Travel for Ethical Fashion in Nashville
Last June, I had the opportunity to travel west from Richmond to Nashville, Tennessee. The Southern city has always had a reputation for music, honky-tonk, excellent food and beautiful neighborhoods, but did you also know that the city is home to a few dozen ethical fashion brands?
There are many many brands that have founded and planted their homes right in the Southern city. Myself and a few friends from Richmond’s Ethical Style Collective, took some time off to travel and visit a few of these shops to discover what they're up to in their home town of Nashville, Tennessee.
ETHICAL FASHION IN NASHVILLE
The brands that call Nashville home are working towards bettering the fashion industry in unique ways, whether through ethical production in countries like Peru and Ecuador or handmade responsibly sourced leather (used as a by-product of the meat industry). Each brand has a story to tell and a distinct impact in their communities.
While visiting for a week last summer, we set up appointments with a few of our favorite brands - Peter Nappi, Nisolo, Ceri Hoover, BRANDED Collective, Jamie and the Jones and ABLE. At each appointment we were met with open conversation about the company’s roles and impact in their specific avenues within the fashion industry. We heard stories about how the companies were challenging manufacturing, working with factories overseas to better labor standards, or just simple ways the brands were working towards bettering their standards of transparency to be an example to others.
In between appointments, we made some stops at a few other notable favorites - Imogene and Willie, Consider the Wldflwrs and a few others. With a notable mention that customer favorite, Elizabeth Suzann is also located here but was going through factory renovations and therefore we couldn’t stop by (but the brand is worth checking out!).
brands & shops
Nisolo - a personal favorite, Nisolo partners with artisans to create leather shoes, bags and accessories in neutral color schemes for both men and women. This is a brand I would definitely recommend taking a visit to their storefront - you’ll be impressed by their shoe comfort and quality!
Consider the Wldflwrs - creating fine jewelry, design and restoring pieces, Consider the Wldflwrs makes beautiful collection pieces for every day wear as well as wedding and engagements. The shop is a fun one to pop in and check out - and it’s just down the path from Nisolo!
Imogene and Willie - Located at the famous 21 South neighborhood, this brand is know for their denim. High quality, ethically made and just simply a cool experience walking into their store that is a renovated gas station from the 1900’s. Try on a pair of their 100% cotton jeans and you’ll be impressed!
Whites Mercantile - Another shop that was renovated from a historical building at 21 South, this shop sells an array of brands and products for all you could wish for - home goods, beauty, clothing, gifts, books, etc.
Ceri Hoover - a high end boutique focusing on ethically made and small batch leather shoes and bags, Ceri Hoover provides a beautiful, elevated style for every day pieces. Their shop is located at 12 South across from Whites Mercantile and continues to improve sourcing, production and reusing leather scraps for goods to prevent waste.
Lemon Laine - this shop is full of clean beauty products and brands focusing on skincare, wellness, haircare and more. The staff will give you all the insight you need for products that are right for you. Plus it helps the shop is a fun experience!
ABLE - a growing women’s fashion brand, ABLE has a storefront where you’ll find clothing, leather goods, shoes and jewelry. They are a personal favorite brand for what they’re doing in the industry for ethical standards and awareness around who makes our clothes around the world with their Publish Your Wages campaign.
BRANDED Collective - This jewelry brand is based in Nashville but wholesales their product to stores around the city. Partnering with the End Slavery Tennessee non-profit, the brand employs survivors of human trafficking and creates jobs to empower those survivors through meaningful work and economic independence.
Jamie and the Jones - Although the brand does not have a storefront, Jamie and the Jones is creating small batch, colorful, staple pieces and are working towards continuing to improve their production standards to ethically source materials and focus on textile waste within their production facility.
Elizabeth Suzann - Paving a unique way in the fashion industry, this brand is making minimal pieces for women that are easy to wear for all activities of life. Made from ethically sources materials, each silhouette and product is hand made in their production facility in Nashville. Although investment pieces, these items are high quality and truly will last. And the brand is a fun one to follow along with on Instagram at @elizsuzann.
Second hand shops
Scattered all over the city in each neighborhood are wonderful vintage and consignment shops. We visited a few although there are so many more to discover.
EAT, DRINK & EXPLORE
There are many neighborhoods to explore around the city that hold unique shops, restaurants and activities, giving every neighborhood individual character and charm. We were able to explore a few like 12 South, Germantown, The Gulch, East Nashville and Bellemont - even though there are so many others like the Vanderbilt area, Centennial Park, Green Hills, etc to explore. And like any good tourist, we had to pop into all the food spots in each area of town! Here are a few recommendations -
Butcher and Bee - Perfect for a nice, sit down dinner with “New American fare” style food and amazing cocktails. The restaurant has great appetizers to share including a house made hummus that is highly recommended.
Cafe at Thistle Farms - Located in West Nashville, this was one of my favorite stops on the trip. The cafe sources their food and ingredients locally and is part of the Thistle Farm’s social enterprise “which heals, empowers, and employs women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction.” We were able to attend a tour of the Farm (which they do multiple times a week) and learn more about the organization. The Farm and Cafe are doing amazing things for the people of this city!
Cafe Roze - A great spot for a drink or meal in East Nashville - Cafe Rose is a small and trendy spot located near an array of vintage and other shops.
Barista Parlor - There are 3 locations in the Gulch, East Nashville and Germantown neighborhoods. It’s a perfect spot to pop in, grab a great coffee with friends and even work remotely if that’s what you’re there for.
Frothy Monkey - Another popular coffee shop with multiple locations, Frothy Monkey is a fun, eclectic spot for food, great coffee and a place to meet with others.
Crema - This shop is located downtown close by Pinewood Social (the famous boutique bowling spot) and Country Music Hall of Fame (which is a fun stop to check out the old printing press for concert posters).
Mas Tacos - A favorite taco spot, this spot is perfect for casual tacos that are amazing - but be prepared for a line!
Bartaco - Another favorite for tacos - this stop is a go-to for great food including their chips and gauc, good cocktails and a fun environment.
Burger Up - Best black bean burger I’ve had and it helps that they have great fries and house made dressing. You can find them at two locations in the neighborhoods of 12 South and East Nashville.
All in all, Nashville is an amazing city to visit, explore and experience life there in unique ways. Even a year late, I still think about the fun adventures, music, people and shops in this city. It’s a place I will continue to recommend and encourage others to explore for the unique perspective it offers to so many industries, including ethical and sustainable fashion. And with this growing awareness, Nashville seems to continue growing as a hub for brands, companies and initiatives to begin.