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Columbus/Nashville fashion rivalry is no contest |

Columbus/Nashville fashion rivalry is no contest

A recent piece in The New York Times that claimed to judge the “hot fashion rivalry” between Columbus and Nashville left more than few people around town smiling and scratching their heads.

In a story last week, Steven Kurutz lists some components that he believes will “determine which city is worthy of fashion bronze” as the No. 3 fashion capital behind New York and Los Angeles, something that both cities have tried to claim.

The two cities were judged on eight elements: hometown brands, shopping, fashion jobs, indie talent, hip hotels, fashion weeks, bare necessities and local fashion heroes. Nashville was given the advantage in four categories, Columbus in three, and there was one tie.

“While the more workaday Ohio city has a flourishing apparel industry,” he concludes, “Nashville has more of what a fashion city needs, for good or ill: glamour.”

That conclusion was met with chuckles around Columbus.

“Come on,” said Lee Peterson, an executive vice president at Dublin consulting firm WD Partners. “We know we’re better. We’ve got that crown. All the retailers that are here compared to the retailers there? It’s not even close. Nashville with the music scene is, I think, the only reason you’d even consider them.

“But you’re talking about fashionable people, not about people who work in fashion.”

That was much the same conclusion from Matt Wilson, president of Eastport Holdings, which owns several local ad agencies.

“I have to look at the industry of fashion, the companies that support fashion, and the town’s own sense of style among the residents,” Wilson said. “Nashville could be an easy winner at first blush, what with country-music flash on every TV in the country. But I don’t think Carey Underwood shops at Opry Mills.

“Columbus is the town that brought you the Miracle Bra, ready-to-wear couture and shaved male torsos on AF bags. We dominate on invention, sell globally to the masses and elite.”

The central complaints about the piece focus on its almost-offhand mention of L Brands founder Leslie H. Wexner and his alma mater, Ohio State University.

“Wexner is the draw,” Peterson said. “Look at all the people he’s brought here who are fashionistas, who work for L Brands and stay.”

Wexner’s L Brands and its numerous offshoots shouldn’t be underestimated. Nor should the way in which he and others in town work as mentors or in collaboration — a key ingredient in Columbus’ growth as a fashion hub, several observers said.

“Columbus’ entrepreneurial spirit and collaborative nature is what truly sets it apart and what will be a key driver of long-term growth in the fashion sector along with other industries,” said Marcie Merriman, executive director at accounting and professional services firm EY.

The other missing factor in the story “is the university,” Peterson said. “It has fashion classes, business classes, and it has 50,000 students all adding to a younger, more forward-looking city. That’s huge. That university engine really provides a lot of youthful enthusiasm.”

“We have an army of design firms and schools that provide a pipeline of creative ideas and talent for here and the rest of the country,” Wilson said.

Several categories are a bit puzzling.

For example, in the piece’s “hip hotels” category — “I’m not sure what that has to do with being a fashion capital,” Peterson said — Kurutz mentions Le Meridien Columbus, The Joseph, in the Short North in what might seem to some as a patronizing way. “Columbus residents talk up their first boutique hotel the way new parents gush over their firstborn,” he writes, adding, “OK, OK, we saw the Joseph. We stayed there, in fact. … But Jack White isn’t likely to walk through that door anytime soon.”

OK. Yes, it is nice. So nice, in fact, that the Pizzuti Cos. plans a second Joseph hotel — in Nashville. Which, apparently, is desperately in need of such a fashionable place.

And as for “bare necessities,” Kurutz cited the “limited options in a town that is not yet a go-to place for cold-pressed juices or restaurants serving ingredients grown on the roof.”

Somehow he seems to have missed the thriving restaurant scene in town. “That’s a swing and a miss,” Peterson said.

But no matter.

“It’s a pretty good piece of hype,” Peterson said. “It’s really getting circulation around town.”

Going vintage

Home-goods store Bramble + Birch has opened at Polaris Fashion Place, specializing in vintage, midcentury modern and industrial furniture and accessories.

Featured items include home and kitchen accessories, Turkish towels, rustic letters, midcentury modern furniture, succulents, vintage-styled apparel and more.

Store owner Abbey Knight, an Ohio native, started out in the antiques business at 16, working for her parents’ antique mall in Springfield. Knight went on to own and operate an antiques store in Yellow Springs, but she closed it in favor of the larger Polaris location.

The Bramble Birch name is a mashup of two elements that can be found in the store: Southwest (Bramble) and woodsy (Birch).




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