Product + Experience = Power Brand. The Imogene+Willie Jeans Story


This is a Fashion Friday Mashup. It’s as much about a fashion trend as it is about how to create a brand and a customer experience that matches the brand promise. This week I bought my first pair of Imogene + Willie Jeans after my friend Zach Sutton showed up in church wearing a pair and sent me to their website. You probably have never heard of them. You will. This is a husband and wife team, Carry and Matt Eddmenson who have created not only a business, but a story, an experience and a product that embodies both.

Imogene + Willie shop brand jeans

The cornerstone of Imogene + Willie Jeans is their unwashed jeans you have to break in over several wears. They suggest you only wash them every six months and even then do it gently. I’m breaking in my pair as I write this post. The jeans is simple without embroidery, holes, snaps or any big logos. Besides the dark color and stiffness, the only logo is a small “+” sewn on the right pant leg.

The boutique, design studio and small manufacturing facility is housed in an old gas station on the historic 12 South district of Nashville. “Quaint” does not do the place justice. The sewing area starts where the “showroom” ends creating a feeling of buying art. Where the artists brushes and canvases share the same space with his creations. The space is filled with old leather satchels, vintage boots and the smell of denim fills the air.

imogene and willie sewing room jeans

I was greeted at the door by Lalai the lab, and shortly afterwards, Chad, also wearing their signature jeans, helped me find the perfect pair for me. I don’t think I had been excited about a pair of jeans since my high-school Brazilian designer phase. The online experience, the store experience and well as the product were perfectly aligned. These guys don’t just understand jeans and fashion, they understand branding. Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon and other celebrities are fans of the brand.

Imogene and Willie cuffed jeans

Years ago a salesman in NYC at a trendy boutique tried to get me to wear cuffs on my jeans, by hemming it longer and turning the fabric up exposing its flip side. I was not ready then. I am today. I’m starting slowly with a 2 inch cuff above my shoe break. Chad had his way higher–not even touching his shoes. I’m not quite there yet, but I really like the look. I’m wearing boots with my jeans today and the cuffs just bring a very interesting visual break. This look has been very popular in NYC, London and Paris for a couple of years now. It’s about to hit mainstream soon.

How do you feel about stiff, dark jeans? Are you ready to wear a cuff?

  • This is about as old school as it gets. Kind of an early Marlon Brando look. nnI love the stiff denim.nBreaking them in is pure … heck.nNot ready for cuffs.

    • Well, it has taken me over an year to get ready for cuffs. I know you will.

  • Andy

    Stiff, dark jeans are fine. The cuff isn’t gonna happen on me. Wash only every 6 months? I hope they only get worn every 2 months then. And then only during the winter months while not doing anything strenuous enough to break a sweat! Wheeew, you could get ripe quickly!

    • I’m not sure how the 6 months thing is going to work for me either, Andy. But I only wear the same pair maybe once a week or even less, so I’m not sure.

  • Ben

    I think denim is better suited for physical labor attire rather than fashion or office attire. I especially cannot imagine trying to break-in a stiff pair of jeans. I’ll keep my old-man khakis and parachute pants, thanks.

    • I wore mine with a nice shirt and vest yesterday and it looked good in the office. But I also work in a marketing technology company where creativity is more of a priority than business attire.

  • Mike Wilhite

    Wow, a cuff above the shoe break? Aren’t those called high waters? I’m rather tall and have the big feet to match. No way I find jeans long enough to cuff and to create high waters??? I’ve run from them my whole life. AND to expose my whole big foot? I think this fashion trend is going to produce some pictures that we will wish were never taken a few years from now! Too bad they will all be digital and won’t be able to be hidden in a shoebox. Fashion adds such humor to life!n

    • You’re right. Not every fashion trend works for everyone. Self awareness is a wonderful quality. If you can’t feel comfortable wearing something, you shouldn’t do it just because it’s fashionable.

  • I love the look of stiff dark jeans. But, I wear jeans for comfort, not fashion. (When i want fashion, I go for other materials.) For jeans, I want soft and very worn in…medium wash…maybe a little jelly here, a little chocolate milk there. 🙂 One day, my kids will be older, and I’ll be able to wear jeans for fashion again. 🙂

    • I hear these jeans once broken in are very comfortable, but until then, they are hard and stiff. Once I overheard a woman say that she was “suffering for beauty.” So I guess that’s where these fit for now. 🙂

  • Christian

    How about Imogene+Willie Skinny Jeans? Can they tailor a pair so that my thighs look as though they are stuffed in denim sausage casing? Hhmm…not sure about the cuffs not touching the shoes/boots. My socks would need to have a party so that my pants legs get invited down.

    • I think the sausage casing look is called skinny jeans on a fat man.

    • Holley

      Christian- They will tailor your jeans any way you like! You can come back and get them tweaked as many times as you like, too, and for free, since tailoring is built into the price!

  • I’m not ready for the cuffs yet either. I love a soft pair of jeans especially those that just came out of the wash…oh wait…sounds like I better retrain myself to get on board here.

    • They are not uncomfortable to me. I had to break in a pair of Italian, hard denim pants a couple of years ago that were even stiffer.

  • Holley

    I just bought a pair of these myself this past week, and I am so excited to break them in! Just thinking about the fact that these jeans are going to be totally unique to me is so intriguing. I can’t wait! Although, I do have to say, right now it’s a pretty big struggle to get into them! But it’s worth it. Plus, they’re not cookie-cutter chain store jeans. That’s a plus.

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