My dream come true // The shirts&words store in Curacao owned by Marcel & Miriam Bleeker
When I started with shirts&words back in 2008, I had a dream: one day shirts&words would have its own store. That one day came when Marcel and Miriam Bleeker opened the shirts&words store at Curacao Boulevard. During my stay in Curacao, I could finally visit their store. It was amazing to see that, although I had nothing to do with it, my dream had become reality.
I am grateful to Marcel and Miriam, you are doing a ‘hopi great’ job!
Background information about shirts&words
The concept of shirts&words was initiated in 2007 by copywriter Susanne van Sambeeck. She had planned to bring along some Curaçao souvenirs but wasn’t impressed by the oversized, traditional style of souvenir t-shirts. Sensing a gap in the market, she came up with a stylish souvenir t-shirt to promote the island in a more innovative way. Some brainstorming sparked the concept of using meaningful Papiamentu (the Curaçao local language) words to be printed on slim fit t-shirts. Initially she selected the words: Dushi (sweet), Kayente (hot), Yu di Kòrsou (child of Curaçao), Stimabo (love you), Kumbai (how are you), Hopi Bon (very well), Ayo Kòrsou (bye bye Curaçao), Trankil (chill), Konta (how are you), Rilèks (relax) and Pssst (well, use your imagination…).
Susanne approached me to assist her in the branding of the product and the label styling. As of June 2007 sales started through a web shop. Feedback was positive but orders only trickled in. Susanne halted the sales by the end of 2007.
Since the concept matched with my vision and mission, I agreed with Susanne to allow the concept a second chance. The first collection taught that Dushi appeared the only word in Papiamentu that was perceived positively by anyone feeling a connection with Curaçao. The word Dushi, literally meaning sweet, is used to describe anything wonderful. The weather is always ‘Dushi’ in Curacao, a good meal is ‘Dushi’, a beautiful woman is a ‘Dushi’… Needless to say, staying or living in Curaçao is simply ‘Dushi’.
In April 2008 I managed to convince a shop owner to add the shirts&words shirts to her collection. Sales started out slowly, but after the collection had sold out, customers continued to ask when new shirts would become available. Following demands and customer inquiries, I expanded the collection and introduced baby rompers, kids t-shirts, ladies tank tops, and men shirts in various colours. Other shops started selling the shirts as well.
The increased competition inspired me to rethink my vision and goals in 2010. I was unhappy with the quality of the t-shirts and started looking for a better supplier. Thanks to Susanne I met a Dutch supplier of good quality 100% organic cotton and eco-friendly dyed t-shirts. The first shirts&words organics collection, baby rompers and kids shirts in bright colours, was a success. Sold-outs had become a regular.
It was somewhere in 2012 that I found myself more and more disliking the times I had to deal with suppliers and buyers. I realised that the brand shirts&words had become too big for me. I was more than happy to sell the concept to Marcel and Miriam Bleeker, who took excellent care of my little ‘baby’. They expanded the collection with lots of goodies: caps, pants, towels, jewellery, flip flops. My precious little one has become a grown up.