Sunday, December 26, 2010

Reinvention and crap

Reinvention is part of the life of any business, and sometimes is necessary before you even get very far off the ground. After some further research on the name “Boutique Angelique,” I found that it was being used by a chick in Jersey with a prom dress shop that had a pretty bad reputation. There are several customer reviews about this dress shop saying that the Owner made rude comments to teenage girls as they tried on prom dresses along the lines of “you can’t afford that dress” and “that dress just highlights how fat you are.” TO TEENAGE GIRLS! Nice going, way to sully the name Angelique for all of us.
So I made the decision the name needed to be changed before I got too serious about promoting. I needed a name that conjured thoughts of feathers and rhinestones, images of grand staircase entrances and white limousines, red velvet curtains and the call of the spotlight. It had to be something that one could overhear conversations about and remember, and it had to have a .com domain that was available and easy to spell. The hunt for this perfect name PAINED me for weeks. It was all I could think about. I would randomly shout out potential names, for example, standing in line at Starbucks I suddenly yelled out like a burst of Turrets, “Jaunty-Jaunty.” It didn’t get the reaction I had hoped. Then again, people thinking you’re crazy is already off to a bad start.

Jaunty is my favorite word, but I finally had to admit to myself its kind of hard to say, and I didn’t like any of the available combinations of the word for the name of a boutique. In one moment of weakness and desperation, I actually paid to register the name “” Then I posted for my faithful facebook friends to give me feedback on it. Instead of grand staircases and limousines, I'm told this apparently conjures thoughts of rare diseases and human excrement. Not exactly what I’m going for.

I did sort of come to a point where I thought I was being a little too picky, and trying too hard to be clever. I thought maybe I should just pick something a little simpler, like “Angelique’s Accessories Store,” or some crap. Or “Jaunty-Crap.” I actually shouted that one out in the car while out grocery shopping with my husband. Just didn’t have quite the right ring either. In an effort to help, he suggested “Blue Sea Boutique.” I asked him what about handbags, jewelry and hats made him think of the sea, he had no idea. Then he tried “Crescent Moon Boutique,” To which I had to ask, “are you just looking at stuff you see and suggesting I name my store that?” It was clear that his heart was in the right place, but the perfect name for my boutique was not going to come from him.

Then FINALLY inspiration. The word shameless fell into my mind from somewhere. Shameless Glamour.

I mulled about it for a few minutes, I wrote it down, sketched it with my logo. The more I thought about the meanings and implications, the more I fell in love with it. Shameless Glamour is no fear, no excuses, balls out, this is me! I love glitz and I’m not afraid to admit it! Yes I WILL wear rhinestones to the beach. I’d wear rhinestones on frikin safari, you got a problem with THAT . . . elephant?

I thought for a moment, while writing this blog entry, about trying to play the whole painful public struggle I endured wrestling with the name off as an intentional publicity stunt. I could claim that I had Shameless Glamour all along, I was just building anticipation, roping people in. But I realized people would likely see right through me, I'm not that good of a liar. The truth is I struggled, the name had to find me, and I'm thankful it finally did.

I'm spending my time off work this week completely re-branding and re-merchandising my Etsy store to match the look and feel of the Shameless Glamour website now taking shape. Ditching the navy blue satin motif I started with, (and in retrospect now wonder what the hell I was thinking) I'm painting all my manikins and display pieces white, then covering them with iridescent glitter, and using white chiffon as a backdrop. All my photos are going to have this shimmery white ethereal magical princess wonderland thing going on, shamelessly.

Next up, I'll be buying and stockpiling inventory for a little bit until I have enough to really launch the website with a good amount of merchandise for sale. will aim to be THE one-stop-shop for all pageant/drag show/ burlesque performance accessory needs: carrying flashy costume jewelry, hats and hairpieces, tiaras, gloves, hosiery, evening bags, eyelashes, butt glue, and of course provide a venue to highlight my own “originals” line.

Shameless Glamour. Make no excuses for fabulousness. BAM! KAPOW! That’s what I’m talking about! And it doesn't make you think of poop.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I don't wanna brag, but I'm pretty awesome

I haven't sold anything as of yet, but I know that sales are coming to Boutique Angelique. (I'm not 100% settled on that name yet, some guy in Utah bought the .com domain like eight years ago and although there's still no website attached to it, I'm not sure I want to go through the hassle of trying to buy it from him.) Anyway, as I was saying, I know that huge success, trade shows, red carpets and possibly my own reality tv show are coming. I feel it every time I look at the mounting inventory that I'm spending a ton of my own money creating without so much as one sale yet to cover the costs of the materials.

I was struck by inspiration once again this weekend after finishing up the mini Marie Antoinette crowns that my nieces are getting for Christmas, I created what I'm sure must be the worlds first top hat crown. Top hat tiara? Rhinestone top hat. Mini burlesque top hat made out of frikin rhinestones. I'm not fishing for compliments or anything, but tell me that isn't the most frikin ingenious and fabulous thing you've EVER HEARD OF! I know that people are going to want to buy these. If I hadn't just made it, I would want to buy it. I would spend a considerable amount of money for something so awesome.

So I am in a very exciting place right now. I have some re-photographing to do to improve how my item's photos tie in with an overall theme and feel to my Etsy store, and eventually my boutique website. I will have new inventory to list soon, and once I feel I've got the theme pulled together and a good amount of stuff listed, I will have some serious networking/advertising to do. There will be Girl Power Hours and other women's networking functions to attend, there will be pageants, drag shows, and burlesque schools at which to showcase my wares to a targeted audience. There will be tweeting.

I'm so excited right now, I'm so encouraged and uplifted. I had to blog about this feeling because I know that as any successful business owner will tell you, there will be darker times. Somewhere between today and the days to come of red carpets and reality tv shows, there will likely be times when I struggle to keep my head above water. There will likely be times when I think about giving up. I want this blog entry on record so that I can go back and remind myself of how much fun I had in the beginning, and how happy it made me to work toward making it big doing something I love.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Launch of a Rhinestone Empire!

So I’ve developed one pretty major problem with handcrafting these fabulous burlesque/drag/pageant jewelry and accessories for sale on Etsy . . . I don’t want to let go of any of them! My life now literally revolves around giving life to these gorgeous little things. I never used to be an impatient commuter, now I find myself practicing breathing techniques to control my road rage because I can’t wait to get home from work at my (ugh) day job to get back to work on my sparkly little babies. I can barely deal with the reality that I have to leave them in the morning and be separated from them for nine to ten hours.

Making them both excites me and relaxes me at the same time. When I try to go to sleep I end up lying awake, my mind reeling with ideas of new techniques to try and picturing how utterly spectacular each new item is going to turn out, and when I’m finished willing a new piece into existence and it did in fact come out as fabulous as I had dreamed it, I don’t ever want to sell it. It’s mine. They’re all mine, damn it.

Unfortunately, as a hobby, what I’m doing is not cost effective or sustainable. I can’t just keep buying materials to make myself beautiful play things. I am going to have to let go in order to move forward. I’m going to have to lovingly wrap up each of my new babies and place them in a box and send them on their way to their new Mommies.

So the question then becomes, what does one charge for a mini Marie Antoinette crown made from Austrian crystal with interchangeable colored fabric inserts so that it can be matched to your outfit? What would I be willing to pay if I hadn’t made this thing to own this thing I already own and don’t want to sell? Cruising through Etsy and looking at the competition really only gets me so far when it comes to pricing things, because certain items of mine, like the aforementioned crown, are totally unique one of a kind items, no one out there is selling anything like it. It’s tough to put a price on your own craftsmanship. However, price it I have. As for me keeping it, well, I suppose I can always make another. I suppose the completely solid rhinestone burlesque top hat I’m working on now will have to be sold too, and if I want one for myself – which I do – I’ll make another of those too. Or I’ll keep the first one and wait til someone orders one then whip out another for them, whatever. MINE!

Anyway, the point of this blog post was to announce: my Etsy store is up! View it at You can buy my babies, go ahead, I won’t bite you. I may kick sand in your face, but you’ll get a gorgeous handmade item out of the deal.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Planning ahead for websites and . . . pillow fights?

You may have heard of this trend recently, as a recreational activity, groups of lady friends gather in a hotel suite, get their hair and make up done, and drink champagne in their underwear while someone photographs them. One can only assume that in a situation like that, pillow fighting would ensue. Someone with an active imagination would probably also imagine a lot of other activities that might ensue, but I would probably stop at pillow fighting – I might go as far as champagne bottle spraying, depending on whether or not I sprung for the good stuff. I’ve been wanting to plan one of these parties for some time, and as I thought about how it might apply to my fledging little business plan to do so, it occurred to me that the photos resulting from such an event would make excellent marketing images for a future online boutique website that would capture the character and spirit of Angelique Ashton Designs and the kind of woman who would wear my stuff.

Working through the logistics with a friend at the bar the other night, we discussed how exactly to go about crafting the images I was picturing in my mind. For one thing, I would need to supply piles of little white feathers so we could pretend to have torn open a pillow in the fray, because it’s doubtful the hotel would look too kindly on us actually destroying one of their pillows. For that matter, I don’t think pillows are actually stuffed with feathers anymore, but for the quintessential pillow fight scene, we’d need the feathers.

She raised an excellent point however, after we got the photos, we’d then spend the rest of the evening picking feathers off the floor, the bed, the walls, ourselves . . . and once we had sprayed eachother with champagne we’d be sticky and covered in feathers, we’d look like fluffy white, extremely glamorous chickens. Actually sounds like less fun when you think about the clean up. Also, we run the risk that someone would get the sharp end of a tiny feather in their eye and have to be rushed to the hospital in a corset and fishnets, a crowd of four or five other girls in burlesque outfits with feathers stuck all over them surrounding her and rushing through the hotel lobby with paramedics.

Therefore, given the mounting risks, and the expense of this evening of business branding pillow fighting, I have decided that those particular images can wait until my business is a little further off the ground, and I can afford pillow fight injury insurance. In the meantime, the online boutique’s website, which at this moment still in planning stages anyway, will just have to be launched sans lingerie retro-glam pillow fight photos.

In the meantime, on the first things first front, Etsy store is getting launched this weekend in honor of my birthday. I’ll be starting with a few hats, burlesque mini crowns, my original one of a kind pocket bracelets, and a couple other unique handmade rhinestone items. Stay tuned for the official launch announcement!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Steam punk fashion and fabulous hats

OK I admit it, I just love the genre’s name. Steam Punk. It’s awesome. I actually enjoyed the movie Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, but I really only watched it for Jude Law and the fantabulous fashions sported in the film. Red lipstick, I gotta say, Gweneth can pull that sh** off. On me it’s a little questionable, but I love it none the less.

I only came into full awareness and understanding of the world of steampunk recently. My sister-in-law introduced me to the term and the most wonderful website on earth on which to find anything and everything steampunk fashion related that one’s heart could desire for the wearing, Etsy.

After the initial first seven hours or so, I knew I’d found a new home, a community of artists and craftspeople, kindred spirits, an outlet for my over active creative tendencies, and an avenue for getting something started that my life has been missing, something real, something beautiful, something magical. Inspiration had struck. Steampunk was the catalyst.

Before I even really knew how or why mini burlesque top hats made of rich brocades and lavishly decorated fit into the genre of steampunk, or why I was immediately compelled to make them, I found myself running the aisles of my local fabric store grabbing feathers and rhinestones and satiny ribbons til I nearly just died from all the fabulousness. Then I spent the entire weekend creating. Along the way somewhere I also found time to look up steampunk on Wikipedia in an effort to understand why I was suddenly obsessed with mini top hats. Wiki says “works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them; in other words, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc.”

It all made sense now, you see if Victorian culture had continued on into a future where steam still powered everything and there were dirigibles flying around in the sky, then fashion clearly would have evolved along similar lines, fantastical and overdone, yet with a nod to the past. Ladies of course still wear corsets, only now instead of being underwear, they are evening wear. So if you’re going out for a night on the town in your dirigible, wearing your corset, mini tutu and diamond net thigh highs, you need a feather and rhinestone bedecked mini top hat, cocked jauntily to one side, as the perfect pièce de résistance for your outfit. (As a side note for readers, those of you who know me will already know that jaunty is one of my very favorite words, for those of you who may be new to my musings, get used to hearing it a lot)

A friend of mine recently started a blog to promote her photography business, my brother has been blogging for years about game programming, why am I the last person on Earth to start a blog? Afterall, I have always fancied myself a bit of a writer, I have always entertained friends and acquaintances with my wry humor infused babblings via email, twitter and facebook, and I have been trying to find a way to get a jewelry and accessory design business off the ground. How is it I managed to put off blogging for this long, still writing in my leather-bound paper journal with an ink well and quill . . . ? I suppose that is how one would write in Victorian inspired steampunk world, only the quill would be operated and the pages turned by an unnecessarily complex contraption powered by steam, but I figured maybe its time to jump into the now.

So, it was these jaunty feather-tacular little top hats that I started crafting the other night on one of my whimsiest whims after learning about Etsy and steampunk, that became the spark that finally lit the fire, and has given life at last to Angelique Ashton Designs.