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Nashville Fashion Careers: Employment & Salary Trends, Career Options, & Training Programs for Fashion Designers and Merchandisers

Written by FS StaffNovember 7, 2011

The Nashville Fashion Scene

Nashville’s population is slightly lower than Memphis, but the two are almost identical when it comes to fashion. Both cities are laid-back, friendly, and casual, but fashionable. Like Memphis, Nashville has it’s own fashion week—Nashville Fashion Week, which features both established and up-and-coming designers, makeup artists, photographers, and hairstylists. Other industry events such as green/sustainable, bridal, and vintage fashion shows occur regularly.

Nashville is also home to hundreds of shopping venues from small boutiques to large shopping malls. The Oaks Shopping Mall (one of the city’s oldest mall’s),  Harding Mall, Opry Mills, and the Mall at Green Hills are home to hundreds of stores from Banana Republic and Express to Dillard’s and Nike. Shopping malls aren’t the only places to shop in Nashville. The city has a number of shopping districts that attract both locals and tourists alike. Second Avenue Shopping District and the revitalized Historic East End offer a number of unique shops, boutiques, and upscale shopping opportunities for all tastes. These and other shopping venues offer plenty of employment opportunities for both fashion design and fashion merchandising graduates.

While Nashville’s retail industry offers plenty of employment opportunities for fashion designers and fashion merchandisers, the city also offers access to several fashion programs that can lead to a career in fashion design or fashion merchandising. The International Academy of Design & Technology (IADT) and the Art Institute of Tennessee are two popular options.

Nashville Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising Schools and Programs

Tennessee is home to 106 colleges and universities. This is only slightly higher than the national average of 88, but the state offers an interesting mix of traditional universities, technical schools, and art and design schools. The International Academy of Design & Technology (IADT) is one of the top art and design schools in the nation and it has a campus in Nashville. The Nashville campus offers a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Design, Fashion Design & Merchandising, Fashion Merchandising, and Retail Merchandise Management.

The Memphis campus of the Art Institute of Tennessee of offers a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion & Retail Management and a diploma in fashion retailing. Located just 20 miles from Nashville is O’More College of Design in Franklin. O’More College of Design offers a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Design.

Nashville Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising Employers

Nashville fashion designers may work in retail, technical production, pattern making, or administration sales. Many are self-employed designers or shop owners. Fashion merchandisers work mostly in retail, as well as promotions, buying, and visual merchandising. Employment opportunities can be found in department stores, retail shops, textile manufacturing facilities, production studios, design studios, and corporate offices across the city and in the surrounding areas.

Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising Careers at a Glance

As of July 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics had not reported employment or salary figures for Nashville fashion designers. However, the state of Tennessee is home to around 40 salaried fashion designers. Based on the number of retail venues, fashion events, and design studios here, it’s safe to assume that there are hundreds of self-employed designers living in the state, especially in Nashville—the second largest city in the state.

Employment of fashion designers across the nation is expected to grow by one percent between 2008 and 2018. Tennessee fashion designers average around $62,410 per year. Nationwide, fashion designers average around $61,160. The lowest paid fashion designers average $32,150, and the highest paid salaried designers average $124,780 per year.

Figures for fashion merchandisers have not been reported either, but a significant part of the job involves creating window displays and managing the overall look and feel of stores. More than 1,000 salaried merchandise displayers work in the state of Tennessee. Nearly 200 live in Nashville.

For more information about the fashion design and fashion merchandising industry, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics at