Back in Summer-04, I met a girl named Denise DeMarchis. As the story goes, we shared a hairdresser.
I still remember the first time she called. I was working at the One Lucky Guitar office (otherwise known as my Columbia Avenue duplex’s kitchen), wearing pajamas at 11:30 in the morning, stirring the mac & cheese on the stove with my left hand and working through a design with my right, a dog in my lap. And listening to awesome music. I remember when she said, “This is Denise, I own a company called Matilda Jane Clothing and I wanted to talk about some branding work…” — I flipped. OMG, a clothing company had called!!! And they think they’re calling an ad agency! This was exactly why I had left my previous job. The mac & cheese was bubbling over. The chihuahua was barking his head off. Ike Reilly was cussing on the stereo. I leapt out of the kitchen and sequestered myself in the bathroom—quiet—and set up a meeting (while sitting on the toilet, in my pajamas, at 11:30 in the morning).
What’s funny is that Denise was just as nervous, and was sequestered in her mud room, because OMG she was calling an ad agency!!! And they think a clothing company is calling!
I’m typing this in my kitchen at 11:30(PM). And across town, I’m pretty sure Denise is working on an incredible Fall 2012 design in her mud room. We still get a bit nervous calling each other.
Over the years, we’ve done all kinds of work for MJC: logo and identity, business suite, hangtags, posters, websites, brochures, gift cards, line identities and catalog after catalog after catalog, all showcasing their amazing girls’ clothing. And we’ve watched with slack-jawed awe as the company grew from metro Detroit art fairs into a cross-country sensation, with 26 local employees and more than 175 “trunk keepers” strategically sprinkled across the country. MJC’s worldwide HQ is a half-block away from OLG’s, cattywampus in the historic “Bricktown” district on the near-southeast side of downtown; we’re within shouting distance. Not that there’s any hollering: MJC is wonderful to work with, and the projects are every art director’s dream. Pure design, illustration, production and service. For all of that, though, the most important thing is that Matilda Jane Clothing gets brand like nobody’s business, at every touch. Every. Single. Touch.
Anyway, late last summer we put together some co-branded MJC / OLG shirts (“XOXOXOLG“) as a fun little one-off. We walked ’em over, and on a whim wondered aloud, “What if we did something together sometime, someday?”
By the following afternoon we were dreaming. And now it’s actually happening: a clothing line for the boys that light fireworks in our souls.
I can only try to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed all of this. Denise and Sam at MJC are inspiring, soul-rattling and contagiously full of heart, and the all-star team at OLG—Paige, Nate, Jake, Drew, Tommy, Bridget, Michelle, Amy and Taylor—is as sensational as ever (and sometimes moreso) and passionately committed to delivering staggeringly good work. Now we’re calling up trusted friends and collaborators like Tom, John, Michelle and Jami on cameras and editing, and Josh on his piece of the puzzle, and they’re all turning in all-star performances. And last but not least, we can’t wait to introduce you to the other members of the gang, Stuart, Adrian, Franklin and Bullfrog, and a kid named Paulie. You’re gonna love ’em.
When we write the book of One Lucky Guitar, we’ll dedicate more than one chapter on how that first Matilda Jane Clothing identity suite set OLG off on a journey both wild and wondrous. And as the saying goes, the journey is the destination. Those business cards were total reputation-makers, and won ridiculous local, regional, national, then international awards, and are still getting featured in coffee table books on branding (the most recent, Damn Good, will be published in March). It’s funny what some great French paper, Courier Printing’s letterpress, and a high-powered sewing machine will do for you. Oh, that thread. It reminds me tonight of that one Springsteen lyric, about a thread that was always hanging loose; “I pulled that thread one night and to my surprise, it led me right past your house and on over the rise; I’m going down to lucky town, down to lucky town…”
Lucky Town? Yeah, it’s a pretty cool place. The Good Ones play there all the time.