Kaytee Trudeau somewhat of a pioneer to the entrepreneurial craft scene, having made her first sale of an upcycled garment at the age of 14 to an eccentric costume shop in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Fast forward many years and you will now see her work featured, online and in print, all over the world.
I was very lucky to meet Kaytee at a very integral time of my life and my crafting career, as I was just launching a new handmade craft/vintage wares meets rock event series and she was needing a boost to create for cash again. Things fell into place and she was one of the first makers to sign up for my event, which ended up being a great success for all involved.
At that event, Kaytee show cased more of her upcycled work, which is incredibly unique, using unlikely materials to create extremely interesting elements and finishing with unique asymmetrical lines.
I recall my favourite piece of hers from that time being a brightly coloured mini skirt with an elastic waist and large appliquéd ampersand on the side. If only this gal wasn’t so self conscience of her knobby knees, I would’ve snatched up that piece when I had the chance.
These days, Kaytee has halted her sewing machine and is now entirely focused on the art of being a brilliant punster & humorist and generally just plain clever when it comes to design and knowing what looks fucking sweet. She is applying that talent to the creation of tote bags, tees & other apparel items, patches, paper goods & especially her enamel pins, which have been the items that have propelled her shop to the forefront of her industry!!
I caught Kaytee just before her big move from Toronto to Montreal near the beginning of February, 2018 and I had the opportunity to catch up with her and ask her some great questions about her life since Winnipeg and her to pin-dom.
Her path to the feminist gift & accessory industry was one that started as a partnership with her former husband, who wasn’t necessarily interested in breaking into the “feminist market”. The puns and hilarity came mostly from him, while Kaytee was at the helm of the company and took care of everything else.
Here is an excerpt of some of our conversation:
SZ:: I know that you have a lot of great talent in all sorts of art and design. When did you start making things? Are you mostly self-taught?
KT:: I’ve always made things. My mom is also an artist, so I grew up seeing artistic talent as currency. Despite them trying to steer me away from the artist life, here I am. HaHa. I’ve never taken any real classes and honestly I’m sure there are better ways to draw/paint/sew/sculpt/use illustrator, but oh well. I’m still where I am now so I must be doing something right.
SZ:: What was your first entrepreneurial effort or the first time you made money from craft?
KT:: The first time I made money off of things I made was when I was 14yr old, I turned a weird jacket into overalls and won some sort of contest at Out of the Blue in Winnipeg. They got sold to someone after that, and were spotted at Folk Fest the following year. My first actual entrepreneurial effort was probably the craft fair you organized in Winnipeg in the basement of the Toad, in what, 2008 (Cordially Yours)? That was the year I decided to start paying attention to making art again. I was taking old clothes from Value Village and turning them into things I thought were more interesting – taking long sleeves and making them into skirts with suspenders.
SZ:: Expand a little bit on your cake making/decorating background/experience. Where does that fall in your history?
KT:: Caking was a totally random thing that happened to me. I had always been a good baker, but also good at many other creative things. I hit 28 and was like, what the hell am I doing with my life, so I signed up for a Confectionary Arts College in Toronto. It was more because I thought I would make dog birthday cakes and life off the yuppie dog parents at Bellwoods, but then I got into the cake decorating section of school and fell in love. It was the most expensive course to get out and make $12/hour, but it was a steppingstone to me realizing I need to be an artist forever, and not try to fit myself into weird societally accepted boxes.
SZ:: I know you spent some time in the states, got married, and started Lady No Brow. Without going into any deets that you are uncomfortable with, can you share the general details and a timeline?
KT:: Oh man, I’m queen TMI, but I can keep it short. I moved to California in 2013, met back up with an old friend, on whom I’d had a crush since 2006, he offered to marry me to keep me there, so we did. We stayed together for 3 years, started No Brow as a joke with lowbrow humour of his puns and my drawings, then when we split, I changed it to Lady No Brow, and moved back to Canada the next year or so.
SZ:: What were some of the pros and con of working with a partner within a relationship?
KT:: Working with Tony was great because he’s the funniest person I have ever met, but I was the only one who really cared about it. He would come up with ideas, then I would do all the rest – social media, contacting stores, drawing, sourcing, etc… So it was very one-sided.
SZ:: What are the pros and cons of being out of that relationship? Personally/business wise?
KT:: Business wise, I have all the freedom. He wasn’t into me doing feminist stuff really, because he wanted to keep politics out of it, which is a great privilege for a cishet white man, of course. Personally, it’s also been good, because while I love him to death, and he really was my best friend, we just had irreconcilable differences. I’m glad we had the time together but I’m more glad that I’ve gotten to live beyond it.
SZ:: I noticed that you have some items inspired by your being divorced. Do those products connect with your target audience? What has the response been?
KT:: Ha, yeah, the Divorced Hags Club patches and pins. Yeahhhhh they’re not super popular?? The color ones sold really quickly, but the rest of the stuff has taken a long while to move, despite how funny people think the idea is. It wasn’t really for anyone but myself that I made it, and I’m fine with folks not being super into it. But I’ve had people buy it and be like, thanks so much for making this, cuz with the 50% divorce rate, it shouldn’t be as stigmatized as it is, but if we went by logic like that, women wouldn’t be subjugated, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
SZ:: Where do you get your inspiration from? Your ideas are so very original within a space that seems to constantly replicating and copying itself. Have you experienced anyone encroaching on your products?
KT:: Seriously, thanks. It means a lot to hear that. And honestly, I don’t really know where my ideas come from. They just hit me, usually when something has happened in the news that infuriates me. The Divorced Hags Club is because a woman had been sleeping with my now-ex-partner unbeknownst to me, and called me that while threatening my life. The Believe Women shirt was shortly after #metoo. There’s no real rhyme or reason, but when I get an idea, I’ve gotta do it right then. I have not really had people copy my stuff, actually. I can speculate that because it’s feminist stuff, it doesn’t have super broad appeal, but I really don’t know why.
SZ:: Are there any craft sales/fairs/events that you have attended that you would recommend to other new vendors?
KT:: It’s a hard one. Guelph Night Market was good and fun, but I only got to do it once. I’ve done a lot of fairs, and Renegade was the most profitable, but also the most expensive to do, so…
SZ:: What has been your experience selling online? Any tips for online sellers?
KT:: Online selling is my jam. I have a million tips, but not enough time/room. I would suggest starting out with an ecommerce site that has a searchable marketplace, like Storenvy or Etsy. Then, when you’ve established yourself, then you can go into the Shopify like territory, where you can depend on Google and your own social media presence. Make discount codes for your best customers, give great customer service. There are so many folks doing stuff like this now that every little personal touch helps.
SZ:: Do you have idols/mentors in business that you would like to mention?
KT:: Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer, who started Witchsy, they’re fucking amazing. They were already on my radar before I started selling on Witchsy, and well before they blew up in the news for making up the male co-owner to email VCs. They’re badass chicks who do what they want, unapologetically, and are successful for it.
SZ:: Other than yourself, who is your favourite pin/patch artist?
KT:: I love Full Sweatpants – they’re my friends, and they make pop culture pins of shit I love like Spaceballs.
SZ:: Any final feminist statements/words of wisdom that you would like to end with? Something from yourself or someone else. Something that inspires you. Keeps you motivated. Whatever.
KT:: God, I wish I had something succinct, and up lifting. Honestly, it’s my rage that keeps me motivated. I am so fucking pissed off at how I’ve been treated for being a woman (and lucky for being a white middle class one at that!) that I have zero fucks to give about shit anyone has to say to me to counter it. I mostly actually have zero fucks to give about what anyone has to say about how I should act/be/look/etc… There ya go. There are some words of wisdom. Shit sucks, make it as tolerable/awesome for yourself as you can, cuz no one is going to do it for you. haha. I’m old.
We will be doing a further Q&A with Kaytee on online selling in the handmade industry in our first issue of She Zine Mag. When she’s not labouring full-time on Lady No Brow, she also works as a Shopify Guru, who assists online sellers run their businesses. There is pretty much no one better equip to guide you on your journey to your own online venture.
Submit questions to Kaytee by clicking here and maybe your question will be featured in the first issue of She Zine Magazine!!
The digital version of She Zine Magazine will be launching May 1st, 2018 and will be available for quarterly subscription. You will get full access to tons of exclusive material, discounts on items in the shop, plus lots of other goodies.
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