Imogene + Willie Celebrates 15 Years With 15 Collabs, All Made in the U.S.

Imogene + Willie have come up with a novel way to celebrate the company’s 15th anniversary. The Nashville-based retailer, which manufactures everything it sells in the U.S., has lined up 15 like-minded brands to create special Made in America products that will begin rolling out in mid-July.

While the majority of the pieces are apparel, footwear or accessories, there are other products as well, ranging from surfboards to ceramic vases.

Imogene + Willie was founded in 2009 by husband-and-wife duo Matt and Carrie Eddmenson with one fit of a denim jean for men, the Willie; and for women, the Imogene. (The names, incidentally, are those of their maternal grandmothers.) Their first run of 250 pairs sold out in three weeks, and the Eddmensons were on their way.

They opened a store in Nashville — designed to look like a vintage service station — that quickly attracted a following and a reputation as the trendiest jeans retailer in the city. But in 2013, they were accused of fraud and sued by a former investor for mismanaging company funds. That suit was settled and while the founders remain involved in the business on a full-time basis, focusing on creative vision and design, Imogene & Willie has been operated since 2018 by K.P. McNeill, the former chief executive officer of Billy Reid, and his wife, Katy.

“My wife and I were both cofounders of Billy Reid,” McNeill said, “but we were ready for something different. I was always fond of the Imogene & Willie brand and knew them from their family’s denim development business.” Carrie Eddmenson’s family operated the Sights Denim Systems, a laundry and jeans manufacturer, and Billy Reid was a customer.

“I had actually reached out to them before 2018,” McNeill said, “but then there was some public information about their financial issues and they needed some help. It was good timing and a good fit.”

When the McNeills joined Imogene + Willie, the business was doing less than $2 million in sales at its Nashville store and online, he said, but this year it will do close to $30 million. It was also heavily invested in jeans six years ago, with 90 percent of the mix centered around denim. Today, the company also has a strong business in graphic Ts, wovens, non-denim bottoms, sweaters, shorts and accessories. “It’s a much broader product mix,” he said.

While top management may have changed, the mission remains the same: every item needs to be produced in the U.S. “We won’t put our label on anything not made in America,” he said. “That comes with some challenges for sure, but it also puts up guardrails for the business.”

He said that when the team started brainstorming about how to commemorate its 15th anniversary, they settled on the idea of partnering with other labels also committed to domestic manufacturing. Of the 15 companies, they had worked with about half of them before, including Save Khaki and Sabah, but the others were new relationships.

“We put our wish list together and we also wanted to work with some local people, but the one caveat was that everything had to be made in the USA.”

First up on July 20 will be a hand-painted camo patterned board short with Birdwell and a handcrafted surfboard from Archaic Craft. The next drop, on Aug. 3, will be a vintage wool Dad cap from Ebbets Vintage, and a classic white button-down shirt in American poplin with Imogene + Willie detailing from Gitman Vintage.

For the Aug. 17 drop, the company partnered with Nashville’s Weiss Watch Co. on a limited-edition Imogene + Willie watch. Only 20 pieces will be produced. And Save Khaki, whose men’s chino, first released on July 4, 2023, remains part of the store’s mix, is doing a moss green cutoff chino short using fabric made at Mount Vernon Mills.

On Aug. 31, Sabah is partnering with the company on a special leather loafer made in its El Paso, Texas, factory. In the past the two had collaborated on a baba-style shoe using recycled Imogene + Willie denim. That date will also see the drop of a double-prong leather belt created by Nashville leather-maker Emil Erwin as well as a tote bag created by Port Canvas, another brand under the umbrella of Save Khaki’s founder David Mullin. The tote will be indigo colored and screen-printed at Imogene + Willie’s studio in Nashville.

Sept. 14 will see the drop of two styles of Heath Ceramics’ indigo bud vase; wool felt celebration banners featuring graphics and slogans specific to Imogene + Willie, and a codesigned Jax Fade Task lamp from Conway Electric. Finally, on Sept. 28, a Schott NYC men’s rancher-style brown leather jacket and a women’s black leather Perfecto jacket will drop along with a special color-blocked blanket from Crescent Down Works and a three-pack of retro-style socks from American Trench.

The brands approached were all quick to agree to work with Imogene + Willie and to promote Made in the USA products. As Chris Olberding, president of Gitman Vintage, said: “What drew me to this collaboration is the alignment in the stubborn commitment to making everything in the USA; everything down to the label reflects that.” 

Imogene + Willie's Nashville store.

Imogene + Willie’s Nashville store.

Courtesy of Imogene + Willie

McNeill said the collaborations will be posted on Imogene + Willie’s social channels as well as those of each partner. Emails will be sent to customers as well and the products will be sold at the company’s two stores. “We have nearly 220,000 Instagram followers so we can reach a good number of people,” he said.

So what does the next 15 years hold for Imogene + Willie? McNeill said, “We’ve been fortunate to see nice growth and we’re going to keep doing things the same way.” That means small batch production of Made in the U.S. products.

But beyond that, he said: “We would like to open more stores, but we’re taking it one day at a time. I just came back from New York and we’d like to open something there, but we’re going to be patient.”

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