The archive: past and present. maybe a little future, too… (at Otis James Nashville)
We made the pages of GQ for the second time this year! The November issue featured 3 tailoring-inspired upstarts—one in Brooklyn, one in Hollywood, and the third was us here in Nashville. It truly is an honor to be featured among such a small crop. You can read an extended follow-up interview here.
Due to overwhelming demand this season, and the fact that all items are currently made to order, we are setting early cutoff dates for guaranteed X-mas delivery.
TOMORROW, DEC. 1, IS THE LAST DAY TO ORDER A CAP FOR GUARANTEED SHIPMENT BY DEC. 19.
Deadline for tie orders is Dec. 5.
Four years ago this month, I packed up my hammock and sleeping bag for the last time, loaded up my bike, and left the campground on Cochiti Lake outside Santa Fe, New Mexico. I biked 50 miles and got a hotel room just outside Albuquerque. The next day I boxed up my bike and boarded an Amtrak train bound for Los Angeles, ending 4 months of biking over 4000 miles by myself around the United States. I had originally planned to bike the whole way to L.A., but winter was setting in, and I was exhausted and ready to find somewhere warm and cozy to rest for the season. Mentally, physically, and emotionally, I was burned out.
After a 3 month hiatus in sunny Southern California, my second home, I moved to Nashville on a whim. Despite growing up just 3 hours east of here, I had spent very little time in the city and had little sense of the place. Still, when I said the name among a dozen other cities I was considering, it inexplicably made sense. So I made my way to Nashville with a loose plan of learning the trade of tailoring and slowly building up a business making custom clothing. I had a home sewing machine and a cheap iron.
Fast forward 4 years, and it’s unbelievable how far I’ve come. I never could have dreamed up any of this. To be making a living pursuing a passion, coming to work each day in a beautiful old wood and brick studio, to have such wonderful employees and friendly customers. It truly is a dream. Sure, I work very long hours, every day, often 15 or 16 hour days, and the work isn’t always glorious, but to have been given this opportunity, to be recognized in some amazing national publications like Garden & Gun, Southern Living, and GQ, to have gained such momentum in such a short period of time, it truly is humbling.
When I look at all the circumstances that allowed me to come this far, I realize that I couldn’t have done this in any other city. It was perfect serendipity that I moved here. All the friendly people that supported and believed in me from the beginning, the wonderful network of small business owners, and the amazing circumstance that Nashville just happens to be the country’s most talked about city this year in nearly every publication, even international ones—all of these are responsible for this success. Yes, I’ve worked my ass off for four years, toiling away all hours of the day and night to work on the business, develop and improve the products, build the website and the online store, take the product photos and write the descriptions, paint and stamp labels, etc., but I realize that this is only half of the equation. Opportunities like the one I have been given don’t come around too often. So I just want to say “Thanks” to everyone who has been supportive, who has purchased the product of this diligent work, who has written or called in to express kind words of admiration or gratitude. It means a lot to me and is what drives me to move forward, to continue building upon the foundation created, despite the perpetual exhaustion and occasional self-doubt. Truly, thank you.
I look forward to seeing what more is to come. I have endless ideas and many new resources coming my way every week. The biggest struggle now is maintaining the quality and artistry as this business grows, as we introduce new products and bring on new employees. My original idea was to create a business that maintains connection to the source, so that consumers can know exactly where a product was made, and by whom. Currently, you can know that everything we sell is made in-house, by my hands, and the hands of my employees Katie, Ashley, Neal, and Kris. In the future I may seek partnerships with American tailors and manufacturers to produce other garments, but I will choose carefully, and look to develop a strong, close relationship with those who are making the goods that I put my name on. It’s the only way I know how to do business.
For now, I am more than grateful for what I have already been given. I have been thinking about this a lot recently, with Thanksgiving season in full swing. It is a beautiful occasion that this holiday reminds us to take a step back and recognize all that we have to be thankful for. I hope all of you are able to take a breather and reflect as well. So I wish you all a joyous and fulfilling Thanksgiving weekend. May you enjoy good company and tasty food, and find ways to give back as well.
Here are just a few of the new caps we will be launching in a few days. I’m very excited about these!
The time has finally come to unveil our latest collaboration here at Otis James Nashville. It’s something we’ve been working on since March of this year. That was when I was introduced to Keavy from Griffin Technology. Based here in Nashville, Griffin is a big name in iPod, iPhone, and iPad accessories, from cases to adapters to headphones.
At first glance, Griffin is an unlikely company to partner with an artisan cap and tie maker, but Keavy came with a strong character recommendation from a trusted friend, so no matter what my preconceptions of the company were, I was absolutely intent upon meeting with her and hearing out possible ideas. Truly, I had no idea what she had in mind when I first agreed to meet. When she gave me a tour of their headquarters, I was surprised not only by how tight of an operation it is at its heart for what appears to be a gigantic corporation, but also by how much character and charm the team possesses. Then Keavy gave me the pitch. She told me about a new retail store they were planning to launch in London, showed me some previous collaborations the Griffin had done with other designers, and told me they were interested in working with me. I was hesitant. What business did I have designing cases for iPhones or iPads?
I put a lot of thought into the idea and started playing around with design ideas. I thought about doing a wallet, about ways to incorporate necktie details, about using leather… After several failed prototypes and plenty of sketches, I finally decided to return to my original ideals of keeping it simple and practical. It’s what I know best. Thus the idea for a simple sleeve with a card/cash pocket. Like everything else I make, the real kick would be the materials. I decided to incorporate some of the fabrics I am using in my current collection of neckties and bow ties, wool and silk blends traditionally used for suitings. Suddenly it made sense. I’ll make a dapper suit for your phone!
The four variations offered in the Otis James X Griffin Technology collaboration are a silk/wool blend lined with cotton, a wool/linen blend lined with cotton, a silk/wool/linen blend lined with a hemp/cotton, and a pure wool lined with a hemp/cotton.
We only made 100 of these cases, all of which are handcrafted from start to finish by Katie and myself here in the studio. Half are for the iPhone 4/4S, and the other half are for the brand new iPhone 5. They are only available at the Griffin store in London and on Griffin’s website. This is the only time these will be offered, so get one now before they’re all gone!