Nashville Fashion Week founders discuss pride and diversity

diversity story photo by Leah Harrington for web.jpg

Now in its 8th year, Nashville Fashion Week (NFW) has a lot to be proud of, including its commitment to diversity. It’s no surprise, but the Nashville LGBT community and its allies have a lot of ties to NFW.

In addition to Amos Gott, who has been in charge of gala planning for years and Vincent Dreff who currently serves on the NFW Advisory Council, past sponsors and friends of the event have included Arnold Myint, Margaret Ellis, and Ron Snitker. Mike Smith, past publisher of Southcomm, is one of the original co-founders of Nashville Fashion Week. And, this year, Brian Barry is a co-host of NFW’s first Men's Style Event (3/27 at 505 Nashville) with Tim Ozgener.

O&AN asked two of NFW’s founders, Marcia Masulla and Connie Cathcart-Richardson to discuss the achievements of NFW and its commitment to diversity.


What are you most proud of about what NFW has accomplished?

Masulla: I am most proud that Nashville Fashion Week is a volunteer led, produced and supported organization that has been unwavering with our mission to elevate and be a platform for the Nashville fashion community.

Our initial footprint was small back in 2010, but we have since grown to serve as a viable professional resource and supportive anchor in the region for both the fashion and creative communities. And it has certainly been an adventurous pursuit that has involved blood, sweat and tears …. All three have legitimately happened time and again. To be a piece of the fabric of the journey for so many incredibly talented and hardworking individuals, though, is an absolute honor.

Cathcart-Richardson: Nashville Fashion Week is about empowering people—designers, models, stylists, photographers, volunteers—to be the best that they can be by giving them an opportunity to do their thing with a professional platform for exposure.

We have had so many proud moments over the past eight years, but the ones that will forever be embedded in my heart are the memories we share right before show time. There is nothing like the excitement of designers as they watch their collection come alive or holding a young model’s quivering arm and encouraging them as they prepare to hit the runway for the first time. Those are special bonding moments that are just as exciting the 100th time as it was the first.

NFW has been a launch pad for our creative community and we cherish these memories as we continue to cheer them on wherever life leads. For some NFW is a confidence boost. For others, it has led to national and international opportunities. Giving our fashion community an opportunity to shine is what drives us year after year.


How would you describe NFW’s commitment to diversity, and how has it developed over time?

Masulla: If you take a look at an old photo of the six NFW co-founders, we were all diverse in our own right and that has not been lost to Connie and I, eight years later.

I can recall being a part of team for another fashion event (which was around six months before the first NFW planning meeting) when one of the other organizers made a big scene in front of everyone about not casting a transgender model and that did not fly with me. So yeah, I spoke up and stepped out and said that this model was the most qualified and had the best runway strut in the room. (Still does.)

Fast forward to now, Dylan has worked extremely hard through the years and just walked in Christian Siriano's (who also showed a runway collection during our inaugural NFW in 2010 at a historically African American church in East Nashville, mind you) 10th Anniversary's show at New York Fashion Week … that's just one example of the many victories that we have been a small part of.

The reality is that we, along with the fashion industry as a whole, still have a lot more work to do in the areas of inclusiveness and diversity. However, let me be clear, Nashville Fashion Week doesn't view this as a trending topic and have been committed since our inception. We can and WILL do better.

Cathcart-Richardson: People are our most valuable asset and central to #whynfw. From the very beginning it was important to us that Nashville Fashion Week be for everyone, not just people from one side of town or the other. We set out with inclusion and collaboration as part of our mission.

As our community has become more diverse, we have made a commitment to being even more intentional about cultivating and sustaining our colorful crowd filled with all ages, ethnicities, sexual orientation, beliefs, backgrounds and levels of physical ability by providing a wide variety of creative programming with a diverse lineup in accessible venues. It’s not always easy to do, but we really do try. It’s more important than ever that we show inclusivity within our community.


Photo by Leah Harrington