I love walking into a new to me place for the first time. Maybe it’s the interior designer in me. Some of my favorite places to explore are boutiques, restaurants, hotels and homes. These spots seem to be the most creative and show the most personality. I don’t always walk into a space with the intention or need to shop, eat or relax. On more than one occasion, I’ve been known to walk into a hotel and ask the concierge to give me a quick tour or I have bellied up to a bar not because I’m thirsty but because I want the experience. So it should come as no surprise that Jevan and I made a stop at Imogene + Willie when we were in Nashville last week.
We were immediately swept up with the entire experience. From the charming staff and sewers (they make everything in house – see photo below) to the perfectly worn furniture and fixtures to the handmade denim. If you aren’t familiar with the brand, it’s an unusual concept here in the US. Take one part product design + one part product execution add in product distribution all in an old gas station and you have Imogene + Willie. I love the concept down to the clothing they make. What I love even more is the interior. It isn’t pretentious, it’s just the opposite, it’s welcoming. It’s asking you to come in, to look around, relax and maybe even take off your pants and try on a pair of jeans.
I’m always drawn to places that are still modern but blend old objects and pieces. My entire life I have been surrounded by antiques and pieces that tell a story. Over the past handful of years I have fully begun to appreciate the well worn quality over something new. The story they tell is something you won’t find at Ikea or even the high end lines.
Imogene + Willie created an identity with their orange +. They made it their signature color and the color is used throughout the building. You can see it in the chandelier (shown above), the signage at the storefront, in their branding and down to the tiniest detail, the + sewn on the right leg of their jeans. It takes focus and restraint to use a 3 color palette of charcoal, white and orange. So often people want to paint each room a different color. Had they done this, the concept would be a murkier version of what exists now. And quite possibly not as successful.
The artwork and decoration in the space are minimal. It ranges from vintage scoreboards to neon signs that illuminate the word “jeans” to old flags. My favorite is the unexpected. The patterns made for custom denim hang from the ceiling like decorative streamers for a party. In this case, they aren’t the hallmark of a party but the hard work and dedication to their craft. On another wall, old jars are filled with rivets and buttons used in their sewing process. It’s unexpected, pretty and simultaneously functional.
In house fittings mark this place different from the rest. Above Jevan is being fit with his new pair of jeans. I picked up a pair too (an early birthday present from Jevan!). After trying on a few different styles and talking with the entire staff, I ended up with the raw denim Imogene cut and had the legs tailored to be more of a straight leg instead of one that would fit over a boot. It wasn’t an easy decision either. I started with my normal size and was talked down two sizes and encouraged to wear often and wash little. Normally I would jump at wearing anything two sizes smaller, there’s something about the vanity of wearing a smaller size makes us ladies feel great. Getting myself zipped into two sizes smaller is a completely different story. I had to lie on the floor to zip and button my jeans and was only slightly appeased when the staff told me I wasn’t the only one. My legs still felt like sausages.
As unappealing as this sounds their raw denim has never been washed and it’s meant for me to break in as my body will allow. It’s stiff as cardboard and dark as ink and will stretch after wear to become a second skin. At the moment, it isn’t exactly comfortable but each day I wear them, I can tell they are becoming more and more of what I imagine the end result to be, my favorite jean. And years from now when I wear these jeans, I’ll reminisce about that fun weekend in Nashville and the fall we moved to Portland.
Don’t think I’m the only one onto this concept either. Imogene + Willie have teamed up with J.Crew to create a signature 1940′s era denim broken in and ready for you to enjoy. No work involved, except the time spent to acquire $350 to pay j.crew.
Photos: the K.I.D Collective