Tennessee may not be a fashion capital of the world, but this state has fashion on the brain! For starters, the Middle Tennessee Fashion Week (MTFW) is about more than showcasing local talent. The goal of the event is to raise fashion awareness, while exposing residents of other states and countries to Tennessee culture. Other notable Fashion Weeks are Nashville Fashion Week (NFW) and Midsouth Fashion Week (MFW).
Fashion Weeks are not the only things that help boost Tennessee’s fashion scene. The state is home to hundreds of hip retail stores, boutiques, malls, and high-end department stores. They can be found all over the state, but most can be found in major cities such as Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Clarksville. A few examples are CoolSprings Galleria in Nashville, home to more than 165 retail stores; Wolfchase Galleria in Memphis, home to more than 130 stores, and West Town Mall in Knoxville, home to more than 150 stores, including 40 exclusive to West Town.
Tennessee is also home to a number of schools that offer fashion design and fashion merchandising programs. O’More College of Design in Franklin and the Art Institute of Tennessee are just a few. Programs such as these can help you develop the technical and creative skills needed to make it in the fashion industry, whether you decide to start a career in Tennessee, New York or California.
Career Opportunities & Employers in Tennessee:
Most Tennessee fashion designers and fashion merchandisers live in major cities. They work in textile design for product development, technical production, administration sales (textile industry), apparel design, and pattern making. Tennessee fashion merchandisers may have more opportunities thanks to the high number of retail shops, department stores, and malls in the state. They may find work as buyers, visual merchandisers, store managers, account managers, display directors, or fashion show coordinators to name a few. Head to any downtown area or major shopping district to find the most opportunities.
Tennessee Fashion Schools & Programs:
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits approximately 300 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design and some are located in the state of Tennessee. These schools typically award degrees in fashion design, fashion merchandising, and fashion management. In addition to O’More College of Design and the Art Institute of Tennessee, several other schools have fashion programs. They are:
- International Academy of Design & Technology - Nashville
- Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro
- The Art Institute of Tennessee - Nashville
To begin training for a career in fashion design or fashion merchandising, enroll in a fashion design, apparel design, fashion merchandising or apparel design & textiles degree program. If you are interested starting your own business or line, consider combining your fashion design or fashion merchandising degree with a business or marketing degree. Unfortunately most art and design schools do not offer degrees in business or marketing. In these cases you have several options. You can take business courses at a community or traditional college while completing your fashion program or you can wait until you have completed your degree to enroll in a full-time business or marketing degree program.
For more information about the fashion design and fashion merchandising industries, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics at Bls.gov.
Employment and Salary Trends for Tennessee:
Around 40 salaried fashion designers live and work in Tennessee. They earn an average of $62,410 per year, up from $59,840 in 2006. As of May 2008, the mean annual wage for fashion designers nationwide was $61,160. The lowest paid fashion designers earned an average annual salary of $32,150 and the highest paid fashion designers earned $124,780 per year. Because many fashion designers are self-employed, salaries may vary greatly. A top fashion designer can earn several million dollars a year.
As of July 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics had not reported employment and salary figures for fashion merchandisers, but a significant part of the job involves working with window and store displays. There are more than 1,100 merchandise displayers living in Tennessee today, down from 1,200 in 2006.
Overall employment in the fashion industry is expected to grow by one percent for the 2008-2018 decade. Sewing and cutting jobs may decline as more designers and brands choose manufacturing companies overseas. However, employment of fashion designers is stable because many firms prefer to keep design work in house.
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