Let’s face it: Menswear hasn’t evolved much since the 20s. Sure, jacket lengths and collar sizes have changed, but at the core of menswear lie the same four things: jacket, pants, shirt, tie.
But when it comes to street clothes, loungewear, or even swimwear, menswear has made leaps and bounds into the modern era. Brownlee Bathing Corp. is a menswear clothing company based in Nashville, Tennessee, and it recently unveiled its newest collection—a series of clothing made for both casual wearing and athleticism—to a room full of Nashville’s most in-the-know.
Brownlee began with the creation of a perfectly engineered swimsuit, inspired by its designer’s grandfather, Brownlee Currey. However, the recently unveiled collection goes beyond swimwear to offer an “array of styles that embody the simplicity, quality, and essence of clothing from times-passed, while reinterpreting them to meet the needs of the modern-day man.”
I had the opportunity to speak with the designer and founder of Brownlee, Christina Currey Chapman, just before the unveiling of her newest collection on what makes Nashville such a creative hub and on the inspiration for her newest collection.
“What’s exciting about this collection is that it is all truly wearable anywhere. You can wear it on the couch, at dinner, at the bar, at the pool, at the beach—it’s truly versatile,” she said.
Brownlee is elevating menswear by way of fabrication, cut, and color. The new collection introduces double-breasted silk shirts, camel jackets, absorbent french terry sweatshirts and pants. “I was surrounded by men all throughout my childhood, as my family is mostly composed of men,” Currey said. “I’ve noticed by being with my family that menswear hasn’t changed significantly within our lifetime.”
Growing up in Southampton, New York, Currey was lucky enough to be a part of her grandfather’s love of warm days and water. “My grandfather loved the water and spent his life with my family traveling to the warmest places. He managed to document his journeys and I have had the privilege of thumbing through them as I've grown older. Following this story and growing up with this man have inspired me beyond words and my product is an homage to that.”
And the fashion show for the newest collection, held at Wellspire Center in The Gulch in Nashville, did just that. Opening the show was a montage of Super 8 footage of Christina’s family: videos of men and women in vintage swimwear combined with affectionate waves to the camera, no phones in hand, kisses on the cheek, and running from ocean waves created a sense of real emotion behind the clothes that, once on the runway, created an immediate sense of need.
The collection features swimwear for men, but also a few pieces for women. The cut and fabrication of each piece calls back to the era when people took care of their clothes—when they were made for wearing.
And just as quickly as it began, it was over. The last model from the final run-through walked through the backstage barrier and out walked Christina, wearing her own custom clothing, beaming with pride and happiness about what her inspiration has brought to her.
But what makes Brownlee special? Answer: a lot.
The company prints its own textiles, cuts its own fabric, and sews the pieces together right here in the U.S.—a first for a men’s luxury swimwear line. The textiles are proprietary to Brownlee, designed in-house by Christina and her team. The fabrics are sourced from only the best mills in the world.
The textiles in Brownlee’s newest collection have been made by an artist in collaboration with Christina, and they exist only in Brownlee’s studio. Literally, the art pieces—4 feet tall and 6 feet wide—are hanging in Brownlee’s studio in Nashville.
In recent years, Nashville has become a hub for American fashion and creatives alike. “My studio is down the street from the artist who we collaborated with to create the artwork on the clothes in this collection,” she said. “There’s a real sense of community here, and that only fuels collaborations like these.”