For recording artists Nikki Lane, Molly Leary and Tanya MontanaCoe, thrift, and fashion curating went from side interests to full-time gigs. While their personal histories and business models differ, they have one thing in common: a passion for self-expression through western music and clothing that’s unwavering no matter what’s popular on the charts or on the podiums.
Read on to meet three entrepreneurs and influencers at the forefront of the Western fashion revival.
Nikki Lane’s High Class Hillbilly
Upon her arrival in Nashville in October 2010, Nikki Lane’s New York fashion experience provided a convenient way to keep a roof over her head amid her less lucrative obligations as a relatively unknown freelance musician.
“I had an Etsy store where I went to Goodwill every morning and spent $50,” Lane said of his business plan as a vintage seller out of necessity. “That was my max. I was trying to list 10 items of it, and I was trying to buy boots and belts. That’s pretty much what was coming out there.”
Nearly 12 years, three well-received albums and countless miles as a touring artist later, Lane has earned respect as one of Nashville’s most creative and consistent musical exports. Succeeding in music and feeling less hopeless financially hasn’t quashed her desire to pursue that next savings score. Instead, connections made away from home have increased her access to clothes that belong to High Class Hillbilly, her well-curated brick-and-mortar store in Nashville.
“I do most of my selections on tour,” she said. “I was lucky you met a dealer in Dallas, and now I’m going to go to Dallas a whole day early or even look at my itinerary and say, ‘Oh, we should have the day off.’ Usually I wouldn’t have taken a day off between Dallas and Austin, but I have a dealership and I want both things to work.”
Indeed, the time management skills needed in 2010 to juggle fashion and music still impact Lane’s tour itinerary.
“People will tell you that you don’t have time to do this, but it’s like having to get up two hours early,” she explained. “The problem in my life is that it means the boys also have to wake up two hours earlier. Because I like to choose so much, we’ve actually entered into a thing where for this year and for a bit of 2021, I I rode separately from them and showed up at 7. I don’t need to check sound in most venues My guys can handle good control of my monitor I consider picking almost like meditation, and I think they do too I think they would rather I do my own thing and arrive happy than sit in a basement somewhere for eight hours a day .”
Lane’s knowledge of decade-specific style has attracted high-profile clients ranging from Southern rapper Yellawolf to Midland’s Mark Wystrach. The latter wore a vintage Hawaiian shirt during his band’s Stagecoach performance that his team had just purchased from the pop-up Lane Market at the festival.
“I like the fact that I find something in the middle of nowhere and maybe it’ll end up in the CMAs. It’s fun for me,” Lane said of his celebrity clientele at a time when the Western clothing and other vintage looks inspire fashion choices. beyond Nashville’s sphere of influence.
Lane sees her dual role as a musician and entrepreneur as life-affirming, if not life-saving.
“One of my favorite articles was in rolling stone where Willie Nelson said the weed saved his life,” she said. “My mother said, ‘What does that mean?’ I said, ‘Well, I think that just means he knew he was going to do something, and that was the safest thing.’ And I feel that about my pot and my antiques. I’m a regular person, and if the worst thing I do is gamble on eBay buying cowboy boots, we’re all in good shape. I’m going to buy something. I will do something all day. We might as well focus on something that’s good for everyone.”
After all, both offer creative fulfillment to a true multimedia artist.
“Art is an expression of what’s going on in the mind,” Lane explained. “My house is full of it and my store is full of it and my record is full of it. I don’t know any other way but to go out like this. I juggle it because I have to. A lot of things are harder than I chose to be an artist who sells vintage, so I’ve actively decided that’s what I like to do. I try to make sure I don’t complain too much about what’s too difficult. because I don’t have to now my way of life.”
Molly Leary’s Squash Blossom Vintage
Touring took a step back after Auburn, Calif.-based Molly Leary became the mother of two daughters on the autism spectrum. As his priorities and availability shifted, Leary used changes in technology to modify his business, Squash Blossom Vintage. Instagram stories allow her to sell a certain rock ‘n’ roll look – one she compares to “Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg, southern France, recording Exile on the main street“- to a loyal base of collectors and recording artists, on its own terms.
“It’s much easier to manage your life and your business when you can control the timing of it and you don’t have to be in a specific place,” Leary said.
Not that life on the road is completely irrelevant. Leary turns out-of-town visits with her boyfriend Charlie Sexton, a guitarist who toured with Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello, into prime opportunities. Due to the social media sales system she has developed, being away from home never disrupts her process.
“When I’m on the road with Charlie, I’ll literally pack an extra suitcase and some expedition supplies,” she said. “We can be anywhere, and I’ll just do my announcements on the app. I pack things up and ship them from where I am. It’s such a streamlined business at this point. I’ve been doing it for so long as it’s not like, ‘Oh, hang around, I have to work.’ It’s like I write things in stories and ship them so why wouldn’t I just take the pictures beforehand so it’s pretty simple to do it online for people who travel a lot.
Leary brought a lengthy fashion resume to Squash Blossom Vintage. She has a college degree in pattern making and has professional experience ranging from working at a high-end store in San Francisco to connecting other artists with vintage looks through pop-up sales at SXSW.
Like Lane, Leary expanded her stock while touring Central America. In the process, Leary has built a high-end following that includes Lukas Nelson and his band.
“Back then, 10 or 15 years ago when I was touring, you could go to any small town if you were in Kansas or even areas outside of Austin and find great western clothes, rodeo gear, boots, leather bags,” Leary said. “The kind of style I do is really specific: late ’60s, early ’70s. So I really find the best things down the road in these cities where the cooler, hipper older women are retiring and sort of getting out of hiding. “
Goodbuy Girls by Tanya Montana Coe
Being the daughter of foreigner David Allan Coe made Tanya Montana Coe fall in love with Western fashion at a young age.
“I’ve always been very passionate about fashion and clothing in general,” Coe said. “I really appreciate western clothes because my parents wore a lot of western clothes and stage clothes. So I always saw them, and my mom was my fashion icon and always had really cool, personalized western clothes. and just really nice western clothes. I’ve always enjoyed it.”
Likewise, Coe’s family taught him the creative possibilities of used clothing.
“I love saving,” she said. “One of the reasons I opened this store was that I grew up saving, mostly because my mom didn’t have the money to buy us new things at the mall. She would take us to thrift stores, and I got really good at picking out cool pieces where I would find certain brands and things like that.”
For more than 12 years, Coe’s Goodbuy Girls boutique in East Nashville has taken full advantage of her product knowledge while providing more fulfilling work than her previous career as an accountant.
Although Western clothing was dismissed by the general public as kitschy and old-fashioned when Goodbuy Girls opened, it turned out to be a wise investment for the store.
“A big part of getting started was rummaging through my mom’s closet to find things that didn’t fit her anymore, that she wouldn’t wear anymore,” Coe said. “Western clothing certainly didn’t have a resurgence back then, and it wasn’t as trendy as it is today. Now you see western clothing everywhere. Although I thought it was the coolest thing, he hadn’t really come back as cool yet.I had to put up with a lot of people coming in and making fun of cowgirl boots and fringe and all that kind of stuff.
In addition to giving Coe the courage to be a second-generation musician (inspired by Todd Snider and other singer-songwriters she met through Goodbuy Girls), the store allows her to inspire confidence in others.
“There’s something truly magical about cowgirl boots,” Coe added. “I haven’t just noticed this in myself. There have been so many girls who have purchased their first pair of cowgirl boots from my shop. The immediate sense of confidence it gives them once they have put on those cowgirl boots…I know it sounds silly, but it’s real.I feel like I’m not just selling clothes or stuff to make money.I have the impression of helping to spread confidence among women.