The Goddamn Dame founder on feminsim, having a bit of an attitude and why Obama might one day been seen in one of her T-shirts.
It started with a phone call fairly early on a Saturday morning in 2011. I’d been searching for a job for some time and was desperately sending my CV around to ads on Gumtree. I answered the phone to a “Is that Mark Stewart PETRIE I’m talking to?” (emphasis on the ‘Petrie’ with a strong West of Scotland drawl). It was Anne Carey on the other end, owner of a coffee shop in the West End of Glasgow. I’d applied to so many ads that I couldn’t decipher about which job she was responding to. She was quite impressed at my credentials (mainly cooking) and not at all put of by the fact I’d never used a coffee machine before (which I may have claimed to have done). “If you’re half as good as your CV claims to be, you’ll be doing ALRIGHT“, she said, and invited me down to have a little chat and see the cafe.
It was a Mothers’ Day morning and I was carrying some flowers I’d picked up on the way to see the tantalising Anne I’d spoken to on the phone before going to meet my mum. The cafe was a little nondescript from the outside; part of a new building housing families and retail units, sandwiched between a Chinese restaurant and shady looking pub that you would not take your mother to, especially on Mothers’ Day. Inside, conversely, was something unexpected: a miss-match of tables and chairs, large sofas, warm red walls (Anne’s signature look, along with a penchant for striped t-shirts), and a collection of art on the walls by local artists. The mood was vibrant and relaxed. Modern and inviting. And peppered with Anne’s personality and musical choices. She talks quick and puts those in her company at ease with her quips and compliments. The customers delighted in her company, and her business, and she knew almost everything about her regulars lives. From their aches and pains to their sexual escapades. She’s just that kind of endearing character. She has the confidence and self-deprecation that many can empathise with, making them want to return again and again to her business.
Needless to say I got the job, partly because I laughed along with her ‘patter’ (West of Scotland colloquialism for her ‘chat’ or ‘banter’) and displayed a nascent ability to make a latte and a toastie at the same time. I enjoyed a good year or so at the coffee shop along with a few of Anne’s gallery opening nights when the artwork was changed over to a new artist to exhibit their work. Nights which inevitably ended with a few of Anne’s famous Cafe Brulots, a rendition of ‘Miss World’ by Hole, rounded off with a trip to the pub across the road and finally popping Anne, safely, into a taxi at the end of the night.
Almost a year later I meet Anne back at HQ to see how things have progressed. I’m met with the usual cup of coffee and a cigarette break before Anne takes me to the stock room (aka the small second bedroom) to see what Anne and her team have amassed. Quite a lot as it transpires. There are T-shirts of multiple varieties and colours – both long and short sleeved – hoodies, tote bags. “The whole SHOOTING match”, obviously. There is also a website, a marketing team of one and a designer. “This is a business“, I thought to myself. Not quite sure why I was surprised. Anne is a busy person and is constantly working on something with calls coming from far and wide relating to something about recruitment. But Anne knows how to put a group of individuals together to realise her vision and has the ability to oversee and set the standard for those working with her. She’s done it again (the first time being the cafe). This looks and feels like something customers will want to be part of .
Anne and I have another wee coffee break so I can find out what’s been happening, and what she’s done to make this pipe dream of a T-shirt empire come to fruition. Her original concept was to create a line of clothing aimed at women who were not currently catered to by other outlets and were looking for something not “girly-girly or aimed at smaller women“. She wanted to create a brand that meant something, that had a positive message about feeling good about yourself and others. Anne observers that today people are really quick to comment or judge peoples’ clothing and appearance, and that her clothing is about saying you can wear whatever you want to wear and it’s okay. The progress of the brand has been down to Anne’s team and her own hard work. She’s been steaming the garments and packaging them all, ” it’s about taking a pride in what you do. Packaging and presentation is dead important to us” she tells me. With the website up and running and orders coming in, Anne is looking to branch out into the summer festivals market, find more retailers and reach global distributors for the clothing. New products lines including underwear and sports attire are on the way as Anne aims to diversify and expand the range.
Goddamn Dame has been getting great feedback about the name, the label and the quality of the garments. The Goddamn Dames (the customers) are out there engaging with the brand and spreading the word. Anne sees her label as being part of a feminist movement representing the strength and confidence of females on the street and in the media. She’s inspired all the time by accounts of strong women such as Mulala Yousafzai and has drawn influence from Dame Helen Mirren. “The Goddamn Dames are out there and there is no stereotype of a strong person, because people are all strong in different ways.” Men Dames are out there as well, and they too are buying her clothes. Anne suggests that Barrack Obama is a bit of a Goddamn Dame (and would look good in one of her T’s) by supporting equality during his presidency. Hard to argue with that, really.
The initial inspiration for the name came from one of Anne’s favourite dames, Bette Davis, who once said “I’m the best god damn dame that ever lived“, which is how she wants each of her customers to feel when they wear her clothing. Anne adds that feminism today is not necessarily a challenge, “it’s a positive statement and people should not be so threatened by that. It’s all about having a wee bit of an attitude. Hopefully a positive one”.