The Style Arbiter: Creating change through couture

Wednesday, March 12, 2008 at 2:46am

There are easier places than Franklin to be a fashion designer. Just ask Jeff Garner, who runs a clothing company called Prophetik out of a small atelier in the city’s downtown historic district.

“It’s actually very difficult,” said Garner, a Middle Tennessee native, citing this area’s dearth of design amenities like fabric houses and factories.

But working among the big egos that the fashion world employs in a world obsessed with image, he’s glad to call this home.

“My Tennessee roots allow me to stay grounded,” he said.

Garner, 29, fondly recalls a childhood “raised in nature among horses and woods and wild imagination.”

The land and the people of his home state continue to inspire him to create what he refers to as “wearable philosophy” — clothing for men, women and kids made from materials that are kind to the earth (hemp, linen, soy jersey, etc.) and kind to the wearer’s psyche (many pieces are embroidered with life-affirming quotations such as “Shame silences the creative artist within”).

In the Prophetik universe, the desire to create change and do good trumps stereotypical fashion posturing.

In fact, it’s hard to get Garner to go into much detail about his designs. He’d rather discuss how he uses them as agents of change.

Take his upcoming fashion show to be held tomorrow night at The Garden Path in Franklin. Though it will showcase his latest designs, the event’s main focus is raising funds and awareness for two charities with local ties: the Hands & Feet Project and Aid Sudan.

Hands & Feet is a Haitian orphanage started by Garner’s friend Mark Stuart of the Christian band, Audio Adrenaline. Aid Sudan — a pet project of the owners of Philanthropy, the Franklin boutique that sells Prophetik — is an organization that helps build substantial communities in the war-torn African country.

In the spirit of giving, Garner is calling the event “Caritate,” the Latin word for unconditional love.

Tomorrow night is the debut of Sustainable Collective, Prophetik’s new children’s line, developed when he discovered a “lack of sustainable options for children and the need for a little independent designer edge in the clothing.”

Life lessons he’s teaching his daughter, Bella, also provided some motivation.

Garner says that when Bella gets a new piece of clothing, he encourages her to make room by donating something already in her closet.

Garner encourages the duplication of this practice in other homes by providing a box with pre-paid postage to the Hands & Feet organization that kids can fill with a donation from their own closets.

“The whole idea of letting go of the old to let the new in is so rewarding,” Garner said. “Being raised in a consumer society, [kids] never feel like they have enough.”

Garner said his design process comes from both internal and external places.

“I spend a lot of time in prayer and meditation and yoga to hopefully stay in tune with what’s going on in the spiritual world,” he said. “And, of course, my travels allow the imagination to unfold into new dimensions.”

This season’s adult collections reflect this wanderlust. Featuring organic pigment-dyed Moroccan themed prints, the line is designed for travel and includes styles like safari shirts, hooded tunics and loose walking pants made to roll, fold, and throw into a suitcase at a moment’s notice.

Garner’s lifestyle demands this kind of wardrobe. When he’s not in Franklin, Garner is probably on the road, headed to do business on the West Coast (where he makes plenty of time to indulge in surfing, a huge passion) or to Europe, where he recently opened a showroom in Vienna.

This summer, Garner’s headed to Vietnam to collaborate on gown designs for the Miss Universe pageant.

Garner’s entrée into the world of fashion began seven years ago when he was a student at Pepperdine University in Southern California and working at a music management company, where he whipped up looks for Donna Summer, Fleetwood Mac and Barry Manilow, who is still a client.

Today, Prophetik is sold in over 40 boutiques nationwide and in several foreign countries, including Japan and Australia. Locally, the adult lines are available at Philanthropy and Hud Luxe. Moxie will stock the Sustainable Collective kids’ line, starting with the back to school collection later this year.

“That’s what’s amazing: to see a small community like Franklin get behind others in their community who have a vision to make a difference in this world,” Garner said. “It’s not about going to a charity event or a great party. It’s about a lifestyle of giving.”

Regardless of whether this event encourages longtime change among its guests, every step is a step in the right direction, said Garner, who has no plans to leave Franklin any time soon.

“I enjoy supporting the creative arts community here and spending time with kids who have a passion for fashion and design and yet have no outlet for it,” he said.

What they do have now is inspiration.

The Style Arbiter appears Wednesdays in The City Paper. You can e-mail her at or leave a comment on her blog:

What: The Caritate fashion event featuring three collections by Prophetik designer Jeff Garner

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: The Garden Path, 117B Third Ave. N. in Franklin

Cost: $10, $25 for VIP seating

Info: Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance at Philanthropy, 432 Main St. in Franklin

Filed under: Lifestyles
By: girliegirl on 12/31/69 at 6:00

You know, if you're looking to seriously promote clothing for the rest of us, that "get up" you're displaying is not the ticket~ Talk about a real turnoff.... Got anything we girliegirls would like to wear? We don't live in the 'hood, and we certainly don't dress like it either.

By: telracs on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Frankly, gg, I think it is cute. Looks a lot more Angelina Jolie than 'hood, if you ask me. Just because an item of clothing has a hood doesn't mean it is meant for the "hood." Of course, I'd pass on the leggings.

By: girliegirl on 12/31/69 at 6:00

looks like Y workout stuff to me... I'm glad, however, to see Ralph Lauren brought back feminine looking stuff this year. The light pinks/sheers and so on are a nice change from the 60's flashback stuff on the racks right now. Being a girl is fun. Hubby hates that girls/women get all the cool stuff, while men mostly wear the same ol' same ol' every year.