Sunday, April 18, 2010

Clothing designer finds the right fit

Growing up in Middle Tennessee, Jeff Garner didn't feel like he fit in. His friends liked to hunt and fish. He liked to draw in his room.
They played musical instruments; he loved colors and fabrics. He wore his hair long and his dad called him "daddy's little girl." Garner dressed like Abercrombie & Fitch before Abercrombie & Fitch was hip, then discarded the tattered hats and T-shirts when they became mainstream, said his childhood friend and Christian music star Jaci Velasquez.

"He was a cool-looking surfer boy who looked like he should have been in Malibu," Velasquez said.

These days, Garner feels more like he fits in. The 30-year-old clothing designer from Nashville is making a name for himself here and abroad — including being one of the few chosen to walk the catwalk at London Fashion Week in February.

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His clothing line, Prophetik, is sold in nearly 60 stores, including Nashville's Posh Boutiques and Franklin's Ivey on Main, but the highest concentration is in California. There's a smattering of stores in the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Japan.

It hasn't always been easy. Fashion can be a brutal industry in which to make a living. In fact, last year Garner thought he wouldn't make it through another season.

Garner's recent success seems to be based on a foundation that has been years in the making: both the fact that eco-friendly clothing is taking off here and in Europe, and also because he got a start in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, making friends who have helped him along the way.

"If someone had told me the statistics of the number of people who are successful in fashion, I probably wouldn't have done it," he said.

Garner is feeling a little more encouraged this year, after years of trying to make a name for himself as an organic and sustainable clothing designer in the ultra-competitive world of haute couture. Lately, he has been featured in The Times of London and Vogue magazine.

He didn't want to discuss sales figures but said his revenue has climbed on average 20 percent during each of the past two years. He has made friends with the likes of Jimmy Choo and Avatar film director James Cameron and his wife, Suzy Amis Cameron.

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