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Artisan Spotlight: Han Starnes

A contemporary designer examines the parallels of raw beauty and clean silhouettes.

Written By:  Emily Davidson Nemoy

Photographers:  Supplied

Working with highly textured fabrics and old techniques used in modern ways, designer Han Starnes caters to shoppers looking for clothes that tell a story. The chic, minimalist apparel of her namesake line offers unique, timeless pieces, rather than fast fashion.

Starnes first dabbled in knitwear while living in New Zealand, where her husband pursued his master’s degree. There, the Kentucky native, who’d attended school in Tennessee, worked odd jobs and honed her own interests, one of which was textiles. A friend introduced Starnes to a spinning guild, and the members took her under their collective wing.

“They taught me a lot about the fundamentals,” Starnes says. “Handspinning is a really beautiful thing, so I wanted to do something with it.”

Starnes met people in the fashion industry—several of them knitwear designers—who encouraged her talents. She started her label when she moved back to Nashville, launching with knit accessories before expanding into a full ready-to-wear collection.

“It’s still all very small and particular,” she says. “It’s been a progression, but it’s grown in a way that we’re comfortable with.”

From fabric to fashion, Starnes lets the work tell the story. A pair of cozy handspun mittens may have a trace of hay woven in. A golden top, accented by handspun silk, features understated stripes and is highly textured. Starnes’ best-seller is the Nashville-made jacket top, a go-to layering piece that pairs well with just about anything. This relaxed-fit, handwoven cotton item is one-size-fits-most.

“We partner with some really exceptional companies to produce our pieces,” Starnes says. She sources natural, sustainable, durable materials that the wearer will want to hang onto for decades—rather than synthetic fabrics that end up in the donate bag or, worse, the landfill after a trend or season passes.

“This fall, we started working with alpaca, from Peru, which is warmer than alpaca from anywhere else,” she adds.

A knit jumpsuit, made from 100-percent baby alpaca wool, provides effortless style all winter long. The thoughtful, comfy frock features generous armholes, raw hems, and a drop-crotch. It can be worn in a multitude of ways, making it a perfect grab-and-go piece for cold weather seasons.

You can buy select Han Starnes garb through online retailer Goodwin, or set up an appointment to try on the collection in person at her East Nashville studio.

Photos by Matthew Simmons, Laura Dart.

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