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2018: Van Hoang

Van Hoang is a designer based in Nashville, TN. She has a B.F.A. in Fashion Design & Merchandising from O’More College of Design as well as an M.A. in Design for Sustainability from Savannah College of Art & Design. Her aesthetic is modern yet timeless, versatile, and functional. She is interested in the intersection of sustainability, fashion, and technology and how those fields can work together to innovate solutions and break down barriers to create a more sustainable fashion system. Hoang's mission is to offer an alternative to fast fashion that many have become accustomed to. In the past she created one-of-a-kind gowns with intricate craftsmanship and couture techniques. However, she recently launched her namesake high-end ready-to-wear line that is handmade in Nashville and hopes to build a company with sustainability, quality, and community as it’s core values. Hoang showed on the Nashville Fashion Week runway in 2015.

“I am incredibly honored to be the recipient of this years Nashville Fashion Forward Fund," said Hoang. "This award will enable me to attend the Copenhagen Fashion Summit which is a global conference about sustainability in fashion and this opportunity will allow me to learn from top leaders in the field. I hope to bring this knowledge back to Nashville and turn ideas into action.”


2017: Maria Silver

Designer Maria Silver has been named the 2017 Nashville Fashion Forward Fund recipient. A committee from the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee selected Silver from a group of experienced fashion industry applicants with ties to Middle Tennessee. Silver is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York with a bachelor of fine arts in women's contemporary clothing and costume design. Before founding her fashion line Black by Maria Silver in 2011, Silver worked in various costume design positions on Broadway, then moved to Los Angeles as a design assistant, as well as toured with the cult rock band The Ettes. Black by Maria Silver has been featured in Nylon, BustRefinery 29Elle, and others. More recently, Silver designed for the critically acclaimed Nashville Ballet production 7 Deadly Sins, and in 2017, opened her first storefront in East Nashville. This will be her fifth year showing at Nashville Fashion Week.

"I couldn't be more honored to receive the Fashion Forward Fund award from the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and Nashville Fashion Week,” said Sliver. “The continued support from the Nashville community has been key to my growth. With this award, I hope to explore new ways to improve both my e-commerce presence and brick and mortar storefront, with the end-goal to integrate both in an innovative manner. I believe is the future of our craft and art.”


2016: Brett Warren

Fashion photographer Brett Warren has been named the sixth annual Nashville Fashion Forward Fund recipient by The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee (CFMT). A committee of the Board of CFMT selected Warren amongst a group of experienced fashion industry applicants with ties to Middle Tennessee. Warren is the first photographer to be selected as a recipient of the Fund. 

Brett Warren lives in a world where anything is possible. While studying design and photography at MTSU, Brett became passionately inspired to present the world as it could be through images that would appeal to the mind and imagination. What started with a dream and a Nikon Cool Pix has turned into a means to convey emotion, and to share untold stories and convictions. Along the way he found encouragement through a personal encounter with Wayne White, a more-than-serendipitous internship with Annie Leibovitz, and invitations to shoot at New York Fashion Week.

Since 2011 he has produced multiple events, spoken at Universities, worked behind the scenes on sets for Vogue, art directed major label music videos, and had his work featured in local and national publications. In addition, Brett has been highly active in the local community by serving on the Nashville Fashion Week Advisory Council, and is an avid supporter of the Nashville fashion community. He has been recognized among his peers, for his “Point of View,” and built long-lasting relationships with those in and out of the fashion world.

While he has worked with easily recognized brands such as, Billy Reid, Surface Magazine, and GQ, he is just as passionate about working with some that may not be as familiar…yet.

Photo provided by Matthew Priestly



Eric Adler Bornhop was selected as the fifth Nashville Fashion Forward Fund recipient. Bornhop is the first male recipient of the fund and plans to use his award to experience his first New York City trade show.

Eric Adler Clothing wouldn’t be where it is today without Nashville Fashion Week,” Bornhop said. “It has provided me with a network of peers and resources, expansive exposure and marketing opportunities and the ability to organically plant my roots in my home city of Nashville.  In a rapidly emerging fashion community, Nashville Fashion Week has provided a springboard for an emerging designer like myself to get their foot in the door, one of the hardest feats to overcome in fashion.”

Eric Adler Clothing was born in the mountains of Southern Spain and raised in the hills of Middle Tennessee. In 2012, while living in Spain, he was inspired by street culture to create his own line of clothing. After returning to Nashville, he worked as an apprentice under local legend and fashion designer Manuel Cuevas. Manuel taught Bornhop the art of tailoring and encouraged him to explore his own personal style. Eric developed his own clothing line at night and weekends while working with Manuel. Eric Adler made its debut in 2014 at Nashville Fashion Week after being selected as one of ten featured emerging designers that year. Since then he has opened his own Green Hills studio where he designs and tailors for Alan Jackson, Big Kenny, Shania Twain and more.



Hoover is the first accessory designer to be selected as a recipient of the fund. Hoover plans to use her award to travel to Milan, Italy to source leather and explore the possibility of expanding into shoe design and production.

“I’m so grateful to be part of the talented design community in Nashville,” said Hoover. “I’m encouraged by our diversity, and though we are still growing as a community, the inspiration and appreciation for individual style is invigorating.”

Originally from the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Hoover learned to sew using her mother’s sewing machine. While working on a custom pillow for her interior design business, Cooper Grey, she made herself a clutch that received so many compliments she knew she had to make more. After a sample sale in Los Angeles, Ceri Hoover Bags was launched in January 2013. The brand, expanded to include shoes and clothing, can be found in over 150 retails stores nationwide as well as in her flagship boutique in the 12South neighborhood in Nashville and at Ceri Hoover Bags has gained exposure through both local and national press and Hollywood favorites such as Kristin Chenoweth, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Marisa Tomei have been spotted carrying her unique bags.



The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee (CFMT) named Elise Joseph the third annual Nashville Fashion Forward Fund recipient. Joseph was the first stylist and blogger to be selected as a recipient of the fund.

“It is an incredible honor and privilege to be named this year’s Nashville Fashion Forward Fund recipient,” said Joseph. “The Nashville fashion community is always giving back, which is what I too hope to do in my home city for years to come. It is an exciting time to be a Nashvillian, and I’m determined to help this town continue to flourish and grow, while maintaining our deep Southern roots, charm and history.”

Joseph, born and raised in Nashville, has made a name for herself as a stylist, a blogger of her largely followed design blog, Pennyweight, and on Pinterest where she has earned over 1.3 million followers. She has partnered with fashion brands such as Steven Alan, Madewell, Equipment, Need Supply, J.Crew, Gap, Warby Parker and West Elm.

Joseph is perhaps best described in the words of one creative director at Madewell: “She has her finger on the pulse of the best indie music, stylish home goods, new shopping destinations – the works. In other words, if it’s artfully cool, you can bet it’s on her well-rounded radar.” She has also been featured on Refinery29, InStyle Magazine, Kinfolk Magazine and Southern Living, and served as Media Director at Nashville’s own imogene + willie.

“My goal this next year is to research, learn, grow and collaborate, while working towards my dream of a brick and mortar shop,” Joseph has stated. “The NFF funds will aid in my travels both domestically and internationally, allowing me the opportunity to meet artists and designers around the world, and to challenge myself both personally and professionally.”

Goodwin, a women’s capsule retail concept launched in September 2016, is the result of her research. Elise partnered with independent, emerging and established artists and designers who share her belief of intentional, thoughtful, and quality design. Each featured piece is uniquely created and produced in limited quantities and available exclusively through the online shop. 



Lauren Leonard Phelps, the President and Creative Director of LEONA, was chosen as the 2012 Nashville Fashion Forward Fund winner. Leonard was carefully selected from an illustrious group of fashion industry professionals that included designers, hair and clothing stylists, photographers, makeup artists and models.

Lauren founded the women’s contemporary apparel brand in 2007 and quickly grew the business from an idea to company through original product design, effective business planning, individual branding, innovative sales techniques, strong leadership, and creative marketing without the benefit of external capital and sold in 200+ specialty boutique retailers. E-commerce launched in 2010 and she opened her flagship store in Nashville in 2012. LEONA was a featured designer at Nashville Fashion Week in the inaugural year of 2011, and again in 2012 and 2013. The Nashville Fashion Forward Fund allowed Leonard to travel to Paris in the spring of 2014 to meet with fabric and trend vendors and to gather inspiration from around the city for her Spring 2015 collection. 

Lauren closed her business in 2015 when she moved to New York City with her husband. She served as the Chief Operating Officer of BRANDON MAXWELL before launching to showcase and sell her art.



The first Nashville Fashion Forward Fund Award was awarded in 2011. The award recipient was Julianna Bass, a Pulaski, Tennessee native and MTSU alumna who moved to New York City to study fashion and costume design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She was named designer of the year upon graduation and went on to develop her skills while working at luxury brands Bill Blass, Elie Tahari, Eugenia Kim and Marc Jacobs. Julianna has been awarded placement in the Gen Art Style Awards two years in a row and has executed several successful design collaborations, including the design of a print for Diet Coke that was sold in Target Stores across the U.S. 

Julianna attended the Bread and Butter trade show in Berlin, Germany as her Nashville Fashion Forward Award experience.  Her primary goal for the experience was to initiate expansion of her eponymous women's clothing line into an international market. She was so taken with the culture, art and fashion of the city that the following year she moved from Brooklyn to Berlin to further develop her creativity and design perspective. "My time in Berlin gave me an incredible mix of freedom and focus." says Bass. I'm able to design from my authentic self." Julianna has since returned to New York City after making her runway presentation debut at New York Fashion Week AW15. 

Vogue stated "Bass designs speak to the woman who isn't afraid to embrace classic style on her own terms". Since the collection's debut, Julianna Bass has received accolades from prominent U.S. and international publications including Vogue (Germany and U.S.), Women's Wear Daily and New York Magazine.