Tutu wanted to unfluffify breast cancer with a punk terrorist campaign, undo the saccharine pink ribbon that had been hijacked by corporate interests at odds with its creator's true intention.
So using one of Ashley's images of Tutu, Amazonian Valykrie-stylee, defiantly displaying her scar, Mr Wesley started to work on the graphic. It was going to be all about swinging C by the tail. But then Tutu got sick again as the enemy snuck around, attacking her bones next, necessitating a hip replacement. Mr Wesley and I visited her in Guy's Hospital, sat on her bed and larked around. The project stalled while Tutu went into another round of treatment. Eager to see it progress, her friend, writer Stephanie Theobald, took the reins and wrestled the text out of Tutu:
We had the image and the screens were prepared. Stephanie took a prototype for approval to Tutu and production rolled.
Normally we make the shirts, the customer picks them up, off they go and that's that, thank you very much. But this was different. We offered our e-shop as a platform to sell them and Stephanie did some highly effective email-marketing. She and her boyfriend Jake Arnott came to the store and we got to got to know and like them very much - http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/apr/16/bisexual-lesbian-gay-love-jake-arnott-stephanie-theobald We are making Jake some Plus Fours indeed.
Stephanie got an article placed in The Guardian this week -http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/mar/25/cancers-not-pink-women-rebelling?INTCMP=SRCH and another one will follow in Time Out soon, as well as a Radio 4 "Woman's Hour" piece.
Ashley Savage came to visit us, and brought an old club kid cohort of Tutu's, the arrestingly stunning Loz, to model the shirt:
The last few days in London have been flawlessly lovely and sunny as June. Stephanie sent a text at lunch time today (March 28th) to say "She flew". Tutu had taken to the skies. Even though we only knew her a little while, a brief fling, a crazy whirl, it felt like we had lost an old friend. Mr Wesley and I sat outside on our terrace, shared a bottle of wine and treated ourselves to a good lunch, a sensory indulgence, al fresco in her honour. Through her we have met a fabulous array of characters, people we hope to know a good while yet.
Tutu grew up in California. One of my favourite places in the world is the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. I do not know about the etymology of the word “solace” but I notice “Sol”, the sun, within it, so maybe I might propose “the comfort such as warmth and light bestows” and offer this for Tutu and her devoted friends:
Some years back I had a US agent and she told me I should read the book which was the best selling smash of the year - "Eat Pray Love" http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/eatpraylove.htm The title turned me off and I imagined if it sold millions it must perforce be rubbish. It sounded like beach reading. But to show willing I walked into a bookstore on Ventura Boulevard and bought it. And when they saw what I had chosen both the shop assistant and another customer together exclaimed “Well done hurrah!” and announced that it was a truly terrific book. I smiled and thought "Bunch of dippy self-help lemmings".
But their enthusiasm was sincere and not entirely misplaced. The first 200 pages were an absolute joy, even if it went a bit sappy at the end. And for this following insight I shall always thank Ms. Gilbert -
The lost lady protagonist goes to Italy to learn Italian simply because it is the most beautiful language in the world. Unlike other national tongues, Italian was not created by the richest city imposing its dialect on the other regions but rather was chosen to unite the new country, and enable the Florentines to understand the Neapolitans, the Romans to roll with the Lombards, on the merit of its musical poetry: “No other European language has such an artistic pedigree. And perhaps no language was ever more perfectly ordained to express human emotions than this 14th century Florentine Italian, as embellished by one of Western civilisation’s greatest poets.”
For modern Italian is essentially the language of the poet Dante, whose most famous work is “The Divine Comedy”. And Ms. Gilbert reminds us that, in the last line, when Dante is faced with the vision of God himself, he discovers not an old guy with a beard but rather that: “God is not merely a blinding vision of glorious light but that He is, most of all, ‘L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle...’ The love that moves the sun and the other stars”.
And as the Griffith Observatory illustrates with the most marvellous exhibit, we are formed from the stars. Every element, every single component in our make up came from a distant star. And so maybe that’s where we go back.
From love we came, to love we return. And now you can buy the t-shirt:
Proceeds will go to touring Ashley's exhibition of photographs of Tutu, which may help people understand the processes of and reactions to cancer.
Down in the engine room Mr Wesley is printing as fast as he can - there has been, understandably, a surge in orders so please be patient if it takes us a few days to fulfil them.