The Art of Masculine Fashion

September marks the first anniversary of The Label, the unique boutique that brings singular style to the modern Nashville man. Of course, for some guys the word boutique may conjure up thoughts of frilly, lacy, ephemeral objects and fru-fru pieces. The Label smashes that image with a sledgehammer. This is a store for men.

Located in the 12th South district, The Label is as eclectic-yet-put-together as the stars that stylist Renee Layher, owner of the boutique, has worked with. The artfully bricked building was chosen for its proximity to Music Row, along with its easy parking in the rear and side of the building. Featuring reclaimed wooden furniture and statement pieces from DAO, walking into The Label is impressive.

The store almost has the feel of an art gallery, and everything is for sale. With whale vertebrae in the window, a chandelier made of Shure microphones, furry cowhides on the floor in lieu of rugs, and weathered guitars by Allan Tomkins custom made for Gary lining the walls, this is a store that quietly proclaims its confident rebellion against the status quo from the door.

That rebellion is carried even further in the stack of Out and About newspapers located in the center of the room – a proclamation that The Label is not only friendly to the GLBT community, but actively welcomes everyone.

Then, of course, there are the clothes. “These designers are artists, really,” Layher said. Featuring exclusive lines and collections from notable designers such as Antonio Barragan (Demon Riff), Jeff Garner (Prophetik), Frank Rodriguez (V22) and Elon Ahol (5150 Leathers).

The Label emphatically brings the art of masculine fashion to Nashville. Using a huge variety of textiles and textures such as leather, wool, cotton, denim and even bamboo, these artists create one-of pieces that are original and beg to be worn.

That Layher has such close relationships with designers of this caliber speaks volumes about her success in the fashion industry. The close relationships also bring another benefit: 90-95 percent of these clothes are designed and manufactured in the U.S.

If clothes make the man, then accessories are what complete him. The Label features the work of leather and jewelry designers just as exclusive as the clothing lines they carry.

Along with the leather cuffs and belts of 5150, and the solid and intense vintage silver jewelry by Christian Evans, you can also find highly useful-yet-stylish bags from Tucker and Bloom, and hats from the “Hollywood Hat Maker” Baron Hats (think “Indiana Jones,” “True Grit,” “Madmen” and “Public Enemies”). The options for creating your unique, signature look are almost endless.

For some, the range of styles and designs available can become somewhat overwhelming. “Guys don’t shop,” said Monica Thompson. “They buy.” Thompson is the manager of The Label, and she is the force that drives the day-to-day business.

With 18 years in both ladies and menswear, she is well-suited – pardon the pun – for her role as caretaker of The Label. That knowledge, understanding that so many choices and options can become overwhelming, is The Label’s secret weapon.

A gentleman’s first visit will result in measurements being recorded, greatly saving time on subsequent trips. Those who feel intimidated or irritated with shopping for clothes can confidently walk into The Label, access celebrity-level stylists who will efficiently help achieve the look desired, and get you on your way.

Those who like a slower pace of shopping will find lots of fun little details on the clothes, and staff who honestly love to talk about what they do. How have shoppers responded? “Once they come in they are returning clients,” Layher said.

She is casual cool, with a down-to-earth confidence that makes it easy to understand why she has been so successful in the fickle world of fashion. After cutting her teeth with Ralph Lauren in New York in the early ’90s, she relocated to Nashville later in the decade.

Finding herself feeling boxed in by her corporate job, she began to look for other options. With encouragement and assistance from the creative director of Warner Brothers, Janice Azrak, she began her career as a wardrobe stylist.

Her first job was with the Lynns. In the years since, she has worked with celebrities and bands including; The Band Perry, Journey, Brooks and Dunn, The Dixie Chicks, Martina McBride and her business partner Gary Allen.

She remarks the store came about in answer to her frustrations in finding the right pieces for the celebrities she served as a stylist for. “I found I was always traveling to New York or L.A. to find those signature pieces,” Layher said.

While the constant travel brought its own personal frustrations, she was finding that style budgets for her stars were being slashed, and the travel costs were eroding her ability to procure the pieces she needed.

One afternoon about two and a half years ago, while having lunch with Allen, she remarked that she was thinking of creating a store that would carry designers she had developed relationships with over the two decades she has been in the industry. “Let’s do it,” Allen replied. And so began the partnership that culminated in The Label.

The Label will be hosting a gathering to celebrate its first anniversary on Sept. 13. Layher lights up when she talks about the event. Demon Riff designer Antonio Barragan will be in attendance, along with other designers carried by the store.

She hints at perhaps a celebrity or two as well. At the event, Layher will announce details of a rental option from The Label that will be starting soon. Renting the same unique and artistic clothes the store is known for will allow even more Nashville men to experience The Label.

Whether you need to stand out in the office with professional yet whimsical suits from Moods of Norway, or want to soak up every bit of the spotlight on stage with jewelry from Jennifer Jesse Smith, The Label is where you go to create the look that gets you looks.

The Label is open Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
If you prefer to set up a private appointment, call (615) 394-1541.

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