Fashion Forward: Will Atlanta One Day Become a Clothing Design Hub?
By Jatika H. Patterson
Southern fashion culture has been included in music videos, reality TV, movie sets and simply entertainment in various forms. Nevertheless, the fashion industry has been elusive, if not ignored, in the South.
Sarah Collins, associate chair of the Fashion Program at Savannah College of Art and Design, has high but realistic hopes for the growth of the fashion industry in Atlanta. She remembers that at one time the South was home to thriving textile and clothing industries. When the industry began to outsource jobs and production to other countries, there was a reduction in southern fashion.
“Trying to put together a collection was much more difficult because the designers didn’t have the resources because of [lack of] fabrics and factories [markets] and that sort of thing, ”she explains. “With the Internet, things are more accessible online, you have more designers who can get started.”
While fashion creation in the South may have temporarily slowed down, buying continues to grow. Collins said the south is known for its purchasing power rather than fashion design.
“Dillard’s, Belk and JC Penney are all headquartered in the south and it was less about design and now what we’re seeing is more about design and production,” she said.
Dejan Agatonovic, associate dean of SCAD School of Fashion, echoes Collins’ sentiments in the love of Southern shopping.
“There is great purchasing power,” he says. “There are more people who can afford haute couture. I think this is the reason why the fashion industry retail [in the south] is growing rapidly.
While Agatonovic believes Atlanta is unlikely to become a global fashion hub, he believes the city’s excellent connections – including the world’s busiest airport and lower housing and office costs – will create more opportunities for the fashion industry.
Atlanta fashion and beauty guru Christopher Macken, global creative director of Oscar Blandi Haircare, has a soft spot for the South due to his roots in Milledgeville. Asked about the coming of the fashion industry to Atlanta, he says there is a fashion culture in Atlanta that is unmatched to any other city. “We have our own subset of people who are influenced locally, design locally and we make our own statement.”
Macken’s confidence comes from the steady growth in film and television production in Atlanta and the metro area.
“The rest of the world is taking note,” he said. “Some of the biggest celebrities sometimes call Atlanta their home, but even more than that… Atlanta sets trends.”