I'm not sure if I ever shared the story of the Fayette headband, but it's relevant to some current events so I wanted to share it in-depth. This is going to be a long one folks. It should probably be broken into two parts, but whatevs.
About four years ago, I saw a photo of Alexis Bidel. It can be found here, but if you don't want to click over and read the article it's a photo of her in a Rosie the Riveter outfit for an American Icons Glamour Magazine photoshoot. I loved the modernized Rosie the Riveter and how they tied a scarf into a headband that resembled a more feminine bandana that Rosie wore. I thought, "How fun would it be if I made a headband specifically to be tied like that? It wouldn't have to be rolled up like a bandana or a scarf. It wouldn't be bulky in case you wanted to wear your hair down. I could pick gorgeous fabrics and create a retro inspired line of headbands based off of it."
I made a prototype that day out of some cheap Hobby Lobby fabric. I loved it, but didn't love the way the topstitching looked. I keep it in my desk drawer to remind me
1. To follow through on things that the Lord places on my heart, creative endeavors or not.
2. That sometimes your first try isn't good enough and your customers deserve the best you have to offer.
Life happened and I got distracted. I put it away and focused on my owl pillows (heh. remember those?) and a dress line. We moved overseas to teach English. We moved to Boulder to plant a church.
A couple years later, I found it when unpacking a box of fabric when we moved into our new place in Boulder. I sat and played with it and at that point had shut the shop down for a while. I was tired of making things that everyone else made and loved my job as a Personal Shopper for Anthropologie. I had that creative itch again and so I started collecting fabric swatches and dreaming of/praying about opening up shop again. I spent a couple hours researching etsy and ebay and big cartel for people already selling this headband. I thought, it has to already be done by this point. Wrong. The only thing close was an ebay shop selling headbands that was an angled design made out of a bandana. The "bow part" was really long and the edges weren't finished, just raw. There was an etsy shop selling scarves styled like that, but they also sold a ton of vintage stuff and nothing in the shop told a story.
I wanted to tell a story.
I must have created about 15 prototypes before I finally created, what I felt to be, the "perfect" knot headband. It curved inwards towards the end so that the knot wasn't too bulky. It was the right length for being adjustable and "one size fits most." It wasn't too wide. The little "ends" weren't too pointy or skinny or fluffy. I started scheming fabrics and searched high and low for the perfect vintage and/or vintage inspired fabrics. Polka dots, vintage florals, ginghams. They were perfect and exactly what I had envisioned.
I sewed one of each and remember texting my mom who was with my Aunt. I texted them a photo and said I want them to be a retro/classic girl name. We shot names back and forth and landed on Fayette. My Memaw's first name (she goes by another name because she doesn't like Fayette, but I LOVE it). The Fayette headband was born, if you will.
Then I started dreaming up a photoshoot. This is how I wanted to tell the story. Vintage inspired accessories with a modern twist. I immediately thought of an old school ice cream parlour. I collected props, put together outfits, and asked some friends to be models with me.
I had already put so much into it. So much of my heart. So much of my creativity. So much of my time. Quite a bit of money (fabric, photo props, outfits, etc). So much of my effort.
The photoshoot went off without a hitch. It was fun, and again, turned out just as I had envisioned. I was totally in my element and felt the Lord's hand in all of it.
When I listed them in my shop, I was thrilled with the response. They had quite a bit of momentum for a while and then I did a holiday collection. Before I knew it, I was a bit in over my head and was pulling some crazy hours.
When I started noticing knock-offs, I decided to make another design. This time, I wanted the ends to be rectangular so that when tied, it looked like a proper bow. I prayed about pursuing it since a couple months later, we'd have a little newborn in our hands. I felt a peace about it and got to work. I didn't see the design I had come up with anywhere (but again, not claiming I invented a bow headband haha!), Colette rhymed with Fayette, so we went with it. Again, the Lord blessed me with creativity in a fun photoshoot, fabric choices that were perfect for my vision, and I got a great response. That's when I hired my first assistant.
Then I started noticing more & more copycats and it irked me. I am super competitive and so I have to admit that in my flesh some of my motives are not always pure. God doesn't let me get away with it for long, ha! I am/was fully aware that I didn't invent a headband, or have rights to fabrics, or the retro-look (heck. I wasn't even alive in that era) - but I did expend so much effort in creating a unique design along with a cohesive line of headbands.
Customers had started asking for soft versions as SOON as I first started selling Fayettes. They wanted them for their kiddos and I just didn't want to break into that market. I held off for a long time, but when I started seeing shops carrying Fayette or Colette knock-offs, again, I wanted to be ahead of the curve with a new design, but with women in mind, not kiddos. Since I get some gnarly headaches and had been making soft versions for myself, I thought that it was a perfect time to give my customers what they wanted and make a Jersey Cotton version of the Fayette.
Still, I wanted them to be set apart. I believe, as Christians and as creatives, we were made to be set apart. ((See 1 Peter 2:9 and Ephesians 2:10)) The more effort we put into that with the goal of glorifying our Creator, I think the better off our businesses are. We should set the standard. I collaborated with a very talented artist to create a floral design for me in two colorways. I designed a stripe pattern (pretty much the extent of my graphic design skills, ha!) to coordinate and I sold them in sets. I tested the market out at Influence and they sold okay. However, I was BLOWN AWAY by how quickly they sold out online. Again, just so incredibly humbled that the Lord gave me a vision that I put the "sweat" into and He allowed it to succeed. I certainly didn't deserve it.
That brings me up to earlier this week when a blogging friend posted an Instagram of her wearing a Fayette knock off. I had already been sent a link to another copycat shop that day and let it roll off, but this time I felt betrayed. I went to the shop that she tagged and my jaw just literally dropped. I recognized the shop owner's name. I went back and searched into my order log and sure enough, she had purchased both headband designs from me. Her shop was new. She was selling Colette and Fayette look-a-likes. I clicked on her blog. She is a Christian. It just really wrecked me for a bit, if I'm completely honest. More-so because she loves Jesus.
((let me be clear that my blogging friend did nothing wrong. she just thought she was supporting an up and coming handmade business and i did not even consider approaching her or the shop owner))
I ranted on twitter and instagram a bit. I didn't call anyone out. I just voiced my discouragement. I got some not-so-tactful responses (why err'body gotta be so defensive?) but also some pretty great truth spoken to me. My flesh didn't want to hear it, but I begged God for a humble heart in that moment to receive the truth that He wanted me to hear.
It has taken me a couple years of making these headbands to finally get to this point of not letting these things bother me any longer. If it does bother me I likely need to repent of making my business an idol...the root of that means I'm worshipping headbands. Cool ((read: not cool)). I'm making the decision NOW to brush it off and try to be a better shop owner because of it. I want it to spur me on to create better and new products.
The reality is that at the end of the day, it's just a stinkin' headband. I love my products and stand behind them 100%, but although it is a part of our income, it's just not worth the bitterness anymore. Not to mention, my customers are so amazing and loyal.
The truth is that they aren't even my ideas (thanks Kate!). They are His. He has allowed me to follow through with them and experience success. Is it still frustrating at times when those ideas God has given me are taken as someone elses? Of course. As Christians, we can't just act like nothing phases us. We can feel emotions because we are HUMAN. I'm a justice seeker. I want things made right, but that can only happen when my heart is right, and usually -- it's not. So, yeah, I was definitely discouraged. The problem comes when we decide to wallow in discouragement and bitterness. We can't stay there, y'all.
The fact is that people are going to copy. Seeing others' success is going to cause people to think, "I can do that!" They might actually "do that" but then they realize how much work goes into running a handmade business and they'll fizzle out after a few months. Let's not focus on them.
When we want to fight back and raise a big ol' stink, our hearts are wrong. When we want to call people out via social media and create an army behind us saying, "yeahhhh! you're a copycat and you stink!" it makes us look like idiots. Sinful idiots. Because when headbands are more important than pointing people to Jesus, we're in trouble y'all. Jesus is bigger than headbands and scarves and etsy and graphic prints. Let's focus on running our businesses with integrity, with creativity, with passion, and a desire to see Christ glorified through our actions ((even when we mess up!)) and through our successes. Let's have humble hearts and make it happen - whether or not we are being copied along the way.