Imogene + Willie became a DT staff favorite in a very short time. The Nashville-based brand won us over with their rustic Americana-esque sportswear and inspiring background story. We even spotted one of our favorite bands wearing the brand during a secret acoustic gallery performance! Recently we had a chance to chat with Carrie Eddmenson, one half of Imogene + Willie, about what got the brand started and what direction they’re headed in. Check it out below.
Denim Therapy: Lets start from the beginning. What inspired you to get this brand off the ground?
Imogene + Willie: It came less from an inspiration and more from a need for a job. We were approaching winding down our family’s business, a company that developed and produced jeans for 26 years. All we knew how to do was make blue jeans. Our hands have always been blue. We dreamed up various business plans – a restaurant or a food truck, among other things. We just wanted to do something where we could offer hospitality. But we would get half way through the development of a non-denim concept and then come right back to what we know and love: making pants.
DT: How do you differentiate your self from the hundreds of popular denim brands afloat right now?
I+W: We are very dedicated to knowing our customer. We have held off on wholesaling to other retailers for two and a half years in order to have the opportunity to connect with the consumers we already have. We needed to know them. We needed to know exactly how they felt about our product. The relationship between the consumer, our team and the two of us is the pinnacle of our business.
The first 10,000 people around the world wearing their Imogene + Willie jeans have made the company what it is today. Those folks validate the brand. It is theirs, as well as ours. Now we’re finally ready to give it to retailers who we believe in and who will love the product and love on the customers for us. Imogene + Willie jeans will be available in stores for holiday 2011 is some markets and then into wider distribution for spring 2012.
DT: Do you have any pre-designing rituals?
I+W: No sketching. We tell Nestor, our pattern maker, exactly what we want. He can read our minds. The ritual, I guess, is sitting by Nestor’s sewing machine, waiting impatiently to try whatever it is he’s making on. Matt is always the first fit model for men; I try on the women’s prototypes.
DT: Describe the woman who represents your ideal target customer.
I+W: That, interestingly, is evolving and changing right now. In the beginning, our “ideal” woman was one that believed in and supported our commitment to making our product in America. That’s still valid, but we find that now that same woman is obsessed with the fit, as is her significant other who sees her wearing our jeans.
This isn’t a mom jean: it works on 18 year olds and 75 year olds alike, which is something that makes us really happy.
DT: What would be your dream collaboration?
I+W: Our dream collaboration would be to partner with an American company that has a big interest in bringing jobs back to this country.
DT: What are the most popular washes/fits in the line? What are your favorites, and how would you style them?
I+W: We have five fits for women and two for men. The best sellers for women are Imogene Stretch; it gives the illusion of an extra few inches of height! However, Alice, our newest women’s jean with a mid-rise and a slight boot cut, is quickly catching up. For men, it’s the Barton Rigid, a moderate slim-straight with a lower rise.
Matt’s favorite jeans is the Willie, a straight-leg, mid-rise jean that is our inaugural fit for men. My favorite is the Imogene, a straight-leg, mid-rise jean that’s our inaugural fit for women.
Matt and I both dress very simply. The shirt I wear almost every day is a vintage Wrangler shirt that my brother got for me ten years ago that I had Nestor rework to fit me. I will layer it up with some special turquoise pieces, which I think are just the most beautiful artistic expression of Native Americans. Matt wears a white T-shirt every day in the summer, and he puts a couple of layers on top of that same ol’ rag when it’s chilly.
DT: Do you have any favorite/least favorite denim trends right now?
I+W: We really struggle with trends. To be honest with you, we’re not really into fashion.
DT: Street style and style blogs ar e huge in the industry right now as a sour ce of inspir ation, influencing the high-end labels rather than vice versa. How much does street style influence your designing?
I+W: We should start paying more attention! The best part about setting up shop in Nashville is that we don’t really watch what’s going on in the larger world of “fashion.” We keep our heads down and just work on what we’re doing here.
DT: How many pair s of jeans do you own?
I+W: Matt has three: Willie, Willie and Willie! He has one pair of Willie’s for each year we have been in business. He got rid of everything else: he just sold his last 501 xx.
And me? Well, one pair of Imogene Rigid – the first one ever made; one pair of Imogene Indigo Stretch; one pair of Imogene Black Stretch; one super-high-rise black jeans in a style that has yet to be named (it’s the proto; I have it on now); one pair of Wranglers from the ‘60s; twenty pairs of Levis ranging in age from the late ‘40s to the late ‘70s.
DT: Can you give us hint about what’s next?
I+W: It’s blue.
—Michelle Christina Larsen
Tags: Americana, Carrie Eddmenson, Imogene + Willie, interview, mens denim, q&a, womens denim
When it comes to finding your perfect pair of jeans, the devil’s in the details. Little things, like the weight of the stitching and the number of belt loops, totally matter–you’re not being picky! Wrangler has paid close attention to the small touches, priding itself on seven unique “icons” that can be found on every pair of their jeans, so you can ride out and rock hard, just as the original rough-riding Western denim brand intended from the start.
1. Flat rivets
Won’t scratch your saddle
Using rivets to secure denim jeans at key points of strain helps to keep them in one piece. But the method has always caused trouble, scratching furniture, car seats and motorbike saddles. Wrangler’s smooth flat copper rivets “won’t scratch” – just as early adverts promised. They give jeans a refined aspect: more comfortable for you and whatever your rub up against.
2. Watch pocket
Keeps your coins trapped
In its earliest days, Wrangler commissioned expert tailor Ben Lichtenstein to create a range of shirts, jeans and jackets. One of “Rodeo Ben’s” initiatives was the deeper watch pocket with its curved, ergonomic shape. The pocket’s high opening along the waistband is sealed naturally by a belt. So anything you keep in there – key, coins, gum – is securely shut away.
3. Felled seams
For a more comfortable ride
Folded ridges of fabric at the seams are characteristic of jeanswear, but Wrangler makes this feature functional. By creating a downward-facing lip in the yoke above high backpockets, your wallet is held firmly inside – vital if your free-time leans to the extreme. Fully felled outseams are a signature of most Wrangler jeans. Because the seam sits flat against your inside leg, they’re more comfortable when riding. You’ll appreciate this next time you straddle your modern-day horse: a motorcycle.
4. Belt loops
Hold jeans to the waist
The 11 MW, the first Wrangler jeans, debuted in 1947 with seven belt loops. If you’ve ever worn jeans with five loops, you’ll know that the waist band slips free. Six improves things a little. But thread a Wrangler premium grade leather belt through seven belt loops and those jeans are locked to your body.
5. “W” stitching
Back pockets reinforced
Introduced in 1947, the “W” stitch is cattle-branding for jeans. Wrangler’s carry two “W’s”, embroidered onto each back pocket: initials that read “Western Wear”. Back pockets also have a tone-on-tone horizontal stitch for a second layer of fabric, reinforcing pockets from the inside. Wrangler jeans: strength throughout.
6. The patch
A unique symbol of quality
The right back pocket of Wrangler jeans has carried a patch since 1947. Initially this read “Blue Bell’s Wrangler Authentic Western Jeans”. Today, the name Wrangler stands alone, single-handedly representing tough, top-quality, authentic denim garments.
7. Rope logo
Tough outdoor denim since 1947
Wrangler’s “rope” signature is one of the ultimate icons of jeanswear. The rope was a sign of action: Wrangler jeans are designed for the outdoors, for freedom of movement, for surviving on your wits. The rope says, Wrangler is the original American outdoor denim brand.
Tags: Americana, wrangler denim, wranglers jeans
We get really excited when we’re writing about Mister Freedom. Maybe it’s their irresistible photography, saturated-yet-flawlessly- vintage-looking color stories, attention to detail from the top to the bottom of each denim garment, or the rugged Americana aesthetic. Whatever’s seducing us, we never get bored of stopping by their website to see what well-dressed gentlemen will be treated to with each new release. This time, we’re enchanted by the Mister Freedom® x Sugar Cane “AMERICAN SPORTSWEAR” Chambray shirts: A slim fit men’s shirt in a bright palette of earthy, yet powerful hues, contrast details, available in solids and stripes.
But their visual appeal is just part of the reason they’re special. Check out the story behind their production:
“This Sportswear collection is all MADE in USA, an humble effort to keep factories busy at home, and to spend hard earned $ locally… We chose NOS (New Old Stock, aka dead stock) fabrics for a lot of the items, selected from our collected stock of American vintage selvedged textiles. Not the easiest approach to manufacturing, since factories dread small batches, eclectic instructions, mixed fabric width and time consuming specific cut/sew…We took the risks of the high road, and hope some will appreciate the efforts.”
While the description on the website is lengthy, if you read it, you’ll see that Mister Freedom has a rare and intimate understanding of their customer, of their fabrics, fits, and mission. We love to see companies that maintain this standard of old fashioned service and personal touch.
This shirt retails at $199.95, and you can own one by calling (323) 653-2014 or emailing email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org (while they last).
—Michelle Christina Larsen
Tags: Americana, Chambray Shirt, colored chambray, Denim Menswear, denim workshirt, made in america, Mister Freedom, pinstripe