Story by Sydni Anderson, Staff writer
Roby Blackwell wore a light blue t-shirt that read “oh yeah, bucko?” across the front in custom script. He sat at one of the picnic tables in front of Waterfield Library like any other college student taking a break between classes. But Blackwell isn’t just any other student. He has his own clothing line and this season’s collection is called “Picnic.” His shirt is one of the pieces from the collection.
Blackwell is a junior and an art major from Mayfield, KY. “Roby Joe Picnic” is his third collection, following “Roby Joe Summer 2016” and “Roby Joe Holiday.”
He said his first venture in design started in middle school. He made jewelry and hair accessories, which he said acted as a gateway to his clothing line.
Blackwell moved to Nashville following high school graduation and spent one semester at the Art Institute of Tennessee before moving back to Kentucky. In May 2016 he held his first fashion show.
“It was a lot because you had to have ‘X’ amount of clothes made and then be ready to kick your butt in gear and get all the orders done after that,” Blackwell said. “I had twelve looks in the first show.”
Blackwell works at Flowers and Furbish, a floral design studio in Paducah, Kentucky where his first show was held. Blackwell said the flower shop was cleared out and around 120 people attended. His boss, Sara Falder, is supportive of his passion.
Falder has known Blackwell for six years. She had just opened Flowers and Furbish when Blackwell asked if she would be interested in collaborating on a fashion show.
“I remember thinking how passionate he was about what he was doing and how adorable he was,” Falder said. “I like to hire individuals who are artistic but not trained in flower design. Roby’s floral designs are untamed and engaged.”
Falder said Blackwell keeps her floral ideas fresh. She describes Blackwell’s clothing designs as imaginative, humorous, exciting, fresh and wearable. She said someone once told her that Blackwell is designing what young adults should be wearing. Falder said she could see his future going wherever he wants it to go.
“He can do anything,” she said.
Blackwell said he had always known he wanted to pursue clothe design.
“Once I could pick out my clothes, my mom knew I was picking up more interesting pieces,” he said. “Brighter patterns and patterns versus solids-she could kind of just tell I had a knack for it.”
Blackwell said he even started to pick out his mom’s outfits and would draw clothes on top of the pictures he was coloring.
Mary Hayden, junior from Fancy Farm, Kentucky said she has known Blackwell since their freshman year of high school and supports his interest in clothing design.
“I am always happy to help with anything from searching Pinterest for inspiration, staying up late hours with him when he sews, helping plan his upcoming shows and managing what needs to be done the day of,” Hayden said.
She said Blackwell is passionate about everything he puts his mind to, which shows in his clothing line.
“Roby is very determined when it comes to his work and very kind-hearted when it comes to everyone around him,” Hayden said.
This determination can be reflected in Blackwell’s plans for the future. In the short term, he is hoping to get an internship in New York. Blackwell said post-graduation he is looking to return to Nashville, but it isn’t his endgame.
“I would like to move off and maybe work under a bigger fashion design house,” he said. “I really love Nashville a lot and the fashion scene is growing a ton. That might be a good transition period and hopefully I’ll be going to New York after that.”