Word to the Guise: Otis James and Emil Erwin




Last week, I stopped by the shared workspace of Otis James and Emil Erwin at Marathon Village. From the pages of GQ Magazine to the walls of Barneys, their work (while entirely handmade) seems to be featured everywhere these days. You can expect to see much more coming from these two Nashville tastemakers (and back to back Garden & Gun Made in the South Award Winners) for years to come.

Do you have any new projects you’re working on or anything exciting involving your brands you can fill us in on?

Otis: We have a few new caps in the pipeline that will hopefully be out in time for fall. As well, working with Griffin Technology on a collaboration to be sold in London that will be announced soon and a small run of bow ties for Garden & Gun magazine.

Emil: We are finishing up a collaboration with Barneys right now that will come out this August.  I worked with the head of menswear to develop two bags and a couple of belts.  Barneys currently carries our line, but it is very exciting to have that kind of endorsement.  We are also fulfilling a wholesale order for CPH in Switzerland, which is the first international brick and mortar to carry our brand.

What keeps you inspired and intrigued to create new things?

Otis: My inspiration comes from many different sources. I try not to focus too heavily on any of them for too long. Basically, I’m like a filter feeder. I don’t actively pursue any ideas, just let them filter in as they may. Everything about my process is very visceral and in the moment. I don’t follow any blogs or other designers.

Emil: I often find inspiration in strange places.  I’ll be at the convenience store and notice how a rack is assembled and think  “Oh!  That’s how I should put it together.”  I approach all of my designs from a function first standpoint with aesthetics running a close second.  So many everyday items give me ideas so I am always keeping an eye out for ways to create/improve.

If you weren’t compelled to make beautiful ties, hats and leather goods here in Nashville, where would each of you be and what would you be doing?

Otis: I think it’s impossible to say. That would be like peering into an alternate universe.

Emil: I would be running a tow truck business in Hazen Arkansas, although my true passion would be writing lonesome county and western songs.  On Saturdays, I would travel into Little Rock for talent night at Downer’s B&G hoping to catch my break only to be passed on for a younger, “twangier” talent week after week.

Where are your favorite places to go in Nashville? Are there any hidden gems you’re willing to let us in on?

Otis: I go to Mas Tacos at least once a week to eat. Otherwise, I enjoy being anywhere I can go on my bike, whether it’s the greenways or the side streets that weave through town.

 Emil: I am a homebody.  When I’m not in the shop, I love to be at home with my wife and three kids.  Plenty of entertainment there.  Occasionally, we make it out, but I am certainly no authority on the matter.  There are some really skanky looking bars on Gallatin Rd. in Inglewood that I want to try out.  Any takers?

What’s one funny thing about yourself someone would be surprised to know?

Otis: Before I started making ties, I hadn’t owned one myself for at least 3 years.

Emil: Surprising, I don’t know about that, but… In a perfect world, I could gain all my necessary nutrients from cotton candy.  I love cotton candy.

Where do you hope to see your brand in 10 years?

Otis: That’s a really good question. I honestly don’t know. I’ve always preferred to keep myself flexible and adaptable. I have ideas of paths I would like to pursue, but I tend to not put too much weight on future plans. There is too much unpredictability.

Emil: I’d like to have a flagship in Nashville and have relationships with a handful of retailers around the US and elsewhere.

1 Comment

  1. that otis is something special.

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