Something happened yesterday to make me reflect on what it is that I and other people making a living (or part of it) out of their creativity really have to offer.
Of course, we have our skills with guitar or camera or, in my case, needle.
But what we really have is our vision. Our ideas. The songwriters I work with have their melodies and their lyrics, their ‘something to play’ and ‘something to say’. The photographers who so generously give me access to the pictures they take of musicians in Dandy & Rose shirts have their eye for a shot, their ‘something to see’.
I can’t write songs or take pictures and I try to run my business in a way that acknowledges the talents of those who can.
I have something to sew.
My vision was to bring together my love of country music; my academic expertise in the history of American western wear; the artisan skills that are part of my family heritage; and the very English Liberty of London prints that I have loved since my teen years as a William Morris groupie. I didn’t even do it on purpose, really; not so long ago, I was the Mum in my kids’ school playground surprisingly dressed in a western shirt hand made from Liberty prints. Now I am making my shirts for people all around the world. It’s taken 5 years of hard work and learning – I even learned to build a website – to build up Dandy & Rose. I will never make my fortune at it, but having my creative vision acknowledged means the world to me.
My heart is in Dandy & Rose. I like to think that my customers – whether they are teachers, events managers, designers, musicians, road managers – get a personal service and end up with the shirt that is absolutely theirs. I take the greatest care helping them choose their fabric. When I am cutting and sewing, I never forget the belief they have shown in me, and my English Liberty print western shirt vision, by placing their order.
Yesterday, a friend drew my attention to a public Facebook post. I didn’t know the person involved, but because we are both members of the community that has grown up around Americana music here in the UK, we had 16 friends in common, including one of my customers and a handful of supporters who regularly ‘like’ and comment on my Facebook posts.
Alongside some photographs of a Liberty print western shirt was his announcement that he planned to launch a sideline to his family wedding dress business making… you guessed it, Liberty print western shirts. He said that he planned to ask the Nashville-based artist who was playing the venue he runs yesterday evening to wear the shirt. Here it is:
At the top of this page is the shirt that I made a couple of months back for the Scottish singer/songwriter Dean Owens. Spot the difference!
I love Dean’s music and especially his very beautiful and moving latest album, Into the Sea. We picked out the fabric, Liberty’s ‘Lady Paisley’ for his shirt together in between sets when he played Brighton in the summer. It’s his first Dandy & Rose and I was glad he made such a bold choice. I gave the shirt a back yoke shape that reflected the pattern and made sure the finish was super sharp. It’s a large, complicated print, so I placed the patterns really carefully. It’s Dean’s shirt. Unique to him. That’s what I do.
Here are some shots of him looking right at home in it on a recent visit to Nashville. On the left, he is posing with the great singer/songwriter who has been my cheerleader from the get-go, Jim Lauderdale. I loved seeing them together in their Dandy & Rose shirts.
It hurts to think that someone would copy Dean’s shirt and give the results to another singer to wear onstage. I wouldn’t do that, and I don’t expect anyone else to either. I am so mad, on both my behalf and Dean’s, that I could spit.
I challenged the person involved. During our conversation, he denied that the shirt was a copy. I’ll leave that one to the evidence of your eyes.
He said he didn’t know anything about me and my business, had never heard of Dean (what?!) and that he just had some Liberty fabrics in stock and fancied making them into western shirts. He said the pattern was a vintage western shirt pattern and anyone could make it. He said he didn’t mean to hurt my business, promised not to undercut me and suggested there was room for two makers of Liberty print western shirts on this little island.
Well, maybe all that is true.
And maybe, even if someone hijacks my creative vision, and even if they cut a garment to make it look like one of mine, they still haven’t stolen anything from me, because no one can take the bit of my heart that gave rise to it.
But all the same: don’t copy my work, will you? And please don’t ask anyone else to do it. It’s not cheap to buy a Dandy & Rose, and most of the people who have one have pushed the financial boundaries to do it. But if you invest, I promise that, as my customer Rod Picott tweeted recently, you’ll have ‘the best shirt ever’.