To understand the depth of which denim resonates within Imogene + Willie creators Matt and Carrie Eddmenson, it helps to examine their roots. Growing up in Henderson, Ky., Carrie’s family owned and operated Sights Denim, a brand-building team that developed designs and washes for denim icons like Ralph Lauren, Ernest Sewn, Paper Denim and Earl Jeans – to name a few.
Her brother Bart Sights parlayed this craft into an enviable career, becoming VP of global development for Levi’s. Not long after assuming the position, Carrie and her husband Matt followed suit pursuing their dream of creating their own artisan-crafted line of custom jeans based on the basic formula of modernizing and improving post-war selvedge denim crafted on vintage shuttle looms.
A rare commodity in today’s market, selvedge denim is constructed from unwashed or raw denim. Derived from the phrase “self-edge,” selvedge is the natural edge of a roll of fabric. Woven on shuttle looms with a continuous cross thread, the yarn is passed back and forth down the length of the bolt. As the threads loop back and forth into the edge of the denim a self-edge emerges. Desired for its inability to fray like denim assembled on a projectile loom, selvedge is exposed when the denim cuff is turned up.
Operated out of a former service station in Nashville, Tenn., (where every pair of jeans is manufactured) the couple’s denim mecca is essentially a treasure trove of found items. Emerging from families of American pickers, Carrie and Matt’s shop is a museum of the couple’s passion for picking, emitting a vibe of a forgotten Americana, encapsulated for the public to revisit in their half-retail/half-workshop studio.
Their love for vintage and giving forgotten denim techniques new life is apparent in every stitch of Matt and Carrie’s designs. They credit their eye for vintage rebirth to the lessons their grandparents bestowed upon them. Named for Carrie’s maternal grandparents Imogene and Willie, the brand accents the gratitude both designers share for the inspiration and perseverance their grandparents instilled in them.
Paying their dues to Carrie’s grandparents, both namesakes have been immortalized with their own jean. The Imogene is a mid-waisted jean crafted to elongate a woman’s figure, with a straight “stovepipe” leg and wide-set pockets in back to accommodate a woman’s curves, referred to by the designers as the “Summer of Love.”
The Willie was conceived over a five-year time span in the attempt to create a design that wasn’t readily accessible at the time. Simplistic in appearance, the jean takes on the personality of the owner, developing more characteristic with each use as raw jeans possess the remarkable ability to show each owner’s unique wear.
Every pair of jeans is designed to be fully broken in by the wearer with minimal washing required and jeans bought in shop are custom fit to the buyer upon purchase. With admirers as far reaching as Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon and Mike Wolfe from American Pickers fame, the company has established remarkable branding considering the jeans’ outward appearance has none, excluding a small orange cross-stitch on the leg of each pair of jeans. As the desire for slow fashion continues to gain speed, the company will continue to expand its clientèle, but it has no desire to abandon its American hand-crafted beginnings.