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Stepping inside the glass storefront of Wilder, an eclectic boutique selling everything from streetwear to jewelry to art and furniture, feels like walking into your “cool” friend’s home... except you can buy everything you see. Minimalist with concrete floors and stark white walls but exploding with color at the same time, the shop is the brain child of performance artists Josh and Ivy Elrod (a former Rockette and Blue Man, respectively), who moved to Nashville in 2014. Three years and two shops later, the Wilder brand is an anchor for the creative community that thrives in Nashville.
After living in New York City for 20 years, the Elrods saw the advantages of opening a shop in one of the country’s smaller cities. “We wanted to be doing this experiment in a place that had a little more padding,” says Ivy, ”where we weren’t so beholden to this excruciating bottom line, which would have been the case in New York.” With a rich history of culture and creativity, Josh’s hometown of Nashville seemed like the best choice — especially considering it has the third-largest concentration of independent fashion companies per capita (after New York City and Los Angeles) in the country.
Eclectic taste seems to come naturally to the pair, who seamlessly blend various aesthetic schools to create a world completely their own. “We’re probably the only retailer in the world that is an authorized Herman Miller dealer and also has [LA-based cult streetwear brand] Braindead,” says Josh of their unique selection of goods. The homewares found in the space are pieces informed by the couple’s love of Japanese, Scandinavian, and generally (but by no means exclusively) minimalist design. You can find sleek credenzas made by Detroit-based designers Alex Drew & No One, minimalist recycled tables by Loll Inc. (of whom they are also a licensed retailer), and a hefty collection of life accessories by Brooklyn design group Areaware.
While they’ve brought in cool brands from all over the world, retaining the conversation between Wilder and the pre-existing Nashville scene is an important aspect of the shop's ethos, too. One of Wilder’s earliest collaborations was with local textile designer Andra Eggleston (daughter of William); the shop was the first store to carry Eggleston’s now-established textile line, Electra Eggleston, which pays homage to cities that inspired some of her father’s drawings. “[The collaboration's concept is] geography, to some degree” says Ivy. “It’s where art meets design, which is exactly what governs everything we’re interested in — that intersection.” The vibrant, Southern-made pillows are found scattered throughout Wilder and would most likely be the textile used for the store’s flag, were the shop to become a sovereign nation.
The Elrods have invested as much time into the community aspect of their storefront as they have in curating their inventory. In-shop parties that go into the wee hours, art openings featuring some of the most interesting people in the south, and the occasional panel discussions with the movers and shakers of Nashville have all made Wilder the go-to spot in Music City. Walk into the shop and you are almost certain to find someone deep in conversation with Ivy or Josh, who often work the store together.
Almost compulsively, the pair seems to always have some sort of plate spinning. They have collaborated and hosted events with the likes of the stylist, blogger, and boutique-owner Pennyweight; jewelry designer Pamela Love; Domino magazine; and indie fashion site Garmentory. This spring, that boundless energy overflowed from the original boutique into the couple’s latest venture, Wilder Études, which just opened in Nashville’s Edgehill Village neighborhood in early June.
The name celebrates the notion of an étude as a piece of music used to practice a larger skill set; the small gallery-cum-shop is an even more distilled version of the Wilder brand, and the stock will be a rotating selection of buyable items that revolve around a certain theme. “If we just picked things to study and took our roster of designers and presented an edit around that concept, that concept can be as abstract or concrete as we need it to be,” explains Ivy.
- Han Kjobenhavn Union Sunglasses, $180
- Kathryn Bentley Tiny Opal Dot Studs, $240
- Sarah Cihat Brush Stroke Large Bowl, $70
- Alex Drew & No One Ivy Coffee Table, $2,250
- Naomi Goodsire Parfums, $187
- Shoyeido Tea Leaves Incense, $4.40
- UDLI Editions Smiley Shirt with Dogs, $30
- David Gibson Hand-Blown Glass Tumblers, $33
- Electra Eggleston Havana Verde Pillow, $280
- Loll Designs Lussi Chair, $534
- Kathryn Bentley Emerald Organic Amulet, $1,300
- Areaware Totem Candles, $12
- UDLI Editions SOS Printing Tee, $30
The first theme unveiled with the shop is “Green,” but it’s not as straightforward as you might think. “When you say ‘green,’ people are going to think, ‘Oh, there are gonna be green items there, which are green in color,’” says Ivy. “Which, in fact, there will be. That is one very obvious and fun interpretation of it. It’s the Pantone color of the year, and there’s lots of ways that green can be worked in well aesthetically. Then there’s this idea of green being recycled or up-cycled. Conceptually things can be green, they can be green because they’re domestically made.” You can check out a few of the items in the “green edit” in the gallery above.
Josh, a musician and a serious collector of music, will be curating a collection of vinyl on each theme as well. “I’m a huge fan of Brian Eno, I have to figure out who the distributor is — if they re-pressed Brian Eno ‘Another Green World,’ because I definitely want that record in there," he says. The couple hopes to eventually tour the shop’s selection in different spaces throughout the country, possibly bringing the Wilder concept to a city near you.
“[We are] willing to just hammer away and never go off the clock, you know?” says Ivy of their unrelenting work ethic. “Which is ultimately why I think all artists are really of the same ilk as entrepreneurs.” This ethic, a community of people who care about design, and Nashville’s exploding fashion scene make for a brand and world view that is truly infections.
But the Wilder brand doesn’t plan to stop at two boutiques. The couple has set their sights set on maybe one day opening a hotel, so visitors can truly exist — for a few days at least — in the Wilder world. “[Wilder is] about energy and creating an environment for people and ideas and objects and sounds and smells and all this stuff to come together,” Josh explained. Ivy was quick to add that the hotel would be “all those things plus sleep. Which I really love.” Here’s to hoping that Josh and Ivy get some sleep eventually, because it doesn’t seem like they are slowing down any time soon.