Next week, Nashville’s fashion scene will offer the world a glimpse of the next level, not only for the fashion industry, but Nashville Fashion Week itself as well.

Leadership behind the week of designer runway shows, panels, discussions, labs and of course, shopping opportunities, recently announced at a Rotary Club of Nashville meeting that it has become a member of the Council of Fashion Designers America’s Fashion Connects Program, which will put the festival, its creators, and its talents in front of far more audiences and industry eyes than ever before.

Co-founder Marcia Masulla compared the move to a football team joining the NFL.

“This is going to be a critical move for Nashville Fashion Week to be a globally recognized event and a city for emerging designers,” said Masulla.

Over its 10-year history Nashville Fashion Week has attracted 27,000 attendees.

And it’s also seen esteemed guests including New York Fashion Week founder Fern Mallis, iconic designer Anna Sui, supermodel Karen Elson, supermodel and designer Cheryl Tiegs, former model and America’s Next Top Model personality Nigel Barker, designer and Project Runway personality Christian Siriano and also fashion exec and Bravo fashion personality Tim Gunn.

But much more than being about big names and flash, the week is primarily about building up the local and regional fashion community, despite having also developed to the point of being able to host and feature global content.

Each year, all of the proceeds from the festivities (aside from individual retailers’ revenue from sales) goes back to the Nashville Fashion Forward Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. Ten percent of each retailer’s sales goes to the fund as well.

“We just knew that we needed to find a way to showcase and support Nashville’s fashion community,” said co-founder Connie Cathart-Richardson of the week’s genesis in 2011. “There was an underground community of designers, photographers, models, hair and makeup artists that were all doing their own thing, but there was nobody that was really elevating them and giving them a platform to show off. That is really the purpose of Nashville fashion week”

“It’s part of an ecosystem that makes sure our community thrives and builds the commerce that we need to actually build a viable fashion community in Nashville,” said Masulla.

The affair is normally held in April, but due to COVID-19, it will kick off next week as a hybrid of digital and in-person events including 15 designer runway shows prerecorded over two days of closed door sessions at OZ Arts Nashville.

And with its membership in Council of Fashion Designers America’s Fashion Connects Program, those will all be viewable through the global lens of Runway360 (https://runway360.cfda.com) where browsers will also be able to view dossiers on Nashville and Middle Tennessee talents and shop their collections.

Education is also a large component of the week of events.

“I know we’ve talked a little bit about runway shows and models and all of those things, but the backbone of Nashville Fashion Week is so much more profound than that,” said Masulla. “A big part of our programming is education and our learning labs.”

This year, highlights include “Suiting the Sound The Rodeo Tailors Who Made Country Stars Shine Brighter” on Oct. 12. That event will be presented through a partnership with the Country Music Hall of Fame and can be attended in person by VIP ticket holders or streamed online for free.

On Oct. 13, at 4 and 5 p.m. “Make + Innovate” will be held, offering a manufacturing open house and tour.

Then, on Oct. 14, “Tiktok, Tech and Trends: The Evolving Business of Fashion” will offer another free educational experience from 4-6 p.m.

The next day, in a partnership with the National Museum of African American Music, “The Intersection of Sound + Style A Conversation + Museum Tour” will be offered, running from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Things will culminate on Oct. 16 with the Shop Nashville pop-up market. The selection will feature 35 selected makers, creators, designers and retailers.

Every aspect of the production is aimed at moving Nashville’s scene forward, to the benefit of those creators within it and to the benefit of Nashville itself, in reaching for a piece of a global industry valued in trillions rather than billions.

“I think sometimes people still pigeonhole fashion as maybe being frivolous or an art form, but it is a global industry. Commerce is super important,” said Masulla. “And it really does elevate the fact that fashion can be a hobby, a reference point, a form of self-expression or art, but it’s most definitely a business. How do we support that infrastructure in our community?”

For a full schedule of events and information on how to register and attend (registration required for free events) visit nashvillefashionweek.com/schedule.

Due to COVID-19, the week will not feature its usual awards gala this year.

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