Interview: Michelle Teague of JM Drygoods


images from JM Drygoods in Austin, Texas

If y’all read my Austin, Texas post, you will remember my excitement when I discovered the jewel that is JM Drygoods. As promised, here is some more information on how this little slice of heaven came to be.  Michelle Teague, who owns the shop with her husband Jon, was kind enough to share her story– what inspired her to make the leap from New York City to the farthest reaches of West Texas and then back to Austin. Pretty inspiring!! And I LOVE the idea of the Super Michoacana Look…  

W+C: What brought you from NYC to Marfa and then to Austin, TX?

JM: In 2005, Jon and I (then boyfriend, now husband) went on a roadtrip from New York to my home state of Texas. My  pal Liz Lambert had been talking about Marfa forever and I still hadn’t been. I remember her describing West Texas, “Mish! it looks like the surface of the moon!”

So, we drove out there and it was unbelievable… that drive. It goes from familiar hill country looking Texas to that other world that Liz had described.
We were driving Jon’s Ford 150 pickup and we just drove and drove… passing oil rigs, smelling natural gas, watching the liveoaks disappear into yucca, cactus and rock, marveling at the expanse and the light and the warm wind. As we drove in on Hwy 90, the sun was quickly dropping and it was getting dark. REALLY DARK. It was December and I was wearing my favorite old Wrangler shirt, no coat during the day! If you have ever lived through the 6 months of a New York winter, you will appreciate how happy we were to be in short sleeves! We made a fire at the outdoor fireplace, Jon took a swim in the heated pool. In the morning, we drove along the Rio Grande. We ate tacos at Carmen’s. We saw one old rocker looking dude driving around wearing Raybans in a dusty old Benz, other than him…not many people out.  I found Spriggs Boot Shop in Alpine and left my 1950’s cowboy boots with Mr. Spriggs to get re-soled. I had been dragging them all across Texas looking for the right place. I had been told to use them as bookends. He said he’d fixed worse. I had found my place.
They later arrived in Brooklyn as good as new. I remember as we were driving out of town, Jon slammed on the breaks and yelled to someone walking down the highway– someone he knew from a band in Philly. I looked in the rearview mirror back at the one blinking light and asked Jon if he would want to buy a house there.
A couple of weeks later, back in New York, my shirt still smelled like that campfire…

Michelle’s drive out to Marfa and a West Texas landscape

W+C: When was JM Drygoods conceived (or what inspired it) and what part does travel play in your business?
JM: I suppose I must have originally thought of it when I was backpacking around India and Central America in the 90’s.
When we got back to New York, I was working on a film and I guess I was talking about Marfa a lot. One of the grips suggested I work on a movie that would be filming out there. That was PT Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood” with Daniel Day Lewis.
I sent my resume in to the Costume Department and in late Spring, Jon and I made that drive out West again.
That film and that summer changed everything.
We returned to New York, sunbeaten, elated and oh yeah, I was pregnant with Jack.
And then one winter day in Brooklyn, Jon got a text from Liz Lambert, “Y’all want to move to Marfa and work on El Cosmico?”
We loaded up the truck and there we were making the drive again!
Marfa was the perfect place to try something like this. Something in the air out there gets your creativity flowing.
I was inspired by the film, originally wanting to do vintage workwear and well-worn western wear. I also had a big collection of textiles from Central America.
But, when the shop opened, it had evolved into what you see now. The “Super Michoacana Look” I call it.
It is colorful and travel inspired– lots of caftans and cotton blankets and hats. The border town close to Marfa, Ojinaga influenced the look a lot. I liked to go across the border and shop and take photos of signs and murals.
Eventually, our Marfa adventure had to come to an end. Jack needed to go to pre-school. I had lived in Austin in the 90’s and always wanted to come back and live here. Austin is such a great little city. And then, I accidentally came across the little cottage on Nueces Street…

images from the set of “There Will Be Blood”

W+C: You mentioned you travel to Oaxaca for buying– are there any highlights that you would like to share? Food/ markets? Etc.?
JM: My favorite food in Oaxaca is made by this tiny lady who has a couple of comalesset up against the wall of the temple. She makes chicken in a spicy red sauce with squash blossom flowers and serves it on a tortilla with Oaxacan cheese, and a cold bottle of coke.
I have always loved eating in the markets, in every country I have traveled to. No matter how chaotic or crazy. My favorite in Oaxaca City is the “bistek alley” in the Mercado 20 de Noviembre.
For shopping, Abastos Market is very exciting and there are treasures and oddities everywhere. It is the largest market I have ever seen and quite closed in places. You can wander in there for hours without seeing sky, getting lost. I like to walk through the flower section and take in the smell of the tuberoses.
You can buy these beautiful striped cotton bedspreads with tassles there as well!

Oaxaca

W+C: What did/ do you envision for your brand/ store/ shop environment?

JM: Modern Latin American Beach Vacation/ Wanderlust

“Super Michoacana”

W+C: If you could go anywhere on a vacation next week where would you go and why?
JM: Next week? Tulum, Mexico. I want to eat great ceviche, sleep right on the beach in a hammock and take my little boy to the ruins.
W+C: What is always in your bag/ what do you never leave home without when you travel?
JM: White jeans, red lipstick and a camera
W+C: Who/ what defines your idea of a stylish person and what is your personal style?
JM: My friend Karen Longshore in Marfa,Texas. She dresses beautifully and creatively every single day. It makes me happy to just see what she puts together. She breathes new life into every single garment. The kind of person who is natural in what they wear, and can create whole new genres and without a shop for miles around to boot!
My style?
“Dirty third world traveler, grown up”.
Thanks Michelle!!
JM Drygoods <<< 607 Nueces St., Austin, TX 78701

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