We didn’t have to spend too much time in Nashville to notice the tight-knit community of artisans and creatives. While in town, we spent time with a handful of Nashville characters in their local businesses—Barista ParlorThird Man RecordsSideshow Sign Co.Parlour and Juke, and Imogene + Willie—to get to know the people behind the burgeoning Nashville brands.

“How do we get in?” was our first question for Otis James, as we called him from outside of what we believed was his studio space in Marathon Village. We entered through a side door of the massive brick building, strolled down the hall, and eventually found a black door with his name on it, lit by a single hanging light.

Otis shares the space with his friend Emil Erwin, who we had met briefly at Barista Parlor the previous day. The creative energy within the room is undeniable, and his work really speaks for itself—both his ties and hats are perfectly crafted, and can be customized in any way.

His pieces, which are currently all made to order, are sent off with a personalized note or label in the brim, written in Otis’s easily-recognizable all caps handwriting.

While there, we wanted to hear even more about Otis’s personal story, and how he came to this point of creating such a product.

He had studied film at Champan University in Orange County, where he didn’t feel quite at home. Before moving to Nashville on a whim to learn how to make clothing., Otis took off on a couple of length bike trips. One ride brought him from San Diego to Canada, one across the country, and he had the wind blowing at his face throughout both. We quickly came to realize that he’s incredibly dedicated, as seen through both his biking and his work. He was in his studio working that Sunday in preparation for the holidays, but we have a feeling it’s a normal schedule for him to keep.

Luckily, he’s in good company—he works with his own small team, and can chat with Emil right over their center divider. The two joked that the division was originally much more strict when they moved in last March, with just a shared pathway in and to the refrigerator.

With his products and the recent press he’s received to spread the word about them, we don’t doubt that Otis’s business will continue to grow. Plus, we’re excited that he’ll soon be swapping out his contacts for a new pair of Preston frames.

The bus has left Nashville, but if you’re in town, you can check out our frames in our showroom at Imogene + Willie!

Photos by Collin Hughes


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