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(Don’t forget to check out Dish again next June for an awesome round-up of “Behind the Scenes: An Accessory Installation Gallery @ Weld” and “City Lights: Ready-to-Wear Runway Showcase @ Legislative Plaza” at NASHVILLE FASHION WEEK 2016: PART TWO!)

Nashville Fashion Week kicked off during the first full week of April, when the weather was on the verge of deciding whether or not we deserved an early spring. Throughout the week, designers from abroad, as well as some familiar local faces, showed their collections at various hot spots and event venues around Music City.

The first night of Fashion Week was dubbed East Meets West: Designer Runway Show. This spectacular evening featured Francesca Marotta, an Italian living in London, easy-going southerner and music lover Brooke Atwood, Project Runway alum Michael Drummond who hails from Missouri, and sophisticated lady Daniella Kallmeyer of her label Kallmeyer New York. Guests entered Studio 615 to first have their photos taken on the red carpet, and then made their way to the bar and runway area.

The small entrance room was then opened up and transformed into an extremely hip space for the after-party. I was delighted to catch up with the designers at the conclusion of the runway shows, to find out more about what inspired their collections, what they think of Nashville's style, and more.

TUESDAY | East Meets West: Designer Runway Show @ Studio 615

Francesca Marotta

Marotta’s European influences were seen in her designs through the regal shapes and colors and luxurious fabrics. With such a commanding collection, I was interested to know  from where she drew her inspiration? Maybe from 19th-century royalty, or the Russian ballet? Actually, Marotta was inspired most by the important women in her life, none of whom were legally royal, but perhaps in her mind they were.

DISH: Do you think of a certain person when you’re designing?

FM: Each collection is different. Each collection we have a different mood. This collection was to say “thank you” to all the women who inspired me in my life, helping me to become the designer I am today.

DISH: And who are they?

FM: Old Hollywood actresses, books I’ve read, writers, women in my life, my mom. Any woman really,  that needs to be embraced for what she’s done for me!"

Francesca Marotta

brooke atwoodBrooke Atwood
During Brooke Atwood’s show there was a very special and noticeable guest watching, her dog! Atwood rescued her four-legged friend, who she calls Hank, about a year ago and has become quite obsessed with him ever since. He now boasts his own Instagram account, and Atwood even used him as a source for one of the prints on her designs. Aside from her new feline bestie, Atwood frequently looks to music for inspiration, which was clearly seen as her punk-rock models casually walked the runway in dirty Chuck Taylor’s and loose, flowing hair.

DISH: With your collection I got kind of a renegade girl feel, with dirty Converse sneaks and loose hair, kind of free-willed. Where did you draw your inspiration from?

BA: Yes, well, I’m always inspired by music. Every collection is from music because I’m a big music fan. I like pretty much all genres of music except Pop Country. Two years ago when I showed in Nashville it was based on old school country music and this one, I think you can probably tell, is a little punk, so I wanted to put a little modernism, a little girly aspect into the punk girl now. Not like from the 80s, it’s kind of disheveled. I wanted this punk girl to be pretty. She could actually work and wear these outfits.

DISH: How has your design style changed over the years and what do you think influences that?

BA: As far as designing, of course, everything evolves and styles change. I think at first as a new designer, a lot of times you go in and think you gotta reinvent the wheel, you gotta do this crazy thing. I think I’m finally trying to reel it in and find my niche as a designer that can cater to the normal. Not normal, I shouldn’t say normal. Like, the everyday working girl, downtown chic girl, who has a major edge to her. It’s a fine line that I think I’m trying to find. Like, the pants were kind of funky but if you put a simple shirt with them, then it goes together. When I was designing three years ago it was like, crazy, all over the place, but it’s more coherent now.

Michael DrummondMichael Drummond
If I hadn’t already known who Michael Drummond was before seeing his runway collection, I wouldn’t have believed that he had actually designed it. Drummond comes across as enthusiastic, funny, and personable, but his personality is a far cry from his dark dresses printed with images of ominous storms and the female form in beautiful, yet vulnerable poses. So, of course, I had to ask him where his dark side  comes from.

DISH: I noticed that your Twitter handle is Xes4Eyes, and you had a collection at one time called The Exquisite Corpse. Is death something you draw on a lot for inspiration? What is it that intrigues you about that topic?

MD: Naturally, because of survival of the fittest, we are naturally prone to being a little bit afraid of death. But I’m more intrigued more in a spiritual way, what do we transfer, blah blah blah. Xes4Eyes is a joke about cartoons, when they die they get the little X’s. I’ve always been drawn to the darker side of things, but I think if you were to get to know me and have coffee,I think you’d be like, “Oh, you’re a light-hearted guy”.

DISH: I can tell already!

MD: I used to work with this dancer, I did her costuming, and we were working on a piece and she was like, “This is so dark, and I’m such a light hearted person,” and I’m like, “Honey, it’s called an outlet. Embrace it. Ying and the yang."

DISH: What do you think of the style here in Nashville?

MD: Amazing. You’re beautiful people. We went to Barista Parlor and come on, this town is ridiculous. I was scoping out the audience, and everyone is beautiful looking, with looks they really put effort and thought into. It’s very nice to see!


Kallmeyer New York
Daniella Kallmeyer closed night one with her collection, Kallmeyer New York. She designs for strong, smart, confident women, and her pieces easily transfer from the boardroom to aperitif hour.  

Kallmeyer was also given the opportunity to show last spring at the most prestigious New York Fashion Week after being featured as an emerging Designer of the Year by Cosmopolitan Magazine.

DISH: With this collection, I thought it was really versatile and really travel friendly. Is that something you thought about while designing it? 

New YorkDK: Absolutely. A lot of the fabrics are viscose, they’re not silk. They wash easily, and they can be rolled up in a ball, and still come out unwrinkled. Things are very transformative. My knit dresses, you can take them on vacation with you and wear them walking down the street and shopping, as much as you can wear them to go out to a nice dinner, as much as you can take it back home with you and wear it to work, wear it on a date or any of that.

DISH: How much do you look at trends vs what you want to design yourself?

DK: I’m always aware of trends, I think it’s important to be aware of what other people are doing and what other people want, but I really don’t consider trends when I’m designing a new collection! My collection is really meant to exist in a woman’s wardrobe for years, but fashion is so fleeting right now. Designing for one season based on one particular trend is so wasteful, and I’d like to add that I’m not trying to add waste to the planet!

The next night at the trendy Track One, a large space that was constructed in 1924 and was once a “feed and seed” warehouse for farming communities, several more Nashville designers got to show their collections, many of which were not surprisingly inspired by music!

| Nashville Designer Runway Showcase @ Track One

RoxenstoneRoxenstone, a Swedish born designer now living in Nashville, used her experience of living life as part of a rock band to create looks that were slightly disheveled yet expensive looking, the absolutely perfect combination for any Rock God in the making! Models in the menswear collection channelled on-the-road musicians, wearing distressed denim, one-of-a-kind blazers, and bare feet. 

DISH: Can you tell me a little bit about what inspired you for this collection?

RS: Rock music. Yea.

DISH: Who do you listen to when you want to feel inspired?

RS: I listen to audiobooks. I was actually listening to The Godfather. Yes, and The Sicilian,  believe it or not.

DISH: Do you look at trends when designing or is it solely whatever you dream up yourself?

RS: I do kind of look at what artists wear, musicians. I get inspired by the old fashion, the rockers from back in the day.

DISH: What’s your favorite decade?

RS: Probably 70’s.

DISH: If you could dress one musician from any time, who would you want to be wearing your clothes?

RS: Keith Richards, but the young one. Not the pirate Keith Richards, the rocker Keith Richards.

Sisters of Nature
Sisters of Nature showed bohemian, girly looks that were absolutely made for music festivals. The favorite look of many was white lace, long-sleeved crop tops paired with flared overalls, platform shoes, and a braided crown hairstyle. The storefront, located in East Nashville, includes American made clothing and fair trade goods that are one with the earth. Their online shopping experience divides clothing styles into four categories: forest, desert, field and sea.

Any Old Iron

Old IronAny Old Iron first opened in New York City five years ago, specializing in selling rare and UK-specific menswear and womenswear. In October of last year, the shop relocated to Music City. Interestingly, the store also carries English groceries, so you can stock up on your favorite foreign snacks and rockstar-worthy duds in one go. At AOI’s first runway show, the male models appeared with bruises and black eyes, as though they were all in a giant fistfight backstage just moments before the show. Female models were given colorful wigs that complimented the edgy looks. The line, aimed at dressing musicians, or anyone else who’s got a big dose of inner rockstar in them, featured glam blazers, vintage inspired tees, and of course, lots of black.

DISH:Loved your show. The guys looked like they were in a bar fight.

AC: They were all in a big fight backstage just beforehand.

DISH: How did that happen? What were they fighting about?

AC: Some of them was were was it Trump or Sanders, so it just went off behind there, and then I got involved. It was awful but we made it through.  

DISH: Obviously, the line looked like it was very influenced by music. Who are some of your favorites to listen to to feel inspired or while you’re designing?

AC: Everything, really, Sex Pistols, Clash. Black Keyes, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, it’s kind of like a new wave, kind of punk-y, like heavy metal. It was definitely a music inspired collection because in England that’s how we dress.

DISH: How many of you (Brits) are there here now? Is there a large community?

AC: I have a store in East Nashville now, we sell English groceries as well, sounds really weird I know, all English labels. So, all the Brits come to me and it’s probably like, I know about 200 Brits and there’s a lot of work in the music industry. We are invading, again, very slowly.

DISH: What’s been the most exciting part of your design career so far?

Any Old Iron

AC: Well, this is my first collection. It’s like 20 years of designing one of a kind jackets, and working with celebrities as a celebrity stylist. So, to put everything together, and have actually 20 designs, and also the sourcing of the fabric was probably the most exciting part. This is from Tokyo, this is from Hong Kong, this is from Vietnam, from Bangkok and New York. And Nashville as well. The last looks with the sequins that were the green and the black that change color, from Nashville.

Truly AlvarengaTruly Alvarenga
Truly Alvarenga of Pink Elephants was recently living in the Northeast but is excited to make the move back to her beloved city of Nashville. She also just returned recently from an inspiring trip to China, where she was seen in ladylike silhouettes covered with fun prints, and always infused with her signature punk-princess attitude. She’d love to see Gwen Stefani or Emily Browning in her designs (Gwen, need any tour outfits? We know you visit Nashville with Blake Shelton, anyway…). And if she wasn’t designing clothing, she might be designing your sink!

TA: Ok, I have a lifelong dream of designing sinks and faucets for Kohler. Kohler, if you’re listening, I want to work for you.

DISH: What would that look like?

TA: Well, Kohler every year has these beautiful hand painted sinks. So, they have specialty faucets that have specialty handles. I remodel homes in the summer so that’s a bit of a hobby of mine. So beautiful fixtures in houses, it’s the same way as you're decorating a dress, you’re decorating a living space, making it very special. 

DISH: Your collections have that signature tough but girly, punk-princess feel. What inspired this particular collection?

TA: This year, it was based off of a trip that I took to China. I was so inspired by how strong and beautiful and confident the women are there. They do everything with grace. And they do it with style. I went to a factory to see how the garments are made and everything and all the girls were dressed gorgeously in heels. It’s such a strength for beauty and style that I just wanted to capture through my collection.

DISH: Yea, I saw it with the prints. You played a lot with prints and also with the backs of everything. Everything in the back was gorgeous. Was that something you set out to do from the beginning, make all the backs  of the outfits interesting? Or did it just happen?

TA: I feel like we’ve fallen short in fashion recently where we decorate the front of an outfit but we miss that goodbye. That small over the shoulder, the walking out of the room, that women have and that attention that they grab, and I love that aspect. So I wanted to have that so when you have that goodbye with someone and you peek over your shoulder, you know that they’re admiring what you’re wearing, and you as a person. The lasting impression is really all that matters!

TrulyDISH: If you were going to talk to an emerging designer, someone just starting out, what’s the most important thing that you’ve learned that keeps you motivated, and would help them in the long run?

TA: The journey is always going to be hard, keeping that in mind is paramount but knowing that, if you know your craft, you learn it well and you do the work, it’s always going to pay off.

DISH: Oh, and who are you wearing and what are you wearing?

TA: I’m wearing me, and then I have a vintage WWII lieutenant's jacket. And it’s kind of sad because the bars on it are 25 years of service, and she only made it to lieutenant, so hat’s off to her for working that long in the service, and only making it that far.

Ona Rex
Ona RexThis year marked the second year of Ona Rex showing at NFW, and the designer was ready to take more risks with her newest collection. Rex played with the proportions of her feminine silhouettes and introduced color in different ways, as with a bright yellow stocking, or a purple fur stole. She’s also excited about platform sneakers, and was wearing some pretty cool ones on her big night. She got them at NastyGal, an online shop she goes to frequently to find trendy shoes. As she shares the same color of ginger locks as myself, I couldn’t help but ask how that plays into her design process.

DISH: To a fellow redhead, we know there are certain colors and things that look good on us. Do you feel like you design things that you would want to wear, that would look good on you?

OR: I don’t really think about myself when I’m designing. I love color. Everything I do always comes down to color. I feel like I just have always had a sense of it because of dressing maybe my skin and hair. So, I think that I got a lot of practice from that so I really like to play with complimentary colors and finding what supports another color.

DISH: How was the designing process for this collection different from last year's? 

OR: I think that I’m always trying to push myself to be braver. Even looking back last year with fashion week, I was so happy with my collection, but now I’m like, oh, it was so safe. I’m always trying to be a little bit more bold and push people’s boundaries. I can see that progression and that’s fun.

Ona RexOna

Amanda Valentine
Valentine has become a Project Runway All Star. She finished in second place on the 13th season, and has since been able to grow her audience in ways she couldn’t have, before reality TV fame, She’s also managed to stay friends with Tim Gunn! Her collection this season gave off a slightly nomadic vibe, with leather mini skirts, cropped vests, serape capes and flowing maxi dresses. There also was one black and white print on several garments, that I could not quite make out. Upon further research, I discovered it was a character of Valentine’s own creation, dubbed “Frank the Psychedelic Yeti. It will be exciting to see how Valentine’s collections grow and change with her career, and we are glad she’s decided to (still) call Nashville home!

Second Reminder! Don't forget to Check back next month for an awesome round-up of “Behind the Scenes: An Accessory Installation Gallery @ Weld” and “City Lights: Ready-to-Wear Runway Showcase @ Legislative Plaza” at NASHVILLE FASHION WEEK 2016: PART TWO! / Issue 180 - September 2018
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