Most of the time I’m a fairly easy-going kinda gal, but I do have a prickly side (just ask ESP!). And the second email I received last week did bring out my inner hedgehog.
It was a perfectly pleasant email from a “Content and Online PR Executive” who was kind enough to praise some of my shibori pieces. She then went on to say that her client, a menswear store, had “created a step-by-step guide to Shibori tie-dying and I’d love some more people to come across it, especially because I want to encourage everyone to post some similar fun things like this on our blog! I reckon if it had more readers they’d realise it is actually worth doing these interesting posts 🙂 ”
Now I did have some initial sympathy for this poor executive – and not just because she was nice about my work. 😉 When I had a look at the blog, most of the posts were basically puff pieces for clothes from the different brands they stocked. The breathless prose babbles about enzyme washes and thermo-taping, and I gather stud fastenings are pretty popular, judging by the number of times they get mentioned. Every garment is original, unique and – most of all – iconic.
Amid all this there was “Shibori Time: a tutorial in the traditional Japanese dyeing technique”. (Fortunately, the word dyeing is spelt correctly here – unlike elsewhere in the blog – or there could have been some nasty misunderstandings.)
But on looking more closely, I realised that it’s not really a tutorial – or not one that’s aimed at someone who knows nothing about shibori (which I imagine is most of their clientele). True, there are some photos showing stitching, binding and dyeing, along with the finished T-shirt. But the instructions leave something to be desired. I doubt that most men will know what a “basting thread” is. And what do you make of this? “Dip the tee-shirt into a green and salty hot water. After a few minutes, dip it into a fixative solution.”
No – I realised that the “tutorial” is actually a thinly disguised puff for Lacoste, because the instructions are all about binding the T-shirt into the shape of a crocodile before dipping. And of course the T-shirt in the photos has a little crocodile logo on it.
So I typed “Lacoste crocodile T-shirt” into Google – and guess what? It came up with the original tutorial on the Lacoste site, featuring a video as well as photos. The site credits the shibori artist in the tutorial, Hiroyuki Murase of Suzusan from the shibori centre of Arimatsu. And it’s clear that it’s more tongue in cheek than a proper tutorial – after featuring Hiroyuki and his specialist shibori equipment, the video ends with the exhortation “Now do it yourself”.
And Lacoste does actually have some T-shirts in its collection with vaguely shibori designs – though they are printed rather than dyed.
My problem is not with Lacoste. Its tutorial fits in with the style of the site, gives credit to the artist in the video, and is obviously intended as a bit of fun.
My beef is with this UK company and its “award winning digital marketing agency” (which will remain nameless) for:
- trying to pass off a “tutorial” as its own
- not crediting the artisan behind the work
- trying to get (unpaid) bloggers to link to its site created by (presumably highly paid) “executives”.
Note to executives: Why don’t you spend your client’s fees on hiring decent writers to provide interesting, relevant content rather than nicking existing work without a credit and trying to get bloggers to link to it?
I know I sound like a humourless pedant. I love shibori, and I do want people to learn more about it – but not by sending people to a site that just rips off “cool stuff” to get its hits up.
That’s why I’m not giving the name of the company. Not to save its embarrassment – just to prevent it from achieving its aim. You know who you are.