Nashville Fashion — A $5 Billion Industry Poised for Growth

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Near the top of the list of things that I tell my students is this:

A good argument is one that you can make with a straight face. A better one is supported by data.

For well over a year, the members and leaders of the Nashville Fashion Alliance have been making the argument that the fashion industry is a significant part of the economy of Nashville and that it grow to be an even larger and more important. We have made that argument with a straight face — with passion and conviction and the support of the evidence that we see on a daily basis working with the brands that call Nashville home.

Today that argument got better. Today marks the release of an economic impact study that demonstrates just how big this industry is and how important it can be the Nashville and the region.

The NFA Economic Impact Report, developed by Gherzi, International — a Swiss-based international consulting firm specializing in the textile, garment and fashion industries —looked at the fashion industry in Nashville and Middle Tennessee, in the United States, and across the globe; identified a number of opportunities for Nashville’s growing fashion industry and made specific recommendations to realize the economic potential of this industry.

You are welcome to download and read the full report yourself from the Nashville Fashion Alliance website — Nashville Fashion Alliance Economic Impact Study  — but there are some things that really stood out to me when it was revealed this morning.

Nashville has the highest concentration of independent fashion companies per capita outside of New York City and Los Angeles. This is similar to the where Nashville, aka “Music City”, was in the music industry not that many years ago. The NFA has always looked at the music industry as a model for what is being and can be done in leveraging the creative capital of the region into a globally recognized industry. The economic impact study puts us on the map in a compelling way.

Two numbers also struck me this morning when I heard them mentioned: 5.9 billion and 16,000. That’s 5.9 billion-with-a-B dollars —the revenues of the Nashville fashion industry in 2015. And 16,000 people employed within this industry.

Those numbers tell a static picture of what 2015 was like in the industry. Gherzi’s analysis of what has been happening to those businesses tell a story not only of rapid growth — 25% compounded annual grown; but growth that occurred without sustained support of the industry. Moreover, and this is where I get really excited, this was growth that was the result of small businesses using innovative business models, delivering high quality products, and being responsive to consumer demands for more direct relationships with brands and for social and environmental responsibility. Nashville isn’t just succeeding at replicating the fashion industry of the past. Nashville is creating a new fashion industry for a new consumer.

And that new industry has the potential to become a $9.5 billion industry employing 25,000 people by 2025.

How are we going to do that? Well, a lot of hard hard work; work focused on developing the support that our emerging brands. There are two key initiatives that are the immediate focus of these efforts:


  • Building a resource center that provides access to resources and information, shared equipment and small batch manufacturing as well as affordable studio or office space for our brands; and
  • Developing a business accelerator program to help those emerging brands with the education, mentors and access to capital that they need.

We’ ve been making an argument with a straight face and getting people to pay attention to our industry and our efforts to improve it for some time now.  This morning we got the data that makes those arguments even more compelling. We are ready to roll up our very fashionable sleeves and start the hard work of making that happen. I’m excited!

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