Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Classic Coup was born out of passion--a love of great books, conversation, and people. And… a rebel desire to move readers to reject the status quo and live a deliberate life of positive change.
Classics by definition are timeless, forever young in relevance and urgency, books of substance that breathe. Their authors invite us to wrestle alongside them with life’s toughest issues. Paradoxically they sometimes offer escape but always demand engagement. Classics are not about comfort. Rather, as Kafka said, “A good book should be an axe for the frozen sea within us.” Malcolm Bradbury concurs: “A conventional good read is usually a bad read, a relaxing bath in what we know already. A true good read is surely an act of innovative creation in which we, the readers, become conspirators.”
To live deliberately we must read deliberately. Bored by fluff fiction, Classic Coup readers understand Thoreau when he said, “In literature it is only the wild that attracts us. Dullness is another name for tameness. It is the uncivilized free and wild thinking in Hamlet and the Iliad…that delights us.”
A Barbaric Yawper and Rebel Yeller, I’ve spent almost three decades telling my students great books matter because they reflect and change life. Since Bryan Adams and M.C. Hammer sold out concerts and Desert Storm and Monica Lewinsky headlined the news, each fall commences with kids eying me suspiciously from under bangs, mullets and Mohawks. But by Commencement, they are talking with me openly about books…and life. As adults, they drop by or chat on Facebook, confessing they’re rereading or finally reading classics I had assigned.
And we often laugh…especially about their final project--a parody of the books I force-fed them. Before Family Guy or The Simpsons, my kids were videotaping their own smart satires. Like when they filmed Hamlet, Willie Loman, and Stanley Kowalski in an anger management group; Blanche DuBois, Holden Caulfield, and Kurtz in a Read World interview; or Tess, Catherine, Ms. McCain and Heathcliff in a Bachelor episode. Such drama made for great comedy...and inspired Classic Coup's Sassy Cynics line.
One of those former students is Angela Muir. An adult at sixteen, she was always going places—literally. Reading for my class wasn’t easy given that when not in English she was running the Nashville Bridal Show, working hours on her art portfolio, and traveling—as far as Italy and Greece on a school trip I chaperoned. We bonded in Rome where we were mugged by a handbag salesman, then accosted by the Italian police... and in Delphi where I met a Heathcliff double who would later inspire our Wuthering Heights shirt.
Not long after Angela started classes at Rhode Island School of Design, I called her to discuss designs for t- shirts. The idea incubated as she interned with Vera Wang, graduated, married, and started her own line of wedding gowns. Meanwhile I continued raising children, teaching, and writing for an online newspaper about Latin culture. Then last spring Angela met me for lunch. An hour later (plus about five years), Classic Coup was born.
We decided our goals: to promote reading classics, to encourage cross-generational and cross-the-world discussion, and to fight global poverty and illiteracy with part of our proceeds. I began researching people-groups in need, seeking a fledgling, grassroots cause that would use funds for food, clothing, shelter, and education—not administrative costs. Giving back was important to us and thus the inspiration for our Hopeful Romantics line.
Months later, still a rebel-with-an- undetermined-final-cause, I met a friend for lunch, Sherry Coyle. Formerly an English teacher herself, she shared news about a life change. She and her husband, Darin, were forming a nonprofit organization, Kaleo Kids, to provide homes and education for the orphaned children of Quito, Ecuador. After hearing their vision, researching Quito, and realizing I'd been drawn to Latin America for awhile (through friends I've met and interviews I've done for Examiner.com as the Nashville Latin Dancing Examiner), Classic Coup committed resources to Kaleo Kids . As I write this the Coyles are in Ecuador making preparations for their permanent move there in the summer of 2010.
Classic Coup will officially launch August 6, 2009 with a photo shoot. Volunteering their time are models and another former student, NYU grad and professional photographer, Jenny Mandeville.
The dream deferred has become a movement realized.
On Greek Island Cruise
Angela's Senior Year
In Mykonos Greece
Angela Muir (l) and CindyMcCain (r) at Phat Bites April 3, 2009
In Greece June 2004
In July 2009 selecting designs for the first run