Like cornbread, sweet tea, and whiskey, Imogene + Willie is inseparable from their Southern roots. Since they opened the doors to their Nashville, Tennessee shop (which fittingly is located in an old gas station) back in 2009, Imogene + Willie have become really the only name in denim below the Mason Dixon line, which is why I was a bit surprised when I literally stumbled into their newest shop, located not in Austin, or Savannah, or Charlestown, but in Portland, Oregon.
Imogene + Willie’s second shop is situated comfortably between Tanner Goods and Poler Stuff on West Burnside in the Pearl District, which is fast becoming, for lack of a better term, the SoHo of Portland (or at least, as much of a SoHo as a city like Portland can have.) From the moment you walk in, the store transplants you down south, with antique ephemera like faded folk signs, horseshoes, and beat up work boots almost stealing the spotlight from the I+W wares. Additionally, the store gets a dose of the southwest thanks to a hefty helping of indigo jewelry, cacti, and Native Americana.
No matter what the geographical root of these tchotchkes may be, they all pack that sun-soaked and storied vibe that is undeniably Imogene + Willie. So much of I+W’s founders, Carrie and Matt Eddmenson’s success can be attributed to their authenticity. The denim world is constantly reaching for some concrete heritage to hold onto, but for Imogene + Willie, there’s no need to go searching for it, because it’s in their blood.
During his lifetime, Carrie’s grandfather had founded a company that provided denim to brands like RRL and Levi’s, a company that Carrie and Matt would both work for before starting Imogene + Willie. I+W’s Portland shop, like each pair of selvedge jeans, or chambray shirt they sell, feels so natural because it is natural for the Eddmenson’s. All you have to do is look to the right of the cash register and spot the pair of portraits of Carrie’s grandparents – one of Willie and one of Imogene, to understand that for I+W, this isn’t fabrication, it’s familial. And while Portland is a logical extension for the brand, I can bet that no matter where Imogene + Willie set up shop next, it will feel right at home.