James Wilson, aka @mrforts, is one of Nashville’s native sons who has returned home to join the creative movement happening in Tennessee. The founder of Secret Forts and the As Is Shop, Wilson talks about the changes in his hometown, Pop Up Flea and his newly found love for hockey.
Name: James Wilson
Profession: Created the men’s lifestyle website Secret Forts in 2008. I also work with a number of companies, big to small, on branding, identity, marketing, PR and art direction. Many of the people and brands in the menswear world that I’ve met over the nearly 8 years or so doing Secret Forts has in many instances lead to working relationships on a variety of projects.
What is your passion?
My family and our lives together. My friends and the endless inspiration I find in them. Well designed, well made objects, from clothing to furniture.
Dog or Cat?
Had a crazy cat for many years although have always been a dog person. Now have a rescue who is a nightmare with so many anxiety issues but I love her so much. She’s named after the painter Agnes Martin.
Briefly, what is your story?
Grew up skateboarding. Graduated high school and moved around a lot. Settled in Brooklyn for many years. Did many things. Wore many hats. Life changed. Moved back to Nashville. Reconnected with and married my girlfriend from high school and the love of my life. Raise two amazing girls. Work hard. Travel as often as possible. Get back to New York often. Still skateboard. Eat good food. Chill with very good friends. Love hockey (as does our 8 year old #gopreds). Live a very nice and quiet life with my family. Hope to add one more.
How would you define your style?
Grown-up skater dad.
What inspires you?
My wife has such a strong work ethic and an amazing eye. My kids say or do something a dozen times a day that amazes me. My friends who I love so much constantly and without fail inspire me to no end. Travel is such an important element. Seeing new things. Meeting people. A casual conversation. The smallest things stay with you. Nothing in the creative field is linear. I’ll find the most benign thing somehow makes a connection to something else way after the fact and then all of a sudden, something huge opens itself up.
What is your favorite piece of clothing or accessory?
I wear pretty much a uniform. So, I tend to have many versions of the same things. But I have my great grandfather’s Omega watch. I have my dad’s old New Balance 990’s. There’s my indigo wool Apolis Chore Coat I wear all the time. I’m a big fan of my friend Frank’s work at J. Crew with the more workwear-inspired Wallace & Barnes. Anything The Hill-Side. Huge fan of Daiki Suzuki and Engineered Garments.
What is your favorite thing about living in your city?
I love the space. The quiet. After living in Brooklyn for 15 or so years, being back in the city I grew up in (Nashville) has been one revelation after another. It’s a very different place. My wife and I bought and gutted and completely renovated a single story mid-century ranch on nearly 3 acres. It’s on a cul-de-sac and couldn’t be more peaceful. The girls and I hike up into the woods and at the top we look out over our little piece of the world. It’s quiet and it’s ours.
Where is your favorite local place to eat?
I went through high school eating SATCO (San Antonio Taco Company) for lunch nearly every day. It’s still there and as good as ever. I take our girls there frequently. It’s been there as long as I can remember and hopefully will be there for years to come. My boys at Hattie B’s make some damn legit hot chicken! My good friend Phil is the owner/chef of Rolf and Daughters. They’ve had a boatload of accolades heaped on them over the past few years but they’ve just remained true to their ethos, kept their head down and continued to advance on their already incredible menu and technique constantly. If I was only to eat at one restaurant every night of the week it’d hands down be there. So bangin’.
What is your favorite thing to do in your spare time?
Read books (actual books). The NY Times crossword. iPad Solitaire. Binge-watch “The Knick“. Fill online shopping baskets I’ll never actually purchase. Be close to my wife. Watch movies with our kids. Ride one of my many bicycles. See my brother-in-law’s band. Cook. Clean up. Take the dog on a trail hike. Look at art. Travel. Be home.
What is your travel must-have?
A versatile, go anywhere sports coat by my boys at The Hill-Side and TSA pre-check.
Any travel tips?
Comfortable shoes, Bloody Marys, an eye mask and headphones.
What Moore & Giles product(s) do you use?
The Benedict in Titan Milled Brown. A total workhorse. Classic shape.
What is it about leather that resonates with men?
I think over the past number of years, men have become very savvy to what it is they’re buying, where it comes from and how long it’s going to last them. Just like a very well made pair of raw denim jeans or a deeply indigo dyed anything, leather is the original thing that pre-dates it all. It’s history as a material, it’s use and function throughout time, it tells a story. It lasts and only looks that much better beat up scarred. A good friend has always said, “ask a woman what her favorite thing in her closet is and she’ll show you the latest thing she’s bought. Ask a man and he’ll show you the oldest.” Leather checks that box. If it’s made well, your leather whatever-it-is is going to become a record of your life with or in it. It becomes and extension of its user. And not many things can do that nowadays.