Thursday, January 15, 2009

What Do Hair Accessories Have to Do With Climbing?

Welllll - it depends on how you look at it.


Anyone with hair long enough to get it caught in a belay device when they're rappelling can make at least a vague connection. And those are to whom I speak... er, write this post.

Most people who know me also know that one of my 'past lives' was as an accessory designer. It was, as they also know, a love/hate relationship. My authority issues would rear their heads, and at every damned job I fought the law. You know how the song goes.... Eventually I left the business.

I had decided to operate a small stained glass studio, and I did so, for a while. And for a while, I lost money on that venture, until it became obvious(even to me!) that I needed to get another source of income. As luck would have it, I stumbled across an idea for hair accessories, to be made simply, by threading an elastic cord through the shanks and/or holes on buttons. I bought a bunch of buttons at an old sewing shop around the corner from my apartment and ran up to the garment district to look for cord.

A few days after hatching the plan, I took my fifty or so hair accessory buttons and myself up the block(other direction) and booked a space at the Chelsea Antiques market. Everyone thought they were very cute, but nobody was buying. Well - a few people did, and I was ecstatic. But my neighbor vendors kept reminding me the table fee was $50, and I had only made about $15..... Grrr!

Then, in a moment of serendipity, one of the vendors came over. He said "You know, someone mentioned your stuff, and I thought you might be interested....I just got a really big batch of antique buttons....Come on over and take a look when you have some time."

Well - at first I was not happy. because I'd already MADE my investment of $50 for the spot at the market and maybe $20 in buttons and cording. I didn't want to spend money; I wanted to MAKE it!

But I went over, and that was the moment when it all made sense. Here were bins and bins, and bins, of gorgeous, incredible old buttons of every sort. Huge Bakelite, intricate brass filigree, intricately carved mother of pearl...on and on. He wanted three thousand dollars for the lot of them.


I sputtered "I can't pay that kind of money!"

"Oh, I know that" he said. "It would be a miracle of the right buyer happened along on this. Until then, I'm selling them piece by piece. And I like your idea. Pick out about 20 or so. I'll give you a good deal."

After I had chosen the buttons, he and I bartered a price. I immediately went back to my spot, strung them up, and within an hour had sold enough to go back for another $20's worth.

And so, it began.

I never sold again at the antiques market; it was the wrong venue. But I went back each week with whatever cash I had, to pick through those bins! If I had no cash, I still went back. One week I traded and old Howdy Doodie ventriloquist's puppet for a hundred buttons. I watched his table for a half hour one week, while he ran an errand, and was paid in buttons.

Eventually, the supply dwindled, as did the summer that year....

In that time I had made contact with the accessories buy at Henri Bendel, an exclusive Fifth Avenue boutique. She said "I can't see you, but send a few pieces up for me to look at." Having worked in the fashion industry, I whipped up a gorgeous presentation. Also, having worked in the fashion industry, I knew I shouldn't expect to see the samples I sent again....gulp.

I wanted to send my best, but they were one of a kind items and I didn't want to give them away. Instead, I went to Kinkos, photocopied the best ones in enlarged sizes, and made a presentation board. I sent two or three pieces which I had duplicates on for her to look at.

The next day, she called me and told me to come pick up my presentation. "They're very nice," she said. "We like to showcase new designers. Can you do a trunk show next week?"

I was in! I was in HENRI BENDEL!

Wouldn't it be nice if everything in life were so easy.....

After three or four trunk shows in the store, I knew this wasn't going to get me very far, even though people adored the hair goods. They would pick them up, hold them near, ask strangers nearby what they thought...crowds gathered. I sold several pieces each time. But I knew there had to be a better way, especially if I had to be there to sell them! Bendel's was marking them up 75%(which means a $10 item retails at $40).


I took my show to the streets, and sold at the flea market on the Upper West Side. It was similar as in Bendels, but....more egalitarian. Interestingly, more than a few customers mentioned having seen my goods while in Bendels. Even more interestingly, they bought from me again, at the lower prices!

Each week I sold about $300 worth of goods from the hair accessories line, which I called "Vintage Notions." This was during the same period where I was going to my button guy. On Saturdays I would buy; then go home and string them up. Sundays I would sell them. Quick turnaround!

As the summer waned, I began to wonder how I would fare during the colder months.... sales did begin to drop off, and I realized the obvious. I had to go back to...a real job.


Which, I did. I packed the buttons away, and gave the cubicle another stab. It returned the favor. It hurt, the stabbing pain....

And so the story goes on...Eventually I began my dog walking service. Then, I stated climbing! And I wanted TIME. Time for weekends upstate, time for trips to Joshua tree in winter, time online to type away at this blog about my climbing life, and on climbing forums....

....Time passed.

Everyone who climbs with me knows I have long hair. I have no idea if they notice my ponytail holders, which are always from my antiques button collection, but most of my partners are men and...well we know that if they are looking at part of me while I climb, it ain't the back of my head.

My animal care service does afford me the time I need, but...not enough of it! For a while now, I have been wondering what I could do to find another way to bring in some money. How I could have ignored those bags of buttons in my storage closet all this time, I have no idea. Especially since I was often wearing one in my hair! But finally, out they came. I took the plunge and decided to try the venture again.


This time, I am going with an online presence, at As many of you know, I do have a little experience with internet business, through my t-shirt shop, ClimbAddict. It has been a nice little creative effort, and I have made a little money, but its unlikely(that's an understatement) I can retire off it....

I expect I can reach a bit broader audience with my hair accessories venture. And even a few climbers.

And THAT'S what hair accessories have to do with climbing, and why I am making this post! If you have read this far, I applaud your staying power. So - here's the deal:

To promote my new shop, I am having a Grand Opening - Free Gift!" promotion. Here's what to do to get your free hair accessory:

~ Visit my website, and take note of the Special Promo Code you'll see in the Shop Announcement, above the collection photos gallery.
~ In a separate envelope, place a self-addressed, stamped bubble mailer, at least 5 x 8 inches in size, and send to our address below.
~ You must use a "Bubble" mailer(large envelope with protective inner layer of bubble wrap). This will protect your hair accessory during shipment.
~ Please have mailer stamped with postage of $1.25.
~ Send To:
P.O.Box 171, Old Chelsea Station
New York, NY 10113-0171
~ Enter the Special Promo Code in the top left-hand side of the bubble mailer(where our return address will go; please do leave us some room!)

~ Offer ends February 1, 2009. Requests must be postmarked on or before that date.
~ Available for U.S. mailing addresses only
~ Limit: One per person/address
~ Please allow 2-3 weeks for delivery
~ Non-bubble mailers and/or those received with inadequate postage will not be processed. Please address legibly! We cannot be responsible for undelivered packages
~ We reserve the right to extend this offer or to close prematurely if requests exceeding 500 are received. In the event we close the offer early, we will make the announcement here, and will honor all requests postdated before and on the date of announcement.

Note: We will be selecting goods for this promotion from buttons of more recent vintages, from 1970 through 1980. Some examples are shown in the photo below. The hair accessories will be either plastic, metal or mother of pearl. Please allow us to choose.


NOW - If you are STILL reading, it must be because you are a real friend. Even if I don't know you. So, I hope you won't mind my asking for a favor, in that you let others know about about the promotion! If yes, you can do one of two things:

- Simply click the little email icon below, which will assist you in forwarding this very page.
- Check out my Squiddoo lens, called Talisman Studios - Hair Accessories from Vintage Buttons and Beads, and suggest they visit that link! The Squidoo page has more photos and also information about vintage buttons, whereas my blog page her....well, it blathers on about me, as you are well aware.

Either way, I would really appreciate any help you can give, in getting the word out. Thanks!

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Help support Happiegrrrl in her quest to travel, climb and live an adventurous life(instead of being stuck at home working.....). Visit her online shop, ClimbAddict, for original designs on t-shirts, jackets, caps, stickers and giftware.

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