If Bransford Avenue had a statement color, it would be Burberry plaid.
Driving down the quiet street, it’s hard to ignore the post-war charm of the houses that dot either side of the road in a string of blacks, grays, whites and browns—and triply as hard to ignore the streak of multicolored plaid amid the neutral blur.
The bright red door and white picket fence complete the modern consignment-shop-around-the-corner look, while the deep red purse at the end of the drive, like any great bag, ties the whole thing together.
Designer Renaissance, situated within the small-town intimacy of Berry Hill, gives a whole new meaning to the concept of “renaissance”—forget what you learned in European history.
“Every store that I’ve visited around town has its own flavor, and we have ours,” said shop owner Jodi Miller. “We have a vision that suits us. I like where I work, and customers like what we are.”
This is no typical Goodwill—TJ Maxx crossbreed consignment shop.
All preconceived thoughts of pit-stained button-ups, faded 90s Wranglers, yellowing strappy sandals with chipped heels and mothball-scented leather luggage are forgotten at the door.
It’s the lovechild of big-city designer fashion quality and thrift store affordability—the fashionista-on-a-budget’s flesh-and-bone utopia.
Twenty-five years of bringing high fashion from runway prices to pocketbook-pleasing accessibility began in the way many great conversations do—two friends over lunch. One appetizer, entrée and collaborative plan later, Designer Renaissance was born.
“The only objection I had, and still kind of have, is that it’s hard for people to spell,” said Miller.
The shop got its roots from a group of clothes-swapping acquaintances of which Miller was a part. Throughout the years, it’s grown from a store that sells maternity wear and costumes to stay afloat to The Nashville Scene’s choice for best-of-the-best ever since a consignment category was introduced to the ballot.
After 16 years of trying to make ends meet in the second floor of an office building and a freestanding location with a parking lot constantly overtaken by Starbucks customers, Designer Renaissance turned a beige, reduced sale insurance building into a statement piece that rivals even those offered behind the cherry red door.
“My husband said to me one day, ‘We should paint it plaid,’” Miller said through a sly grin. “And as soon as he said it he was sorry, because I was like ‘Oh my gosh, yes!’”
The shop is celebrating its 25th birthday this year on the 25th of April—a golden birthday celebration promising live music, 25 percent off storewide and, naturally, cupcakes.
It is clear upon stepping inside the shop that the quaint friendliness of Berry Hill’s 1960s neighborhood vibe does not stop at the roadside.
It’s like walking into the closet of an old friend—a closet that welcomes visitors with a cluster of gold bells dangling over the front and back doors.
Buttercup yellow walls highlight the rainbow display of clothes, shoes, jewelry, makeup and accessories. Mannequins sporting the best of street fashion and must-have seasonal looks pose atop the round garment racks that dot the front of the shop.
The entire place smells of a brand new pair of shoes, and the soundtrack of the experience—featuring David Bowie, Lyle Lovell and Stormy Monday played from a black stereo circa-1990—is nearly as eclectic as the merchandise.
The cardboard boxes in the “Last Chance” corner offer a number of chances to leave with the deal of a lifetime. It’s a down-on-your-knees digging experience, but uncovering a brand new pair of $6 strappy Betsey Johnson heels, $5 Steve Madden T-strap Mary Janes and $5 moccasin wedge Manolo Blahnik heels will bring you back up standing taller—literally and figuratively—and make squeezing a size 8 foot into a 7 ½ worth it.
Three young sales attendants weave around the circular and rectangular garment racks, marking down a $12 pair of royal blue suede BCBG pumps, dressing an excited guest in a $48 Michael Kors blouse and $10 dark wash Sevens or making small talk with a regular. The atmosphere of the shop is, as it was originally, like a clothes-swapping party among friends.
“It’s fun when customers come in and it’s like they’re walking into someone’s closet—they’re the ones that ask for help,” said employee Anna Verhelst, head to toe in the best of boho mod. “It’s just kind of like girls helping each other get ready for a date, or a wedding, or something like that. We love helping them style outfits and everything.”
Designer Renaissance caters to all kinds, from the 20-year-old on a newly-independent budget, to the middle-aged woman looking to trade in velveteen tracksuits paired with ‘90s Nikes for fashion forward classics—even the reluctant boyfriend has a place in the welcoming environment.
“Designer Renaissance’s atmosphere is incredibly upbeat and welcoming, said student and first-time visitor Heather Dickson.
“Everything is organized well and catches your eye in an instant. I’m a sucker for a good deal, and this store has so many. The clearance section definitely stands out, with racks and bins overflowing with designer dresses, boots and heels for amazing prices. Everything was in great condition, and the store made it really easy to find my sizes and the styles I was looking for,” said Dickson.
Aiding every woman in her quest for the perfect find is what Miller and the girls at the shop do best.
It’s Miller’s special talent.
“It’s our joy to help somebody,” said Miller. “It isn’t about money in our store.”
“I’m not mathematical, I’m not even spacial, but some way, I can see the way you’re shaped; that’s just something I know really well,” said Miller.
“I’m really good at talking people out of things, too. The next time when I tell you it’s fantastic, hopefully you’ll believe me.”
Keeping up with trends and breaking fashion stereotypes keeps the customers coming and the merchandise flowing.
Miller, who books up to two clients per day who are interested in contributing old items of their own to the shop’s collection, can hardly keep the rear, concealed room of the shop empty of new designer merchandise and constantly scours the likes of Style.com and Vogue to keep the trendiest names and pieces on the floor—this also allows for space when celebrity stylists and wives are doing a little spring cleaning.
“We love to give Nashville a first, second and third chance at what comes in,” said Miller.
Often times, what’s popular one year and less popular the next will make its way into the Last Chance corner to keep the outflow steady.
However, at the end of the day, it is Miller’s greatest desire to see the fruit of her labor projected into the Nashville community.
“I’m doing it to serve the people and my eye. I don’t want to be looking at a bunch of ugly stuff all over the place. I want Nashville to be the best-dressed city in the country.
“I do believe in style more than trends. My main thing is, I just want you to look good. I don’t want you to look out of step with what’s going on, I don’t want you to look frumpy, I don’t want you to look older than you should, I don’t want you to look fat, inappropriate…those are the things that are really important to me.”
Above all, Miller emphasizes that at Designer Renaissance, it doesn’t take breaking the bank to break into the world of haute couture.
“I can make you look good for $24.99.”