By Jatika H. Patterson
The culture of southern fashion has been included in music videos, reality TV, movie sets and just entertainment in various forms. Nevertheless, the fashion industry has been elusive, even overlooked, in the South.
Sarah Collins, associate chair for the Savannah College of Art and Design fashion program, has high, but realistic hopes for the growth of the fashion industry in Atlanta. She recalls how, at one time, the South was home to thriving textile and clothing production industries. When the industry began outsourcing jobs and production to other countries, was a reduction in southern fashion.
“Trying to put together a collection, was a lot harder because designers didn’t have any resources because of [lack of] fabrics and factories [markets] and those kinds of things,” she explains. “With the Internet, things are more accessible online, you have more designers able to start up.”
While creation of fashion in the South might have temporarily slowed, the buying of it continues to grow. Collins said the south is known for its buying power rather than the creation of fashion.
“Dillard’s, Belk and J.C. Penney all are headquartered in the south and it’s been less about design and now what we are seeing is more about design and production,” she said.
Dejan Agatonovic, associate dean for the SCAD School of Fashion, echoes Collins’ sentiments in the South’s love of shopping.
“There’s a big buying power,” he states. “There are more people who can afford high fashion. I believe that’s the reason why the retail side of the fashion industry [in the south] is quickly growing.”
Although Agatonovic believes Atlanta will probably not become a global fashion hub, he does believe the city’s great connections – including the world’s busiest airport and lower living and office space costs – will create more opportunities for the fashion industry.
Atlanta fashion and beauty guru Christopher Macken, the global creative director for Oscar Blandi Haircare, holds a sweet spot for the South due to his roots in Milledgeville. When asked about the fashion industry coming to Atlanta to stay, he says that there is a culture of fashion in Atlanta that is incomparable to any other city. “We have our own subset of people who are influenced locally, design locally and we are making our own statement.”
Macken’s confidence comes from the constant growth of movie and television production in Atlanta and the metro area.
“The rest of the world takes notice,” he said. “Some of the top celebrities call Atlanta their home, some of the time, but even more than that … Atlanta is setting trends.”