Nashville, Libby Callaway

Libby Callaway, principal at branding and communication agency The Callaway, and the city’s unofficial “creative mayor,” discusses what’s behind the city being a booming haven for boutiques and local talent.

WWD: How has Nashville maintained its independent businesses?

Libby Callaway: Loyalty. The success of our independent retailers has everything to do with how much Nashvillians value their creative community. Many of our indies are owned and operated by local designers or natives who are committed to introducing new retail concepts to their hometown. Shoppers really respond to this dedication and innovation, and go out of their way to support their own. And you can’t discount the support these stores get from fashion-focused groups like the Nashville Fashion Alliance and Nashville Fashion Week. Both play a big part in the success of indie boutiques by promoting sales and events and advocating for folks to spend their shopping dollars locally.

WWD: What is the current state of the retail market in Nashville?

L.C.: Shopping is the most interesting in individual neighborhoods, where most of the independent multibrand and local designer boutiques are located. The big shopping is in 12South, home to the Nashville-born denim brand Imogene + Willie; the flagship for Reese Witherspoon’s women’s wear company, Draper James; local accessory designer Ceri Hoover, and musician Holly Williams’ general store concept, White’s Mercantile.

Other strong shopping pockets include East Nashville (Two Son, High Class Hillbilly, Lemon Laine), Germantown (Wilder, Poppy & Monroe, Rich Hippies); Hillsboro Village (Arcade Kids, Hey Rooster General Store), and Buchanan Street (Emil Erwin, Consider the Wldflwrs, Nisolo). And I predict that in five years, everyone will be shopping in an emerging area called Wedgewood-Houston, where a former hosiery mill is being developed into a mixed-use property that hopes to draw high-end national retail.

WWD: What’s drawing local business owners to Nashville?

L.C.: Nashville is a much more “fiscally friendly” environment for new businesses than New York or Los Angeles. Plus, Nashville hasn’t lost its “it” factor: outsiders are still feeling the draw of our creative culture. The demographic that drives shopping trends here is a young one, made up of shoppers in their 20s and 30s. They are conscious consumers, with many dedicated to shopping in responsible and sustainable ways. They try to buy local and focus on craftsmanship and goods that are made in America.

WWD: How do you predict the retail market will evolve in Nashville in the coming 12-18 months?

L.C.: Like many secondary cities in the U.S., Nashville is revisiting its urban core. There’s a real push to make it easier to access our downtown amenities, including entertainment venues, the vibrant hotel scene and new shopping options. We’re going to see many more stores landing downtown, as dozens of new luxury hotels and apartment complexes open there, many with street-level retail space. One example of this is Keep Shop, the multibrand, locally focused store I’m curating in Noelle, a new hotel in the heart of downtown’s business district.

WWD: What does Keep Shop represent of Nashville’s larger market?

L.C.: We have always envisioned Keep Shop as a microcosm of the most interesting things happening in retail right now, in Nashville or anywhere else. The goal in my curation has been to create an intriguing and evolving mix of product that appeals to both locals and hotel guests who aspire to shop like a native Nashvillian.

Keep Shop is very focused on local talent. I’ve been working for over a year with our city’s top designers, artists and makers to produce exclusive products that will only be sold in our store. Additionally, we’ve gathered an eclectic assortment of men’s and women’s clothing, accessories, jewelry, home goods, publications and apothecary that’s catered to a “creative Nashville aesthetic.” We’re all about the mix at Keep Shop.

WWD: What has you the most excited in terms of retail and fashion developments lately in Nashville?

L.C.: I love how there seems to be very little divide between fashion and interiors at this point in time. One of my favorite Nashville boutiques is Wilder, a design-driven store that sells predominately home goods, but also finds cool ways to support visual and performing artists and emerging fashion designers.

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