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Meet the Team: FASHIONABLE

FASHIONABLE

ADDRESS: 5022 Centennial Blvd, Nashville, TN 37209

STORY BY RACHEL SCHWARTZMANN – Shop Fashionable –  PHOTOS BY Aleah Milliner FOR THE STYLE LINE

With style as their vehicle, Nashville-based design company FASHIONABLE

is championing women on a global scale. At the helm of this promising company is a group of individuals committed to bettering both the industry and setting a new standard in the way we empower and cultivate opportunities for women from all walks of life.

While FASHIONABLE’s product offering has grown to include beautifully-crafted goods from all throughout the world, the spirit of the brand is very much rooted in fostering the locally-made movement and community. “Nashville is a great home for birthing a socially driven business,” Barrett Ward, FASHIONABLE’s Founder and CEO aptly explained in our interview below. “Coming out of the culture of a great number of non-profits, there’s a young generation seeking to find new solutions to extreme poverty, alongside charity. That culture of care has evolved into the sprouting of businesses who, in their DNA, wish to do good.”

Speaking more to that idea (and based on our past stories featuring other Nashville-based movers and shakers), you can imagine our excitement when we had the opportunity to meet this incredible team and witness what they’re building firsthand. Upon learning each of the featured team member’s respective stories, it became clear to us that this dynamic group is the right one for the job – especially when it comes to bridging the gap between fashion and feminism.

We’re proud to share today’s visit with Barrett, Jen, Jordan, Barbara, and Marisa who kindly invited us into their world, delved into honest conversations, and showed us their day-in-the-life at the FASHIONABLE HQ. Without giving too much away, discover our conversations with each of them, take a virtual tour of the gorgeous FASHIONABLE flagship, and enjoy beautifully-captured moments from our time together by Aleah Milliner for The Style Line.

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“I love my job at Fashionable because I have an opportunity every day to work alongside women who have shared in both similar and different struggles, and together we can share the hope we have with one another.”

– Barbara Pitts, Production Manager at FASHIONABLE

Barrett Ward, Founder + CEO 

My name is Barrett Ward.

I’m married to Rachel and have four daughters. I strive to have a simple life that prioritizes relationship over accumulation or activity. Four young daughters definitely help me stay on track to those values.

Based on our past stories and time spent in Nashville’s small business community, this particular city seems to lend itself really well to integrating social good and style. Would you agree and why do you think Nashville is a solid place to launch a socially-driven business?

Nashville is a great home for birthing a socially driven business. Coming out of the culture of a great number of non-profits, there’s a young generation seeking to find new solutions to extreme poverty, alongside charity. That culture of care has evolved into the sprouting of businesses who, in their DNA, wish to do good.

With regard to your role as CEO of a fashion-focused company, what is one question you wish people asked you more often?

What are your priorities about how you represent women and how do you make sure that those are systemically implemented in everything, from your language to your design, to your photography?

How do you think creativity contributes to some of the world’s bigger conversations and what role do you hope FASHIONABLE plays in this movement?

I think the next challenge for fashion companies is to make sure that they are spending as much time on investigating their supply chain impact as they do following fashion trends. While making sure that our products are on trend is obviously critical for our sustainability, at FASHIONABLE we want our impact on the people that make our clothes to have as much rigor in its measurements and tracking. 

How would you advise the next generation of entrepreneurs or designers to leave an imprint in the world, simply by doing what they love? 

I encourage the next wave of entrepreneurs to out-do us in their transparency around the people who manufacture our products. Every generation of people and products should carry with it an evolution, higher purpose, and intentionality, and with that, there is a great opportunity for new entrepreneurs to push social trends as much as they do fashion trends.

Jen Milam, Director of Merchandise Planning

I’m an optimist born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio.

I stumbled into corporate retail right out of college and realized it was the perfect career to fuse my love of numbers and art. I’m married to my college sweetheart and we are currently fixing up our 1960s ranch in West Nashville, pretending we are Chip and Joanna Gaines. I love taking hikes with my husband and dog, and I always have cheese in my fridge because you only live once, you know?

Regarding your role in working with all FASHIONABLE partners, talk to us about what that means on both a global and local level. What do you wish people asked you more often about forming these relationships?

I am completely biased, but I honestly think I have the most fun job at FASHIONABLE.

We work with amazing entrepreneurs all around the globe who are actively making a change in their communities, and I am lucky enough to travel to meet them. I also get to come home and help plan how FASHIONABLE can strategically support those businesses, using our platform to create more jobs. At the same time, I am actively involved with our local jewelry artist staff (who are amazing by the way) and working to empower and grow our in-house manufacturing team as our jewelry business continues to expand.

I wish people would ask more often about what we at FASHIONABLE are learning from those whom our mission is designed to help. The question is so often phrased the other way around. I have never in my life seen more tenacity, grit, perseverance, problem-solving and grace than I have during my time working with both my global partners and local co-workers.

I also wish people would ask more about the systemic issues that plague those looking to rise out of poverty or addiction, whether it be unreliable utilities in other countries or a lack of affordable, entry-level housing here locally.

How do you celebrate personal style? 

I used to think there were certain things that were “off limits” for me and could only be worn by girls that were built like models. Recently, I’ve started branching out more and wearing more trend pieces I didn’t think wouldn’t be flattering on me, and those pieces are always the ones that get the most compliments!

We often use personal style as the lens in which we tell our stories. With that being said, can you share any anecdotes speak to a time when style impacted your life?

My mom always talked about dressing in a style that felt timeless and would not be cringe-worthy in photos 20 years from now. I really look up to some of the style icons from mid-century for that reason, and I think that’s carried over into my decision making as a young adult. What will I be glad I did 20 years from now? Alternatively, what decisions will feel like “man, I really should have passed up those sweatpants with the writing on the butt?”

How do you think creativity contributes to some of the world’s bigger conversations and what role do you hope FASHIONABLE plays in this movement?

I think creativity and art give us hope in humanity’s resilience in the face of hardship. FASHIONABLE is using the art of fashion to carve out paths of opportunity amidst hardship, and I hope our role is one of providing women the space to reach their full potential.

Jordan Soderholm, Fashion Director 

Hi! I’m Jordan Soderholm –

wife to my favorite guy, Steve, and dog mom to my little pal Clooney. I most value time with my family, my church community, and my best friends. I am the happiest when I’m hosting intimate dinners in my home with my husband. We love creating a space that makes people feel valued, comfortable, and loved on. I also love traveling and exploring places slowly, trying all of the food and wine (there’s a food theme throughout this question… sorry!).

My favorite place to do that is Rome. In the fall, my weekends are consumed by football (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) because it reminds me of my roots!

Talk to us about Nashville style. How would you characterize the collective personal style of Nashville dwellers and what excites you about this particular community?

Nashville’s style is laid-back, effortless, and cool. When I moved here in 2009, I learned the importance of wearing lots of black — the classic musician hipster style. Ha! But there’s so much more to it than that. Most people in Nashville aren’t Nashville natives, so they’re bringing style perspective from all over the country. You see a lot of vintage here, and also support for our growing Nashville fashion community. But no matter what the style perspective — everything stays casual and functional here. And I love that!

When it comes to overseeing fashion for FASHIONABLE what are a few key elements you consider and do you have an unexpected source of creative inspiration?

Our FASHIONABLE customers have grown up with us since FASHIONABLE was founded as a non-profit selling handmade scarves. So they know our brand and have specific expectations about what they want: an authentic product that is both functional and stylish.  We want to create items that are both approachable and unique. Quality is always at the forefront of our mind — how will this item wear, is this a piece that will last a lifetime, how can we improve this? We are also super conscious of pricing because we want to make it easy for people to make a thoughtful purchase. We want to show your everyday apparel brand that it is possible to price something in a way that benefits both the producer and consumer. And creatively, we create pieces that will last in a wardrobe.

We will do “our take” on trends, knowing that our girls want something they can hang onto for a long, long time. Unexpected inspiration? I’m an “inspiration junky”, so actually, I just do the classic things — I read all of the magazines (Vogue and InStyle are faves!), and am constantly scouring Pinterest, WGSN, WWD. Travel always inspires me color-wise. I keep up with what’s happening in the fashion world and am constantly tearing out pages and creating moodboards.

I also try to challenge myself a lot by taking a classic item and coming up with as many variations as possible to make it fresh! Most of the time, it’s the most subtle details that really make the product. So I’m constantly trying to figure out what those are.

With a nod to FASHIONABLE’s tagline, “Beautiful products by women who have overcome” what are some things you have overcome?

Well, style-wise, I overcame my high school wardrobe of pink cardigans and slicked back ponytails, so I’d say that’s a plus! Now, style is my creative outlet… A way to express how I feel, and a way to challenge myself by pairing new colors, textures, and styles. In life, I think I’ve overcome having to “do it all”. Our team is incredibly collaborative, which means that if I ever get the credit for an accomplishment, at least 5 more people deserve an equal amount of credit (or more!). I’m not afraid of someone being better at something than I am that instead, embrace the fact that everyone has certain skill-sets that make them amazing at what they do. I lean into those people who are amazing at the things I’m not. We as humans are designed to be in community with people and collaborate, and that has been such a key reason that I’ve been successful in my job, and FASHIONABLE has been successful in general.

How do you think creativity contributes to some of the world’s bigger conversations and what role do you hope FASHIONABLE plays in this movement?

The creative world keeps everyone sane during times of chaos and pushes the boundaries when things feel settled and comfortable. FASHIONABLE’s role is to both lead and join conversations that continue to push boundaries and educate our consumers about the fact that there are people behind their products. Every purchase you make on a daily basis makes an impact on people’s lives, and our role is to ensure that it makes a positive one.

Barbara Pitts, Production Manager 

My name is Barbara Pitts.

I am 29 years old. I married the love of my life almost three years ago and inherited two beautiful step-daughters in addition to my oldest daughter. Shortly after we married, we had another little girl. Yes, four girls. My husband is so very blessed! We recently bought our first home a few months back and are still getting settled in.

The past few years have been such a beautiful chapter in my life. I am so grateful to God for His amazing grace and the wonderful family He has blessed me with and entrusted into my care.

Walk us through your day. How would you say your relationship to jewelry has changed as a result of being in this role?

In addition to making jewelry, as production manger I oversee our jewelry department, managing our team, scheduling, quality and overall production. Our team meets on Monday mornings to set goals for the week as well as review over the past week. We also use this time to openly self-reflect and share personal challenges and victories with one another. Collaboration and healthy team culture are important because our jewelry is hand crafted, and often involves many steps, we must work together in creating and assembling our products. This involves our jewelry artists utilizing their specialty skills such as hand stamping, wire-wrapping, pick soldering and more. Most of our women, including myself, had never made jewelry before so in-house training is a key factor. We teach the basic jewelry skills such as jump-ringing and from there determine an area and path of expertise on which to focus. Because we are always creating new things, we are constantly learning skills and techniques.

Our jewelry team is nothing less than a working family of diverse women – we have been brought together to create beautiful products and empower one another. I have gained such a respect for hand-crafted jewelry and am definitely more attentive to other products when I am out shopping and often find myself trying to decipher how other pieces are made. It’s pretty cool stuff.

Nashville seems to really foster the locally-made movement. What do you hope the city provides more of or more access to?

I think Nashville does a great job at supporting local businesses. It would be great to see more collaboration within our city from businesses sharing similar missions with one another.

How do you celebrate personal style?

I celebrate personal style by just being me. I am a simple girl, so on most days, you will probably see me in a t-shirt and jeans and rocking my favorite pieces of jewelry. While my style is comfort-driven, I have developed a tremendous appreciation for fashion and the fact that each person is unique and able to express themselves through their own personal style.

With a nod to FASHIONABLE’s tagline, “Beautiful products by women who have overcome” what are some things you have overcome?

From my mid-teens to my early 20s, I struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. After losing my mom at 23, it wasn’t long until I I found myself at the absolute lowest point in my life. I had lost everything. It was then that I realized something had to change or I was convinced I wouldn’t be around to see my daughter grow up, and I was determined to be the mother that she so desperately needed, and undoubtedly deserved. It was by God’s grace I was able to get my life back on the right track and over the course of a couple of years, He had restored everything to me that I had lost and blessed me with so much more. I love my job at Fashionable because I have an opportunity every day to work alongside women who have shared in both similar and different struggles, and together we can share the hope we have with one another.

Marisa Pardo,  Marketing Director

I’m a (usually) sweet

southern girl who married a sarcastic boy from Chicago. We have an adorable one-year-old little guy and love our community in East Nashville.

While I’m grateful for the roots we’re putting down here, from our church to our neighborhood (one of my favorite things is gathering people around the table for a good meal, great wine, and even better conversation), I am always itching for my next adventure. My secret weapons for sanity are sweating once a day (I love my Peloton bike!), prioritizing moments of stillness, and coffee… lots and lots of coffee.

Given the current climate, fashion and feminism seem to be working in tandem more than ever before. How are you planning to tell FASHIONABLE’s story as it relates to women’s empowerment?

It’s pretty amazing how the current climate of feminism matches up with our mission of empowering women. The fashion industry has historically been one of the most harmful to women, and we have big plans to change that. We are going to lead the way in transparency and accountability in how women are treated and will be challenging the rest of the industry to follow suit.

We often use personal style as the lens in which we tell our stories. With that being said, can you share any anecdotes speak to a time when style impacted your life?

I don’t know where it was instilled in me – but from a young age, I got obsessed with having a ton of clothes so that I didn’t have to repeat outfits too frequently. Then when I was pregnant a couple of years ago I had a big quality over quantity realization. As I was building my maternity wardrobe, I became less concerned with having multiple colors in every style or having an abundance of options to choose from, and instead invested in a few pieces that I really loved. Thankfully, that same philosophy has spilled into my normal wardrobe now, as I see the impact my purchasing decisions have not only on my own closet (and wallet) but on the people on the other end of those products, too.

We love that FASHIONABLE is truly built on fostering a global community. How do you hope to see this community evolve?

I have dreams of bringing our partners together from different continents around the world – can you just imagine Miriam from Peru getting to sit down across from Furtuna from Ethiopia and Barbara from Nashville. And while their stories (and their language!) and their experiences, of course, would all be different — what they (and we) all share is a story of overcoming. We’ve all overcome something, and we’re all ABLE to find purpose in our work. Who wouldn’t want to be in on that conversation?

How would you advise the next generation to leave an imprint in the world, simply by doing what they love?

I think it’s important to remember that the size of your “imprint” doesn’t matter — whether you are impacting a family or an entire country — each beautiful person matters. And if you can involve doing what you love with making an impact? Consider yourself lucky and know you are right where you’re supposed to be.

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“Every generation of people and products should carry with it an evolution, higher purpose, and intentionality, and with that, there is a great opportunity for new entrepreneurs to push social trends as much as they do fashion trends.”

– Barrett Ward, Founder + CEO of Fashionable