How did you take the business into wholesale markets?
C: We’ve been uber picky about who we partner with. It works because there are tons of great stores throughout the country (and we have some stores overseas now, too) who, by their own right, are very passionate about their product mix and are very in tune to it like we are. They’ve been following the brand and they’ve picked up on the high points that are important to us, such as the relationship with the customer. But the challenge has been that, for the first time, all those people are getting jeans and we’re not getting to see them on their bodies, we’re not getting to shake their hands. The whole premise behind us doing this is to get people into a timeless product. Jeans have been around forever and will be around forever and we just want to get the perfect fitting jean on him or her. We’ve gotten to be such a part of the process that relinquishing that has been a little tough. But it’s also something we can be comfortable with because our partners are so great.
What is your average workday like?
C: We wake up at 7:30. We make the coffee the night before and go straight to the coffee pot. Then we work for an hour in bed. I go straight to the computer and look at the financials and emails. Matt is such a creative that he goes to blogs and motorcycle sites and he looks at artists and videos. Then our team shows up between 9:00-10:00. [Part of the Imogene + Willie team works out of the Eddmensons’ home office during the day. After the initial team meeting, Matt heads off to the store.] The best way to explain it after that is that it’s like the New York Stock Exchange. It’s crazy. Everything we do is in-house—marketing, PR, graphic design. So it’s just knocking through those things all day long. It works. It totally works.
What is your next big focus?
M: Deciding on the next city to open the next store in. We’re in the beginning stages. But it’s going to happen, and we’re really excited about it.
C: We’re not necessarily looking for another gas station because what we’ve pulled off here cannot be replicated. That’s why we don’t want to have a hundred stores. We don’t want to replicate this in five or 10 cities. Each will have to speak to its community.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming designers and business owners?
M: The reality is that nothing comes easy. You really have to work hard at something to be good at it. The main advice is to not give up and to learn everything you possibly can, and just know that really being good at something doesn’t happen overnight. I always encourage people to do what their passionate about because passion leads to you not having to work. That’s the way we feel. Like we’ve really never worked a day in our lives because we love what we’re doing so much. That’s really important.
Craft is really everything in terms of what this generation is really looking for and is recognizing. So, the better you are at something, the more recognition you’ll get for that product. Like I said, be passionate about it because being passionate about it will lend a story towards what you’re doing. And people love stories.
C: Almost everyone told us this would fail. But we knew it wasn’t going to. So my advice would be, even though you do have to learn and make sure your concept is strong, do it. If you’re in a position to take the risk, then do it. And do it originally. Knock-offs are really boring. And accept that sometimes you may not get a paycheck. Then keep doing it…