While up in Oregon recently to do a trunk show in Portland, I was able to take a little time to get out in nature, the place I feel most inspired. Sionnie had her nice camera with her to get shots for a project she was working on, and for fun she let me take some photos of her in my Navy Waxed Camper. Well, despite my amateur photography skills, a good handful of the photos worked out quite well. So I’m excited to share my favorites of a pretty lady in a beautiful setting, wearing a well-made cap that looks great on ladies and gents.
Today I am proud to introduce a brand new style of cap here at Otis James Nashville, called the Baker. The Baker is an 8-panel baker boy cap with a very deep crown that allows for plenty of slouch. Long hair can be tucked up under the cap, or the slouchy crown can be worn to any side for extra attitude and style.
For the debut of the Baker style, I am offering a Made.To.Order option in a sumptuous dark umber and oatmeal tweed, with a medley of playful confetti speckles. Click the image above to commission one in your size with your name on the label. If you’re interested in commissioning the Baker in another fabric, send me an email to discuss options. (The cap above can be seen in the September issue of British GQ.)
Now the terms for various cap styles are used fairly loosely by many, but I’m a firm believer in integrity of naming. I’m in the process of compiling some research on the various historical names of different styles of caps, from Newsboy to Ivy to Baker Boy, to find out exactly where these terms originated, as well as some better guidelines for referencing each style. As I define it, a Baker Boy Cap is generally an 8-panel (though it could come in a 6-panel) cap with an outer band and a radially-symmetrical crown that is not secured down to the peak, or brim. This allows for a crown that is free to be pulled and worn in any direction, not just to the front.
If anyone has any input on naming caps, or any leads to useful or authoritative historical information on caps, I would love to hear about it. Please drop me an email.
You may have heard by now, from me or someone else, that we are no longer making ties. This is true. I did want to clarify the reasoning behind this decision, as I’ve had a few people take that to mean that I am going out of business. That is not true.
This is a change that has been a long time coming- since I started this business, really. I’ve said it before: I never set out to have a business making ties. That part of the business found me, and persistently insisted that I continue. I started learning how to sew with the intention of making all sorts of garments, from shirts to trousers to jackets to caps. But a tie commission came my way early on which led to a few more commissions, which led to several others. Without even trying, I built a reputation as a tie maker. And so I embraced it. I thought that if I could make a name for myself as a maker of high-quality, interesting neck wear, then I could more easily transition into other garments down the road. Early on I nearly stopped making ties a few times, but something would always draw me back and keep me going.
Over the past three years, I’ve been slowly improving the quality, construction, and design of the caps and making them available, mostly as a custom option, all while still designing and managing the ties and bow ties, among other accessories. Eventually, it became too much for me to manage on my own. I felt the need to simplify. At the same time, my wonderful and talented ladies that have been working with me for years were beginning to look into transitioning into other work, so the timing made sense. The moving of the studio provided an ideal transition point in which to make this big change, and I decided to make the leap into focusing solely on the caps in-house.
Now my initial intention was to just quit the ties for good. No more. End of the line. But as I’ve taken some time to think about it all, I’ve been changing my mind. While ties were not my initial intention, they’ve taken a hold on me. I miss them. I still have ideas I want to pursue. So I’ve begun looking into some ways to resurrect the neckties and bow ties. At the moment, producing them in-house again is not on the table. I would like to keep the studio production focused on the caps. On a recent trip to New York, however, I was able to explore the idea of manufacturing my line of ties with a reputable factory up there. There is much more to be done to determine if this is a viable option, but if they can produce to my standards, I am strongly considering the option. So we’ll see.
For the present moment, what we have represented online is the last of the Otis James Nashville ties. I will provide updates should anything change. It’s been a fun experience, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that have come my way simply from making ties. There is no way I could have planned any of it myself. Who knows what new and interesting opportunities might arise as I pursue these new models of business. I’m excited about the prospects.
In honor of our collaboration with Electra Eggleston, I am sharing some photos I love by William Eggleston, the man whose paintings and drawings inspired the prints featured in this collection. His extensive catalog of work is worth exploring. There are so many more I could have added here. These are just a few I pulled from http://www.egglestontrust.com.
This weekend is our last weekend open here at Marathon Village. It’s a bittersweet celebration as we transition into our new space in North Nashville. Before we move, however, we’re looking to lighten our load a little bit. So we’re doing a sale on all in-store merchandise– 15% off. We’re selling some fixtures and fabric as well. Come on down and see what we have. Take some of this stuff off our hands so we don’t have to move it!
Online shoppers can save by using the code 15MOVE15 at checkout.
Details on the new location coming next week…
It’s time for the second installment in our Meet the Maker series. This time I would like to introduce you to the very first employee here at Otis James Nashville, Katie Clement.
Katie, a natural ginger (though twin to a brunette), first came on as an intern in April of 2011, back in the days when I was still working out of a converted shed in my backyard. At the time she was a junior at O’More College of Design. When Katie’s internship obligations were fulfilled in early July, I knew she was indispensable and offered her a job. She was the first employee and still works here today. In fact, if you’ve ordered a necktie from us in the last 2 years, there is a 99% chance that Katie hand-stitched the slip stitch on the back of your tie. While there was a steep curve getting to the point where she could make a tie from start to finish, once Katie got her confidence, she ran with it. With hundreds and hundreds of ties under her belt now, it’s appropriate to call her a skilled artisan.
While Katie does from time to time work on other items here in the studio, her primary role is making neckties. She enjoys discovering the unique characteristics and personality of each fabric and finished tie. Some are even lucky enough to be given names, such as Kyle or Eugene. Though it’s always tough to pick a favorite, Katie still gets excited thinking about a slim number we did back in 2013, the 225.
Though Katie came on full-time back in 2012, shortly after her wedding last Autumn she transitioned back to part time. Currently she is working on building her own line of baby clothes under the label Morning Jane. With an adorable little niece, Lennon, as her muse, Katie aims to create simple, comfortable designs from beautiful textiles. You can learn more on her facebook page. You can also see Katie’s handiwork in the new vibrant Spring neckties just added to the site.
I feel as though I say this every six months or so- big changes are coming! (It’s usually true.) The most notable of these would be our forthcoming move. If everything continues as planned, at the end of this month we will relocate our studio and retail space out of Marathon Village to a small building in North Nashville, not far from Germantown.
This is not the first time I’ve talked of moving in the past year. Nearly 9 months ago I signed a lease on a space in the heart of the hip East Nashville neighborhood. At the time I was very excited about the prospects of the move, as I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 5 years now and had loved the quaint energy and diversity of characters. I thought it was a fine location for our mixed production/retail shop. My vision for the space was rather ambitious and expensive, however, and in the end was not an accurate representation of me, personally. It was an exhausting and stressful road to secure investment for the endeavor, and by the time I had made that happen, my heart had spoken up and told me to get the hell out. So many signs leading up to that point had told me the same thing, but I didn’t pay attention. Negotiating out of that deal was probably the best decision I made in 2014, and lifted what had become an unbearable weight off of me. (You can read more about this in an earlier post below.) While I’m sure that location would have proven quite lucrative for the business, financial fortune has never been my driving force. It would have required far more focus on the retail side of this operation than I am willing to commit. My heart will always lie in the design and production side.
This new move more genuinely aligns with my personality and what I have always wanted this business to be- a destination. I find the greatest satisfaction in life comes from exploration and hard work. No risk, no reward, as they say. I like to apply this ideal to both my approach to creating the product as well as how the product itself can be attained. Hence this move to an otherwise sleepy and relatively unknown part of town, inhabited by wonderful textures, characters, and residents. While nowhere in Nashville currently seems safe from the unimaginative, overpriced development that currently plagues this “it” city, so far this area has maintained a certain sense of desirable “grit.” And I hope it stays that way for some time. For me, it offers a quiet, unhip, and easily accessible destination where I can focus on creativity and sincerity. Off the beaten path is most often where the best treasures await, so come see us in the new location; it will be worth the trip.
There will still be a small retail component to the new studio, as has always been my vision. I am currently working out the details on hours, but as of now we will have 2 or 3 days a week of predictable retail hours with the rest of the week left to chance and circumstance. Basically, if we’re there and working, we’re open (which happens to be nearly all the time anyway). Either way, a simple phone call ahead of time will verify our status. Appointments are always welcome, as well.
For now, we finish up our residency in the beautiful and historied Marathon Village. I am sad to say goodby to our gorgeous space and the wonderful community here. This place has been good to us over the past 3 years. In the end, however, I feel a strong need to move on, to escape the heavy, mindless tourist traffic we see 7 months of the year, and to start a new chapter in a more adventurous location.
This physical transition coincides with a couple big transitions in our business model, as well. To anyone who knows me personally or has followed along for a while, it is no secret that my biggest passion lies with the caps. (It all started with my first one at age 13.) The caps have seen a very slow build in these 6 years since I moved to Nashville and started to design and create, but the last 6 months have shown significant momentum. We’re not discontinuing neckwear by any means, but expect much more emphasis on the headwear moving forward, with ties becoming more exclusive and provocative. For this, I’m interested in pursuing more collaborations, both with retailers and artists.
Stay tuned for details on the move, including exact location and dates. In the meantime, come visit us here at Marathon, keep your eyes peeled for new developments, and feel free to drop a line and say what’s on your mind. I sincerely appreciate all the support we’ve had over the last few years that has allowed me to pursue this simple passion of mine, exploring along the way.
And if you’re currently waiting on a custom cap order, it’s coming soon! Be patient. With all this going on, I’ve fallen behind on orders. I’m working very hard to get caught up.
A lot of garments claim to be handmade these days, and if human hands touched them at any time, I suppose you could argue they’re right. But when talking about truly artisan products, I think there needs to be a much higher standard when the term “handmade” is used. Around here, it means that human hands are on the garment 100% of the time, most often the same set of hands from start to finish. Really, the most important aspect of a handmade garment is that there is a face behind those hands– and a heart and soul. It is someone who cares about the garment he or she is making, the processes behind producing that garment, and ultimately the satisfaction that someone will find when they wear that garment. My main inspiration in creating this company was facilitating connection. I wanted to know more about where products come from, and I found there was a serious lack of transparency and humanity behind most of the items I owned. I felt there was tangible value in being able to connect a garment to a human, to understanding the actual source of the design and production of what we use on a daily basis. So in the interest of creating more transparency and human connection here, I want to introduce you to the first in our Meet the Maker features with Ashley Balding. Without further ado…
Ashley, a Nashville native, joined the team here at Otis James Nashville back in September 2012. At the time she was still a student at O’More College of Design, working on her degree in fashion design. She worked with us part-time until she graduated in the summer of 2013, when she came on full-time. It is very difficult to master a craft with only a part-time dedication, so I was very excited to have the opportunity for Ashley to dive further into the production process here. Since coming on full-time, Ashley has become the undisputed queen of hand-stitched buttonholes. If you’ve purchased a bow tie from us in the last 8 months, odds are good that Ashley stitched all three buttonholes on the back with her able hands. She will tell you herself that it wasn’t an easy process to master, and there was much frustration along the way, but at some point earlier this year she turned a corner, and it seemed to click. Now it’s her favorite part of her job here. She enjoys the challenging aspects. Each buttonhole is its own beast that must be reigned in without killing its essence. It’s a delicate balance.
Most recently I had Ashley try her hand-stitching skills on some hand-rolled hems for some luscious winter scarves. The hand-rolled hem is a time-intensive, delicate edging often seen on finer handkerchiefs and scarves. With only a little bit of practice, Ashley had it down pat and jumped right into finishing the final garments. You can see and feel her beautiful work on our new line of cashmere scarves.
Around here, Ashley makes nearly all of the bow ties, from start to finish. She cuts, preps, sews, stamps labels, and finishes with hand-sewn buttons and buttonholes. Each one is a work of art that requires a lot of skilled labor. Outside of the studio here, Ashley is also working on her own collection of handmade garments under the name Ona Rex, which focuses heavily on dyes and knits. Her website is under construction, but if you’re in Nashville, be sure to stop by her winter launch event on November 21. She also shares studio space with our good friends Shutter & Shuttles and Jamie & The Jones. We will be out there celebrating their accomplishments and enjoying their beautiful work. Please join us!
Well, some have asked already, so I’ve told them. Been waiting to make the official announcement, though. We will not be moving our shop and studio over to Gallatin Road in East Nashville. It was a tough decision to make, but once it was made, I felt the weight of the world lift off my shoulders. There are a few downsides, of course, but overall it is a big positive.
Even before signing the lease on that space months ago, I was having some doubts about it. As things progressed, I worked hard to forget about those thoughts and focused on the insane amount of work that needed to be done to make the move possible. Part of making that happen would have involved taking on outside investment capital. The buildout and necessary growth were going to cost much more than the business could afford on its own. I’ve toyed with the idea of investment in the past, and I’ve always backed out before finalizing anything. It has never felt right. This time was no different, but again, I ignored my gut and pushed forward. In the end, some timing issues caused a few possible deals to fall through. There was a brief period where I thought I might explode with frustration. I had convinced myself that this move was the manifestation of all my goals and hard work, and the reality of attaining it seemed to be slipping through my fingers. After taking a step back, however, and examining the situation, remembering my original ideals for starting this business, and evaluating what had been giving me bad vibes all along, I realized that all this supposed “bad timing” was actually a blessing.
Since making the decision to back out of the move, I find myself climbing out of a deep and dark hole, feeling lighter and happier. I have finally been able to get back to doing what I actually love doing- making caps. (Working very hard to get caught up on custom orders at the moment. Focusing on the move took me away from the studio much more than I would have liked and interrupted a lot of my progress.) Much of the revelations that have come from this experience will play out even more in the near future, especially next year. I will share them as they become more solid. For now, we will continue to occupy our beautiful space in Marathon Village, a building that we have called home for nearly 3 years now. Our retail shop is open the same hours: Tues-Fri 10-6 & Sat 11-5. We will most likely expand those hours as the holiday shopping fervor grows. Come pay us a visit.
We’re working on some great Autumn pieces at the moment and will continue to add new products to the website each week. Lookout for some outstanding scarves and bandanas very soon, in limited quantities. Also, I am finishing up two new cap styles which I will make available shortly. So many ideas, and so little time to make them all!