Thursday, May 2, 2013

Knoxville Fashion Week: Marc Nelson Denim - Part 1

Designer, Marcus Hall of Marc Nelson Denim

                  The Engineer denim                                                      The Coal Miner denim

For Marcus Hall, fashion began with family; his grandmother and grandfather were his first fashion influences. “My grandfather always told me, ‘No matter where you go or what you do in this world, don’t leave the house unless you look like a million bucks,’” says Marcus. His grandfather instilled within him an appreciation for the importance of first impressions. Marcus’s inspiration for denim came from family members and parents of friends who worked at the former Levi’s plant on Cherry Street in Knoxville.  “It was cool to know the people who made my jeans and the feeling I got from running into folks who worked there,” he explains. Their stories about washing the denim, sewing the waistband or placing the rivets have always stayed with him, even to this day.

Marcus laughs as he recalls the story from his elementary school days about his mother being the first person to teach him how to use a sewing machine.  After being influenced by an episode of Good Times where Michael made his own African dashiki, his mother got the idea to make dashikis for Marcus and his brother. During the process, his mother allowed him to help cut out the fabric and do a little sewing. “It’s like this family project, and I’m all proud about my homemade dashiki until I show up at school,” says Marcus. By the time lunch time arrived, he was calling his mother, pleading with her to bring him a t-shirt.

“I was always kind of a fashion-forward guy throughout school,” says Marcus. He remembers the days of middle school when straight leg jeans were just coming out.  Marcus didn’t have the money to buy new jeans, so instead he would stay up late at night, tailoring his old jeans for the straight leg fit. Later in high school, Marcus took tailoring from Mr. Scott, who helped him hone his skills on a sewing machine and fostered his desire to become an American fashion designer.

Marcus Hall spent the first part of his career working as a barber and hair stylist. Ten years ago, he did some acting and modeling stints in L.A. and found a new inspiration from the fashion sense of the city. “I fell in love with the Bohemian, hippy, laid-back cool of the fashion scene there,” says Marcus.  “I was impressed with the role of denim and how it would be dressed up for evening or special occasions, paired with a blazer for the office, or worn with a t-shirt for more casual occasions.” Marcus realized that, in general, denim played a big part in the West Coast lifestyle. 

About three years ago, Marcus returned to Los Angeles and decided to take the plunge as a designer. “L.A. is the capitol of American denim, and I spent a lot of time there learning everything I could about denim design and production,” says Marcus. The first Marc Nelson line was produced in L.A., and through that process, Marcus built relationships with wash facilities that taught him about distressing denim and how to give it character. “I learned the difference between low quality and high quality denim,” he explains. He gained an appreciation for Italian and Japanese denim, recognizing their ability to retain finishes and shape after many washes. 

Although he has lived in other places and traveled extensively, Knoxville has always been home to Marcus Hall. That’s why he chose to bring Marc Nelson Denim back to his home city; he has a vision for fashion trends and an understanding of Southern culture. “Combining some of the relaxed trends of L.A. with the more traditional styles worn in the South creates a new eclectic take,” says Marcus of his designs. He plans to keep his business headquartered in Knoxville and also has plans to open a storefront where he can offer fitting services and customizing options. “We feel a lot of creative influences in the area from nature to music to art to food,” he explains. “The things that make Knoxville and the South great.”

This year will make Marc Nelson Denim’s second appearance on the runways of Knoxville Fashion Week, and Marcus Hall is introducing his first ever line of women’s denim and his 2013 Spring/Summer collection of men’s fashion. In addition to his runways at Knoxville Fashion Week, you can also join Marc Nelson Denim for a Block Party on Friday, May 3rd from 5PM - 10PM in the Old City at 206 Randolph Street.

           Model: Albert                                                        Pioneer khakis

To learn more about Marc Nelson Denim and designer Marcus Hall, visit his website (, Facebook (, Twitter (, and their official photo blog (feed://

For more information about Knoxville Fashion Week, visit:

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