, expert mix of textures, and deep, earthy hues. What else has Nadeau been up to besides creating this most recent collection? The designer shared, “This year’s already started off to an incredible start. I just came back from Nairobi in Kenya. I did this partnership with Heshima in Kenya where I worked with refugee girls on producing this jewelry collection which, all the proceeds from the sales go towards helping them and encouraging other refugee girls, supporting them. I think it was an incredible experience to see how they go out to their communities to create this social change. I’m really excited for the rest of this year.”

Timo WeilandTimo WeilandClosing out NFW runway shows was Timo Weiland, a former Tennessee resident now living in New York City. Weiland works with his two friends and collaborators, Alan Eckstein and Donna Kang. The collection the trio created was both funky and functional, interpreting classic prints and styles in cool, new ways. From the opening look, where a chunky knit beanie and round sunglasses accented an oversized turtleneck sweater and ladylike a-line floral skirt, to a two piece look comprised of a crop top and high waisted pencil skirt in contrasting black and white pinstripes, it was everything an It-girl would want in her closet. Weiland commented on the label’s signature mix of styles, saying, “It’s definitely this modern femininity that we always like, that’s kind of our crux. There’s definitely masculine references, but it’s always still very strong and feminine.”

Check out “Nashville Fashion Week 2015, PART TWO: MENSWEAR! In the upcoming June, 2015 issue of Dish! / Issue 169 - March 2018
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