LOCAL COLLABORATION: OIL + LUMBER AND INKWELL FILMS A partnership between a clothing company and a filmmaker brings wardrobe staples to life.
A shared workspace brought filmmaker Ben Skipworth and clothing designer Ethan Summers together: Both entrepreneurs operate from a warehouse building known as “The Hill,” located near the Fairgrounds. Together, the two put together a passion piece-an inspiring video that tells the story behind Summers’ Oil + Lumber brand, a streetwear-influenced menswear collection that celebrates the designer’s Japanese-American heritage. The three-minute trailer, which tied in with the launch of the apparel line, is visually stunning and reflects themes of craftsmanship, legacy, and place.
For Summers, collaborating on the short with Skipworth’s company, Inkwell Films, was a no-brainer. “They’ve worked on some amazing projects with some really cool companies,” he says. “They did one called Sneaker Broker that I’m a big fan of.”
Skipworth enjoyed directing a piece where the cinematography came first and the product came second; the film’s location was Summers’ home state of Utah. “It was interesting doing something cold weather,” Skipworth says. “His whole brand kind of [centers on] mountain, land, and sea.”
An earthy color palette is a primary focus of Oil + Lumber’s limited-run, long-sleeve tee, for example. The Billiam jeans are built to last and rugged enough for indoor and outdoor adventures, and the two-way stretch Black Rock overshirt gets better with wear, forming to the body.
Summers’ grandfather emigrated from Japan during a time when many Japanese-Americans were being held in internment camps. He Americanized his children for safety reasons but also taught them the Japanese practice of shokunin, mastering one’s profession. Loosely defined as “craftsman” or “artisan,” the shokunin way marks Summers’ work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit. His heritage is proudly displayed in the wool Happi coat, an Asian-influenced statement piece that looks equally stylish worn over a buttonup or a hoodie.
Although he has no formal training or background in design, Summers has always known what he likes. “I wasn’t getting gratification out of my corporate insurance and investment job, so I decided to make the leap,” Summers says. “It took me a long time because I was building up the knowledge, networking, motions—everything in between to get to that point.” As a kid, Summers learned to sew from his mom and modified his own clothes.
Oil + Lumber predominantly sources fabric from the United States, and everything from the cut-and-sew line is created in Nashville. Those pieces can be customized. “We’re very excited that we can make it in-house,” Summers says. “I like that, because I can control the creativity.” The spring and summer collection will include several short-sleeve shirt designs, new t-shirts and hats, and—potentially—a board-short option. In addition to Oil + Lumber, Summers operates Oil + Lumber Design, a custom furniture brand and product line. His work can be seen around town at Makeready Libations & Liberation, Burger Up, and Five Daughters Bakery. Summers plans to roll out a furniture line this spring that will include tables, chairs, stools, and end tables—a full collection.
Inkwell Films and Oil + Lumber hope to connect on future projects, too. “A lot of his vibe is sunny weather and getting out in nature and enjoying yourself,”Skipworth says of Summers. “I’m really eager to pull something off with him that’s more focused on the warmer weather stuff. We can throw his island vibes some love.”
ARTISAN SPOTLIGHT: BESPOKE EYEWEAR DESIGNER WESLEY KNIGHT A young designer crafts statement-making, custom-made eyewear.
Eyewear maker Wesley Knight wants to design a luxury upgrade for your personal style—using buffalo horn. The Franklin-based bespoke eyewear designer creates one-of-a-kind shades, impeccably crafted by hand.
Knight’s passion for craftsmanship was fueled at New College Franklin, where he read nearly 50 books in a year and studied eyewear making, woodworking, shoemaking, and more. Knight birthed his first pair of glasses in an aesthetics course and, later, did an applied thesis on custom rims. “I was very creatively bent,” he says.
Knight chose an organic material with old-school fashion merit. “I was originally interested in working with horn because of the romantic interest of reading about it in history and seeing iconic celebrities, people of the early 1920s and ’30s who wore real horn-rimmed glasses,” he says. “So, I guess I was just challenging myself.”
A senior trip to London further sparked Knight’s interest in craftsmanship. St. James Square, a posh district with a fashionable lineage, opened his eyes to a world of generational makers whose work was steeped in tradition and legacy.
“I fell in love with bespoke and the relational building process that seemed absent from America,” Knight says. “We’re used to a very quick type of consumerism, and this was the opposite.” He goes on to describe various craftsmen, one a shoemaker on his knees measuring a customer’s foot for an exact fit.
By trial and error, and with a goal in mind, Knight set out to open a bespoke horn eyewear business. “The material is the best thing to wear on your face,” he says. “It’s hypoallergenic and non-conductive, so it doesn’t produce or absorb heat, and it’s 35-percent lighter than plastic.” Horn is a living, breathing material that patinas in a very unique way.
During the initial fitting, Knight records ear dimensions and makes a plaster mold of the customer's nose. He takes into consideration facial features, style preferences, lifestyle needs, and personality. Then, he presents three or four style options, superimposed on the client’s face. “We have software where I can actually create a one-to-one ratio on an iPad,” he says. “I use stencil paper and sketch by hand.” Knight believes that there’s a beauty in the limitation of the wrist and takes great pride in hand-drawing for his clients.
After the customer makes a selection, Knight develops a prototype. He makes any needed alterations, then helps the client choose a horn. Horn colors range from amber and honey-tinted hues to rich ebony black. Once he finalizes a pattern, he creates the frame, using a scroll saw and cutting the pieces by hand, which usually takes a couple of days. Each pair of glasses is truly like no other.
Knight's old-world approach is both modern and beautiful. A quick glance at his online bespoke gallery shows how wide-ranging his designs can be. From secretary-sexy to rounder-than-the-globe chic, there are no bounds when purchasing a bespoke pair.
10 Awesome American-Made Fashion Brands
We’re not suggesting that you deck yourself out in head-to-toe star-spangled gear for July 4th. But if you’re gonna shop, choose labels that are made in the USA. Conscientious consumerism should be easy. We’ve selected 10 favorites to help get you started.
Hackwith Design House
Minnesota-based Hackwith Design House creates not-so-basic basics, plus-sized wares, swimwear and small batch, limited-edition goods. We love the ultra-flattering shape of the olive-hued Swing Tank Dress and the simplicity of the Easy Kimono . You can readily style these perfect, go-to pieces for repeat wear.
Taylor Stitch men’s and women’s apparel is made in specialized factories. We’re wild for the Frankie Jumpsuit and the casual Short Sleeve California in red madras. New designs launch weekly via the workshop method, where customers pre-order products. Merchandise is manufactured as presale goals are met.
All Elizabeth Suzann garments are cut and sewn in the company’s Nashville design studio. Look sizzling as you beat the heat in the Maxine Crop , a seasonless piece that can be worn in tons of ways. Or, positively float in the comfy, chic Clyde Billow Skirt .
All Elizabeth Suzanngarments are cut and sewn in the company’s Nashville design studio. Look sizzling as you beat the heat in the Maxine Crop , a seasonless piece that can be worn in tons of ways. Or, positively float in the comfy, chic Clyde Billow Skirt
The former men’s design director for Polo Ralph Lauren, Rob Magness, operates NYC’s Grown&Sewn . Collection staples include Chambray Work Shirts , Jackie Cigarette Chinos and limited-edition, hand-painted Olivia Skinny Stretch Twills . Rob’s passion for American history and culture shines through in handsome garb that transcends trends.
Outfit your entire bridal party in it-girl sustainable duds from Reformation . Your bridesmaids will be delighted to don gowns that they can actually wear again, like the Winslow . Reformation’s assemblage includes summer-ready tops, bottoms, jumpsuits, swimwear and more. The majority of the collection is designed and manufactured in downtown Los Angeles.
Louisiana-based menswear brand Haspelrelaunched in 2014. Heralded as the originator of the seersucker suit, Haspel embodies the look of a well-dressed Southern gentleman. Pieces like the Maple Floral Shirtand the Indigo Seersucker Jean keep it casual, while suit separates offer flexibility.
Rachel Pally has solutions for all your hot-weather what-to-wear woes. Her L.A.-made collection includes maternity, bridal wear, summer essentials and more. We’re smitten with the flores print, available as an off-the-shoulder maxi , a sleeveless caftan in regular and plus sizes , and as a cold-shoulder midi dress .
Todd Shelton Todd Shelton products are manufactured in New Jersey and sold exclusively online. Live in the White Linen Dressall summer long or snag a pair of men’s American Lightweight Khakis in an unexpected hue. Improve your look with custom-fit shirts that stand out.
Imogene + Willie
Matt and Carrie Eddmenson make perfect-fit, USA-made jeans under the Imogene + Willie label. Their flagship store in Nashville has grown to include sister locations in Portland and Los Angeles. Vintage tees , jewelry , belts and home goods round out their offerings.
American Made Supply Co.
American Made Supply Co.’s well-thought-out designs make their knits highly desirable. Keep your fashion game in tact regardless of where the day takes you. Stay cozy without sacrificing style in festival-ready Crop Top Tees and classic Baseball Tees .
Emily Davidson Nemoy is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tenn. When she’s not at her computer or on her yoga mat, she can be found at live music venues happily spending her excess cash on concert tickets.
In recent years, Nashville has shed its denim-and-diamonds reputation, and become a destination for savvy travelers. Music City’s new status is due, in part, to its storied musical heritage and rising foodie culture, but the city’s booming creative scene is also changing the town. The Tennessee metropolis has a fashion community that’s quickly gaining momentum, even hosting its own fashion week since 2011. "This is a very exciting time for Nashville and a wonderful time to be a small business owner," says Ashley Sheehan of Old Made Good, a boutique shop that sells vintage goods, handmade jewelry and local art. "There’s an excitement here for something new. It’s a wonderful time to create and deliver."
Nashville has always been a creative hub, but—thanks partly to a lower cost of living than N.Y.C. or L.A.—more creative types are now calling the city their home. That means artistic folks are craving artistic fashions, and creating a style that’s uniquely Nashville. "If I could create a uniform to represent the look of Nashville," says Sheehan, "it would be something along the lines of a vintage country music tee (fitted with the neck cut out), vintage Levis cutoffs, amazing distressed boots, some large statement necklaces with a tribal influence, and perhaps a kimono style cropped jacket. It’s a relaxed yet put together approach."
Fashion talent is everywhere in Music City. Annie Williams hand-cuts her minimalist leather clutches, totes, and accessories. Peter Nappi and Emil Erwin make timeless leather goods. And Han Starnes creates chunky knits under the Josi Faye label.
For edgier gear, browse Local Honey or the works of Poni Silver, drummer for The Ettes. Her ’70s-rock-inspired line, Black by Maria Silver, features tough-girl charm. Top off any outfit with a signature "lady tie" by Otis James.
It’s clear that country music is no longer the only thing influencing Nashville’s fashion scene. "You can’t put ‘the look’ of Nashville in a tidy box," says Carrie Eddmenson of imogene + willie, a boutique that, in addition to its beloved jeans line, offers understated tops and accessories. "Nashville style is less about southern bearded men, hipsters or cowboys, and more about individuality."