I don’t mean to brag but, this article content is awesome and will possibly have more damn pictures than words. Every time I think I have the coolest photos of Ellie Lahey’s work in here, I find, or she posts more that I switch out.
A couple years back I was obsessed with a particular shirt that I saw Duane Allman wearing in a photo taken by John Gellman. It appeared one time, at one show, and then disappeared into history.
I searched for months for someone that may be able to recreate it when I ran across a post by singer and songwriter, Boo Ray. He was wearing a very cool, handmade Troubadour suit by Ellie Lahey and I started looking around for this mysterious, Ellie Monster.
Now I also have to mention that I’m a huge fan of Gram Parsons Nudie Cohn suit, his music as well of course, and think it’s one of the coolest R&R/country outfits in the history of music. Ellie’s work is a stark reminder of that amazing skill and, attention to detail. I knew that I was on the right track.
I sent a few messages and within 6 months I had a near perfect recreation of that shirt. It was incredible seeing it in person because she brought out things that I hadn’t even seen in the photographs, It’s truly my pleasure to shine some light on her amazing talent and bring some attention to her business, Ellie Monster.
J: Ellie, I’ve watched a few different videos and looked around your Instagram and Facebook and what you do is just amazing. How did this journey start and what led you into making these kinds of shirts/suits?
E: A childhood spent in starched wranglers with a country radio station playing in the background 24/7 is partly to blame, the punk obsessions of my teenage years definitely played a part too.
As far as the more direct route goes- I made a shirt for myself and other people liked it enough to ask me to make more of them. It was a hobby for a while, until I had the (mis)fortune of having a supervisor who made my life pretty miserable. The day I quit that job, in 2009, my friend offered me retail space in the French Quarter, I said yes, and I’ve been doing this thing ever since.
J: How was the move from New Orleans to Nashville? Do you find that there is a bigger market in Nashville?
E: Oh man. It was rough, it was real hard to get things going in Nashville. I knew Nashville would be different, but I greatly underestimated just how different it is. It was basically starting over completely, and it took me a couple years to get anywhere near the sales figures I had in NOLA.
The market in Nashville is bigger, but it’s harder to get folks through your door here, and it took a long time for me to get that figured out. I don’t regret it though, Nashville is good to me these days.
J: It’s crazy but, you are basically making custom clothes in a very old school way for a very modern market. The video I watched was incredible because you cut every piece of the shirt and stitched it all together from scratch. What kind of time frame do you need to get a shirt or a suit of custom clothes done for a customer?
E: Time from order to completion really depends on how many folks are already waiting on me to make them things. Usually it’s somewhere between a couple weeks and a month.
The actual time it takes to sew something- I can make a simple kids shirt in about an hour, and I’ve spent weeks on some of the suits I’ve done. Embroidery adds a lot of time, especially when I’m making new designs. My embroidery machine and software communicate via 3.5″ floppy disk, so yeah, nothing moves very fast with them.
J: When I was having my shirt made, I came across your page through a Boo Ray’s Instagram post. Who else out there is wearing your clothes that we may know or should keep an eye out for?
E: This question is the one that’s kept me from having this thing done for so long.
I do get excited when I see bad ass people wearing things I’ve made/sold, but man, dropping names always feels so dang awkward to me.
That being said..
My customers include Margo Price, Kacey Musgraves, Kacey Musgraves’ dog Bambi, Jimmy Carter, and Hank 3.
The lesser known but excellent musician customer list is.. I can’t even get started on that right now.
J: You have a unique range of clothing, including a very cool Iron Maiden shirt that popped up on the Facebook page, how are you selecting what to make for stock? (Of course I couldn’t find that Maiden shirt so enjoy these in lieu of that one.)
E: That Iron Maiden shirt is good one. That customer brought in the tee he lived in through high school, that didn’t fit him anymore, and I chopped and sewed it into something that did. I’ve done a ton of tee shirt ones, started with that because I ran out of closet space and wanted to do something with all the tees I didn’t wear much. I ran through mine years ago, but my friends hook me up when they clean out their closets, and I find good ones in thrift stores occasionally too.
Generally speaking though, I just make what I like, what I think will look interesting.
Since I find all of what she makes interesting, I also wanted to find out about a couple of shows that I saw her participating in this year. She let me know that the most recent one was at the Nashville Boogie Vintage Weekender. Te fashion show side of it, The Western Round Up, is put on by Riley Reed.
Here’s a couple close up shots of the Ellie Monster Space Suit owned by Tony Perdue.
Ellie relayed that Jason Galaz, head honcho of the Boogie, described it this year as: “The epicenter of the Western Fashion industry is right here at the Nashville Boogie. Industry leaders and tailors to the stars all show their wares.”
E: And that’s a pretty good description. This was the fourth year for it, I’ve been there from the start. There are a bunch of other amazing designers who’ve taken part in it too (older and newer) but that could be a pretty long road to go down.
I was in a fashion show over in Memphis in February at the Ameripolitan Awards too. It’s been a good year for showing off.
J: For anyone that is looking for a unique piece of Nashville authentic clothing, how should they get a hold of you and what do you need from them?
E: They can come by and see me in person at the shoppes on Fatherland in east Nashville, or find me on all the normal places. Generally speaking, I just need an idea, some measurements, and a little $.
Phone: (615) 295-6248 (not the best way, my shop flip phone is about as outdated as my sewing machine is, I drop calls all day long)
I encourage you to scroll through her various pages and look at the variety of clothing that Ellie has created. I’m always impressed, surprised, and fascinated by her creations and greatly appreciate her taking the time to talk to me.
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