Audrey Rhodes 29, took an incredible journey from law enforcement to fashion.
Homeschooled for the entirety of her academic career, she said having the freedom in her schedule at that time allowed her the chance to pursue other areas of interests.
Toward the end of her homeschool experience, she became interested in crime scene investigation through a paid internship and vocational training program at her local police department.
“It turned into a career, and I loved it,” she said.
After crime scene investigation work, Audrey went over to the patrol side of law enforcement and was a police officer for two and a half years until she left in 2012.
“I just got tired of the drama and the political junk,” she said. “I was getting cynical and hardened over time just dealing with sadness. It was time for something else, so I tried different career paths.”
One of those career paths was marketing for a home restoration company. She said it was a big adjustment coming from being a police officer where she could be brutally honest with criminals to dealing with people who she said she knew were lying to her but she couldn’t do anything about it.
“I’m a Christian, and so one day I was praying, ‘God, I can’t take this job anymore. I hate it. It’s stupid. Please provide something else for me.’ Literally the next day, I got fired,” she said laughing. “Well I couldn’t be mad because I asked for something to happen, and it did. It just wasn’t a good fit, and so it was understandable on both sides.”
After that, Audrey was unemployed for three months. In one of the most trying times in her life so far, she said through it all she was able to learn and grow tremendously from it. One of the biggest things she learned was that she was a very independent person.
“I have three sisters, and my mom raised all of us to be very independent, so sometimes I have a hard time asking people for help,” she said. “I always want to contain it myself and present this strong persona.”
Audrey said through her phase of unemployment she learned how to rely on others and that it was okay to be vulnerable with people she could trust. She said those time, of course, taught her a lot financially as well. She realized that she had to balance living in the moment while also thinking about the future.
“It was humbling, but a lot of things came out of me that I needed to address,” she said.
INTO the FASHION WORLD
Audrey always loved dressing up, shopping, and the quirky things in the fashion world. Unfortunately, because she wore a uniform to work, she was never really able to dive into it fully.
Three months after unemployment, Audrey landed a job as an assistant manager of a little boutique called Southern Flare in her hometown of Warner Robbins, Georgia.
Audrey said the opportunity there did give her necessary retail experience, and it was the first step in the fashion industry. Although she loved her boss she said Southern apparel wasn’t really her style.
“I just got to the point where I wasn’t satisfied with where I was,” she said. “At the time, I was 25. I wasn’t married. I didn’t have kids. Everyone around me was married with children and there wasn’t anything to do.”
Audrey said she wanted to be living life and having fun around people her age, not stuck in her hometown about an hour and a half south of Atlanta.
“It’s a great town, but it’s a settle down town,” she said. “I asked myself what I was doing with my life? Was I just going to stay there, be miserable, and bored and not have fun in my 20s and regret it?”
She said she always felt like her style was in a box in Warner Robbins. She said there, there was this mentality that if something is different than it’s not cool.
Audrey struggled because she wanted to break out of that box. She wanted to be different, and she wanted to the freedom to explore her style and her fashion.
In an attempt to break the mold, she started a fashion blog.
COMING to NASHVILLE and DEVELOPING HER OWN STYLE
When a friend had a room available for rent in Nashville, Audrey jumped at the opportunity in an instant. In October of 2015, she officially made the move.
“Everyone in Warner Robbins was excited for me, but they didn’t quite understand it,” she said. “A lot of people who live there don’t leave.”
In Nashville, Audrey’s personality has been able to blossom because the city embraces what she’s all about: having fun, working hard, and being true to her style.
“It feels amazing to be in Nashville now,” she said. “It took me a while to get used to it. I wasn’t sure how people were here, but I’ve been able to meet people here and there and make some new friends.”
She said the last two years have certainly had their ups and downs, but ultimately it’s been an awesome journey for her. For Audrey one of the most difficult things is being on her own. She said it’s tough knowing that if anything happens, her family is five and half hours away.
“It’s been great to be able to open up. I’ve struggled with bad experiences with friends and finding a place to live,” she said. “Going through that new kid on the block phase was humbling. I had to ask people to be my friend. I had to connect with people and dive into those relationships.”
Today, Audrey works at United Apparel Liquidators, or UAL, a high-end retail clothing store just off West End.
“I don’t ever feel self-conscious about walking around anywhere in Nashville anymore,” she said. “If people stare, then they stare, and I go up and talk to them.”
Audrey said her style usually includes some things that wouldn’t normally make sense. She loves mixing prints together and different styles that other people wouldn’t.
“I enjoy the challenge of styling,” she said. “I like always pushing myself outside of that comfort zone and outside of my box. Most of the time when I leave my house I think, I’m not sure if this looks good, but I don’t have time to worry about it and I just own it.”
As far as the Nashville style goes, she said there’s diversity in the city’s fashion because of the natural diversity of its makeup, but she said she sees city-specific trends.
“The hipster style is a big trend, but I don’t think people branch out as much as they should. I’ve seen a lot of that working with people at UAL,” she said. “It’s the same thing that I experienced in Georgia. The difference with Nashville is that there’s more creative freedom, so there’s no judgment when someone else decides to step out. There’s a self-conscious feeling or mood of wanting to be different but also wanting to fit in at the same time.”
She said the best thing about Nashville is that regardless of different styles and fashions, people are still supportive and encouraging of one another.
“Once I realized that, I thought, alright, I’m going to do what I want to do and be who I want to be and not care,” she said.
After taking a break from her fashion blog, she has recently reactivated it. Titled “Affectionately, Audrey,” her styling blog is about her styling herself in the hopes to help others.
“I want people to go discover their own style and not just duplicated something I did. I want to be practical and attainable,” she said. “I want to make it real for people.”
“What I truly love is helping others gain confidence in what they wear and helping other people see the potential in what they have.”
Audrey said it was all a process for her when she first moved to Nashville. She had to learn how to be herself and create her style. She said it was difficult and wasn’t something that happened over night.
“It took me time to realize that Nashville would accept me more readily than the people in Georgia would,” she said. “I hadn’t been able to explore what my style was because I felt so constricted and restrained to be put into a particular mold.”
“I remember when I first put two patterns together that weren’t basic. I looked in the mirror, and I didn’t know if I should wear it. Ultimately, I said to myself that I’m just going to do. I don’t care, and everyone loved it.”
From that moment on, she decided that she was going to do whatever she wanted, wear whatever she wanted and continue to push her boundaries.
“When I have the confidence to be myself, then people like it. As long as I’m true to myself and I’m humble then it will always work out.
NASHVILLE NOW and COMMUNITY
Even in the two years that Audrey has been in Nashville, she said the changes to the city and the amount of people here has grown significantly.
“There seems to be a consistency in the people that move here,” she said. “For the most part, everyone I’ve met seems kind and friendly. They appear to have a desire to grow with the city and with the people around it.”
Audrey sees a pivotal point for fashion changing in Nashville. She said with people coming from all parts of the country including cosmopolitan areas like New York, Atlanta, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles then Nashville has become a cultural melting pot.
She said one of the best things about all the growth is that the city’s community is very receptive to change.
“A community is a way to inspire each other. It’s a way to keep each other going.”
She said everyone has been at a point where they feel low and discouraged, but a real community is there to keep you on the right road.
Audrey said it’s especially important for creatives to be involved with people around them and to engage in real and meaningful conversations.
“I’ve done that, and it’s helped me to be where I am and to do what I’m doing. In turn, it makes me want to be that for others,” she said. It’s a recycled effect.
She said having people around her who encourage and inspire her like that keep her on her toes and have become vital for her success.
“I want to tell people who just moved here to keep going, and keep trying because it feels so good now to have my group of friends that I connect with,” she said. “It pushes me to be better to reach out to people and to grow because those people around me aren’t going to let me give up or slack off.”
To explore more of Audrey’s style and her fashion blog, click here.
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