Sisters of Nature is on my must stop list every time I swing through Nashville. Not only is it in one of the coolest neighborhoods around, but the shop boasts a very important mission: each and every item is ethically sourced, whether it is made in America or fair trade. For my senior thesis, I had the chance to sit down with owner Kimberly Parker and learn SO much.
It’s rare that a clothing boutique in an up and coming city stresses a more meaningful way of shopping and living than purchasing blindly and following trends. When business is at stake, there is a lurking temptation to promote the consumer culture rather than having an ethical thought process behind each piece featured in store. Kimberly Parker, founder of Nashville based store Sisters of Nature, is doing things differently.
Parker, who graduated from Lipscomb University with an art degree then went on to teach English as a second language, always felt the creative pull towards opening a business like Sisters of Nature. Despite fashion being a pursuit that often places aesthetics above values, Parker knew enough about the fashion scene to decide that she wanted to pursue her creative values in a way that disrupted the modern idea of fast fashion.
Getting people used to the price difference has been one of the hardest aspects of the business for Parker. Knowing that the process takes everything from growing the cotton to putting the garment together and shipping it, Parker remaked that there’s no way any garment should be as inexpensive as the average consumer is used to. Despite knowing that she has a smaller inventory than is typical for a boutique, Parker only stocks locally or American made goods alongside things that are fair trade.
“Growing up, my mom and dad always instilled in my to not ever be a part of things that are exploiting people. When things are produced in environments that aren’t fair trade, it’s modern day slave labor,” Parker said.
In addition to the humanitarian concerns with unfair labor practices that allow clothing to be sold at a cheaper price, Parker notes that the local economy is stimulated by locally made and purchased goods. In particular, she cites the benefits that East Nashville has seen with its recent boom in such businesses.
While the ethical incentives behind Sisters of Nature certainly set it apart, the boutique is also divided in a more nontraditional layout. Each vignette is dedicated to a certain aspect of the natural world: deserts, forests, fields and the sea. These categories allow Parker to expand the aesthetic beyond the simple shapes and neutral tones of many American made clothing designers at the moment.
“The American style is very reminiscent of the pilgrims. The United States hasn’t really changed that much. It’s a lot of neutral tones and solid colors,” Parker said.
Because she includes fair trade within her inventory as well, Parker has an advantage of mixing in global patterns and fabrics with the minimalist aesthetic. She believes that while fair trade goods and American goods usually have different aesthetics, utilizing elements from both pools makes for a unique style.
“There’s generally just one style for American made goods. What we’re trying to do is show that we don’t all have to be the same style for American made clothes. Let’s do everything American made and really branch out,” Parker said.
Parker feels passionately about the diversity that American manufacturing can achieve. For her self produced spring line, she emphasizes that there will be a more bohemian aesthetic than is typical for many American made lines.
The values that Parker holds for her store are even represented in the name Sisters of Nature. Although clothing and fashion are often thought of as pursuits that lack in meaning and depth, Parker thought about what it was that connected people when she thought of the name.
“God made all of nature and it is untouched by man. I wondered if that is the key for getting back to our roots and being away from everything. The name is really about being at home in nature with your worldwide family,” Parker said.