Letting your Flag Fly
By Ben Landreth
Cofounded, and now completely run by Art Institute of Denver fashion student Mackenzie Moore, CAM ShoWear is an apparel company designed specifically for people who love music.
After getting a bachelor’s degree in English education from Colorado State University, Moore spent countless hours searching for a teaching job to no avail. She resorted to what many recent college grads are forced into, working in restaurants. There she found the flexibility to follow her true passion, music.
After spending a summer touring with some of her favorite bands and getting to know some of the major players in the Colorado music scene, Moore realized this was where she was meant to be, on the road touring with bands and enjoying the music they made. She only had one problem, she didn’t play any instruments and couldn’t afford to tour full time from her restaurant salary.
Moore soon realized she still had something to offer the music scene through the clothes and accessories that she and her friends created for concerts. There was a market for this and money to be made.
After one last summer trying to put her degree to use, Moore decided that she would go back to school at the Art Institute in Denver to learn fashion design and take Cam ShoWear to the next level.
How did Cam ShoWear get its start?
Well, I got my teaching degree and I got laid off, and I was working at a restaurant and killing some time. So I started making clothes and stuff for shows with my friend, Angie, and my girlfriend, Christen, which Christen is the C, Angie is the A, and I am the M. That’s how it started. Basically our whole idea behind it is that you wear a jersey to go to your favorite sports team, so why not get dressed up to see your favorite band? It just happens to be a different kind of fashion. So Angie and I started doing it for fun for really big events, and then we just decided that people, other people, would pay for what we did or what we made. So that’s kind of how it got started.
You recently went back to school for fashion design. What made you decide to do this?
I kind of had a crazy turning point in my life. I just basically had been looking for a teaching job for a long time and I decided I would give it one more summer. I interviewed for a couple jobs, one of which I think I was one of like 300 candidates. While I was doing that I was working with some bands and I was traveling a little bit and going on sort of little mini tours and just kind of living that lifestyle. By the end of the summer I still hadn’t found a job, so I just decided that that was the universe’s way of telling me that I had been given a gift and that I should just go with it for a while. Basically my other outlook was, I can go on a tour bus when I’m 24 years old. I can’t jump on, you know, that kind of thing when I’m 40. And when you’re a teacher it’s kind of the opposite. Bottom line is I just love doing it. It’s so much fun; people look at you a different way when you’re at shows. It’s important to me to be a part of the scene and not just someone who just scooted up and is an attendee; I guess I just wanted to be more. It’s my way of playing an instrument in a way.
So as a huge music lover what is it like being on the merchandising side of the show and not just going to party and listen to music?
It definitely is not as glamorous! It opens your eyes to know that these guys work really hard and they put up their own lighting systems and they carry all their shit in and they rarely eat a good meal. You know it’s just kind of crazy to see the other side of it and see how hard musicians work to bring what they think is really important to the world. So I think it definitely changed my perspective. I have so much more respect for musicians and it’s also kind of showed me the reality of things, like it’s not so much glitz and glamor as it seems on the outside all the time. It’s more fulfilling to be a part of the scene then it is to be just leeching off of it. I think people appreciate you, they recognize you, they see you. It’s nice to see how people are doing in their lives every time you’re selling them merchandise. It’s definitely not as cool to be standing in the back of the show by yourself all the time, but it’s a good trade-off I think.
Music and fashion have gone hand in hand for so long, what is it about the two that you think complement each other so well?
You get dressed up to go out on a date… or people used to get dressed up to go to dinner. I think that the fashion that goes along with music is basically waving your flag and kind of showing people who you are. You know people get dressed up to show that they have a certain amount of money, or that they have this or that, or that they don’t. I think that fashion gives people an identity and in the same way music does
So, similar to your comparison with your clothes and wearing a jersey, it’s like representing where you are from.
Exactly. I think I read an article with Umphrey’s McGee who is one of the main reasons I got into this. Our first showcase we did with a bunch of outfits was for Umphrey’s in Chicago. But I read an article about them that was talking about them and how they play like a team when they do big shows. It’s like their Super Bowl and they get ready for it. They use hand signals and they are in good physical shape. It’s kind of the same thing, so merchandising for the music scene is not far off from merchandising for sports.
So you guys work very closely with the bands you follow around, is there anything coming up that you’re really excited about?
There is actually. We have one of the coolest things that’s coming up probably in Colorado at this point. J2G productions puts on this really cool thing called ‘90’s Night’ and it’s like cheesy 90’s music all night. But it’s like every band that is up and coming in Colorado at the moment, like Kinetics and Yamn, and you know bands that are on that festival circuit, Trichome, I think Real Life Actual, Tatanka. All these bands that are up and coming on the festival circuit, but they haven’t really made it big, yet they are all going to be there collaborating. I’ll be vending there. There are going to be some cool artists there and it’s just cool that we can all get together and organize something like that. And Yamn is back on tour and they are my number one so I’ll be doing Snowball and a show at the Aggie with them on March 1. Then this summer, I mean as soon as festival season opens up again.
So summer is going to be a big time for you?
Yeah, huge I think. I’m taking summer off school actually, just so I can participate. I like to work as much as I play and I’ve actually learned how to combine the two together most of the time.
Where do you see CAM going in the near future?
The near future? Well my ultimate goal, the vision of CAM, has definitely changed. At a certain point I wanted to have my own clothing line and be a designer and what not. Of course that’s still the ultimate goal but I still just want to be contributory to the music scene in general. So I think it would be really cool to open a boutique store where bands can have their merchandise, designers like me can have their clothing and artists can have their paintings. So it would be just one big collaboration store where people can come and see that culture inside four walls you know. That’s the ultimate goal. My short term dream is just to be able to just make enough money to be able to live and, you know, do what I love to do. Hopefully with the skills I’m acquiring right now that’s going to be a possibility.
Is there anything else you want people to know about CAM?
Well it now stands for Colorado Apparel and Merchandising and ShoWear is actually a word I made up. There wasn’t really a genre for the type of clothes I make.
Check out: http://www.camshowear.com/