Intentionally Simple: Elise Joseph’s New Concept Collection

Nashville has witnessed an upswing of development across the fashion and design industry, and few from the region know this better than Elise Joseph: local girl with influence writ large. She launched the visually sumptuous Pennyweight blog on a whim in 2009, as she tells it, to document her cross-concept inspirations. Since then, Joseph has attracted a substantial following, with her vibrant caches of lifestyle, fashion and culinary imagery. Last fall, Joseph fulfilled her middle-school dream of establishing her own online retail store, called Goodwin, a women’s capsule shop. Goodwin is as curatorial as it is commercial, a reflection of Joseph’s shift from pursuing passion projects to a dedicated, full-time vocation.

Each piece that appears online has been created in limited quantities exclusively for the shop, through partnerships with artists and designers across the nation. From trousers of sustainable silk and dark-olive ceramic bowls, to crop tops embroidered with nude silhouettes, the shop merges an understated elegance with a subtle streak of irreverence.

Amidst a discussion of friendship, trees and tattoos, it soon became clear that Joseph sends up stereotypes of both success in fashion and creative fulfillment—neither of which are solo pursuits for her.

You’re originally from Nashville. What role has the city had in your own creative trajectory?
Whenever I tell people I’m actually from here, I get laughed at. There’s been so much change here that us locals are a dying breed. Even in the last five years, the city has grown and taken shape in so many different ways, especially in fashion and for creatives. It’s part of why I wanted to start my business here and support the industry. I serve on the board of directors for the Nashville Fashion Alliance, and just yesterday we released an economic-impact study about the current and potential growth in Nashville. Outside of New York and L.A., we have the highest concentration of independent fashion companies. It’s encouraging to me, because I’m from here and I’ve watched so much of the change up close. I have been able to work, collaborate and build relationships with so many amazing business leaders. It’s an exciting time.

Does the city still feel Southern?
There are the rhinestones and cowboy boots, but there’s so much more than that. We have so many different designers and businesses. Everybody’s different, of course, but there’s a friendliness here in the South, and a collaborative spirit that makes it inviting.

Your personal aesthetic—and Goodwin’s—subvert so many Nashville clichés. It isn’t flashy at all. Elsewhere it has been called “minimalist,” but to me it feels like a mix of East and West, a sense of history and polish that’s still sunny and relaxed. How would you describe your style in your own words?
I actually lived in New York for four months doing a styling certificate program at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and later I was in Los Angeles for a little over a year. I feel like they’ve both influenced my style and business in so many ways. New York and L.A. comprise two of my biggest markets, as well.

When I’m asked about my style, it’s tricky. I don’t think “minimal” is the right word. I use the word “intentional” a lot. I’m into details, and my environment is important to me—personally, professionally,
creatively. I have to feel settled, and that things are in order.

I love clothes that I don’t have to think a whole lot about—easy fits and open, boxy silhouettes. I find myself drawn to an airy, breezy look, which is definitely more West Coast.

 

 

 

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Los Angelenos often present a look that seems luxurious and casual at the same time—not as formal or conscious as New York.
There’s an effortlessness and a coolness there, but it’s still thoughtful. I lived in the Venice Beach area, and I loved standing in line at brunch restaurants to see how people dressed. Even if they were pajamas, they were the chicest pajamas.

People look like they don’t care, but you know they do. My style isn’t that way. I’ve never been the loudest person in the room. I love subtle statement pieces—the understated vibe that feels special.

You worked for a major record label, and the denim company imogene + willie. How did those jobs inform your later pursuits?
That feels like forever ago. I was nineteen when I worked for the record label. My dad was in the industry, and while I love music, I didn’t feel like that was my realm. Growing up, I was clearly interested in fashion and always wanted to have a store. When I worked at the label, I was in the marketing department. I did a lot of administration stuff, but also social-media marketing, which really influenced my career path.

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It can be tempting to assume that an arts degree will lead to a job in a creative field. But you’ve taken another route, and tackled so many creative ventures.
They’ve all fed into each other, which is an important part of my process and journey. I can see how each endeavor I’ve undertaken over the last ten years has played its own part in leading to Goodwin. I started Pennyweight at the record label. It was a demanding job with a small staff, and I needed a creative project on the side. I needed an outlet. Honestly, I didn’t know what I was doing, but I felt the need to document what inspired me. To see it naturally evolve into Goodwin is something I never would have anticipated when it started.

Goodwin seems to combine the natural with the ornamental. I noticed you have a tattoo of a tree on your forearm, which seems the perfect representation of the two. Does it have any connection to your identity as a maker?
Nature has a huge impact on what I’m doing, especially in terms of texture. In my home, that translates into wood and leather. I’m always looking for the right balance, so it’s not all one note. With clothing, that’s also so important. With Goodwin, I really focus on high-quality, ethically sourced materials.

For me, the tattoo actually ties into what we were talking about earlier, in terms of life experiences growing into and informing each other. The tree is very much a symbol of growth and change. I try to look at life that way; the cycles we go through, the seasons. It helps me when I feel like I’ve been cut back to a stump.

 

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You seem to be part of a larger movement today of women in fashion owning their own designs and promoting their own aesthetics.
Supporting women in business is a huge passion of mine, and creating a space for designers to have a platform. In whatever small way I can, I want to give others a voice, share a story or make a connection.

My spring collection this year features a lineup of all-female designers to create exclusive products for Goodwin. Sometimes it’ll be a completely new design, or a current style in a new material, color or pattern. I’m all about simplifying life. The whole “fewer, better things” ethos is important.

As a creative consultant, stylist and art director, how do your three interests coalesce into your new project, Goodwin?
Goodwin has really been my more-than-full-time job since I launched it. The heart of what I’m doing is providing a distinct platform for brands and designers, from consulting to styling. Pennyweight has opened up a lot of doors to work with a variety of home and fashion brands—even some that seem random, like Benjamin Moore Paints.

It all points back to what I’m passionate about: people and a collaborative spirit. The Old English meaning behind “Goodwin” is “good friend.” Even though it might sound cheesy, I’ve been able to build so many amazing friendships through this community, from designers to photographers to consultants. I’m always inspired by the people around me.

I wear a lot of hats as a new business owner, and every day looks a little different. But my former roles all naturally feed into each other. I know all these different angles to marketing, social media and creative styling. These days, I also love working individually with a person to bring their collections to life.

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What are you excited about for the future?
I think connection is at the root of it all this year. I have plans to take Goodwin on the road to meet my customers across the country, face to face. I’m excited to see people come together, whatever their background or beliefs may be. It’s an important time right now to support one another. Even though I love the internet and social media, I really want to focus on personal interactions, and to build something outside of the online world.

This story originally appeared in ALIVE Issue 3, 2017. Purchase Issue 3 and become an ALIVE member.

Photograph by Attilio D’Agostino.

 

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