SP: What is your name and job description at Darlings?
D(LD): My name is Deirdre or Little Darling. I go by either and love both! I am co-owner along with my husband, Jeffrey. I am also our primary buyer for the store. We’ve included a loveseat and ottoman in the store and love when people come hang out, enjoy a coffee, and share in our love of dogs.
How long have you been open and what has changed since starting your shop?
We’ve only been open since November 2014 but things are already changing. I like watching the way people shop and seeing what they are drawn to and what they ignore. It’s fun and it allows us to be more playful in how we set the store up and move things around. We’ll be increasing our clothing stock this Spring and will be working on a few fun private label ideas for Pinups for Pitbulls, Inc. Maybe even with Sourpuss?
What is your favorite piece from our new spring Pitbull line?
My favorite piece is the dress! I’d love to come in and model it for you!
Favorite things to do in Asheville?
It’s a great city for art, music, food, and nature. We love going antiquing here, taking our dogs on nature walks through the Blue Ridge Mountains, seeing a movie at the Fine Arts Theater and eating at places like Plant.
Along with your shop, you also have an organization called Pinups For Pitbulls. Can you tell me what got you started on that cause?
I started Pinups for Pitbulls because I feared for the life of my own dog, the late Carla Lou. This was a time when Denver began rounding up innocent dogs from homes where they were loved by their families simply because of how they looked. These dogs had done nothing wrong other than being born “pit bulls” in societies eyes. I didn’t want this to happen to my own dog and that spawned my desire to protect her and her fellow dog. At the time, I was modeling for fun and had a great network of pin-ups, roller girls, and advocates and wanted to use that opportunity to shoot a calendar that could potentially spread awareness. Flash forward, we’re now in our 10th year! Breed bans still exist but are decreasing at the state level. Until they’re gone, we’ll continue to advocate against such ignorance.
What did you do before opening your shop and starting your organization?
I’ve been running Pinups for Pitbulls, Inc. since 2005. In addition, I worked as a certified housing counselor and was the director of housing for a non profit called American Credit Alliance that my family runs. I went to court with homeowners each week to help keep them out of foreclosure. This tied in with my dog advocacy work as many of these people had family pets that they feared losing along with their homes. I also just finished my master’s degree at Drexel University in Public Policy so that I can do more on behalf of dogs at the legislative level.
How does one go about volunteering for Pinups for Pitbulls if they are interested in getting involved?
They can start by joining our street team. They can visit our website www.pinupsforpitbulls.org to join! We are always looking for volunteers both stateside and internationally. We have a growing army of advocates and we rely on them to help advocate for dogs in their cities.
Favorite thing about owning your own shop?
Walking in and turning on the lights. What an amazing feeling to see what intention can build!
I also love being able to buy from primarily small business owners and to support our grassroots efforts of Pinups for Pitbulls in a brick and mortar shop. Many people come in and have no idea about Breed Specific Legislation and while they’re shopping, we are able to educate them about what is happening to dogs in their town. We also feature a shelter dog from our local humane society in our store whenever they’re able to bring one over and have a feature board of local adoptables at our front entrance as well. It’s really exciting to be able to do more just by having somewhere to physically do so. We travel non stop all year for Pinups for Pitbulls, but now people can also travel to visit us!
We also love art and plan to build in a gallery wall so that we can feature different artists each month. We’re always accepting art solicitations!
Best place to travel to and why?
I love Hong Kong. I’ve only been there once but it left an impression on me. The Giant Buddha on Lantau Island is magical and the city itself is very interesting. You can turn one corner and see the most modern buildings while a man walks by with baskets on a stick carrying vegetables. It’s like the old world and new world clashed together but also work in tandem. Their night markets are basically flea markets that stay open until late and people are everywhere enjoying food, getting their cards read, or simply just taking it in. They have some of the most incredible parks I’ve ever seen and the mountains behind the city just bring it home for me. It’s probably one of the reasons that I love Asheville so much as well.
You seem to stock all kinds of cute stuff at your shop, what is your inspiration when it comes to finding items to sell online and in your store?
Thank you! I’ve always had an affinity toward shops where you can explore, open drawers, and discover little details. We select items that evoke whimsy or laughter whenever possible. We lean toward brands that are either handmade, small business owned, or have a creative flair. We’ve only been open since November so we’re still getting our bearings, but after visiting the gift fair in NYC, we were able to solidify our direction even more. The store is 99.9% vegan!
You are obviously a dog lover, what is it about the pit bull breed that you are so drawn to?
I love pit bull-type dogs because they’re individuals first, clowns second, and expert snugglers third. Even though they vary as individuals, I find that many of them have sincere expressions and want nothing more than to sit on you or lean into you while staring lovingly into your eyes. Don’t get me wrong, I love all dogs. Pit bull-types just chose me simply because I’ve always fought ignorance and rooted for the underdog. I know of no greater underdog than a dog being killed daily because of how he looks. That is insane. It needs to stop. Since all dogs have teeth, people need to understand that they’ll never be safer by trying to eradicate any type of dogs, unless they try to eradicate all dogs. That would be a very sad world to live in.
Favorite appliance in your house and why?
Coffee maker. I love coffee!
What can we expect to see from your shop and Pinups for Pitbulls, Inc. in the future? Any exciting news you would like to share with us?
Our model call is currently open to the public until 3/1. We also highly encourage anyone who wants to see their dog featured in our calendar to apply! Ladies can apply with or without a dog, as well! (Go HERE.)
It’s our biggest fundraiser each year and is the best way for us to find our next brand ambassadors!
We are also planning a grand opening this Spring for Darlings! We’ll be hosting films, animal advocacy seminars, and so much more in the months and years to come. The store will always have a dual purpose in being a retail space for both Darlings and Pinups for Pitbulls, but also in helping build community for dogs everywhere. The grand opening will coincide with the 4th Annual Asheville Tattoo Festival. This is filled with our amazing tattoo family from all over the world and is an absolute blast every year! (You can check them out at www.ashevilletattooexpo.com)
I just finished writing a book called ‘Little Darling’s Pinups for Pitbulls: A Celebration of America’s Most Beloved Dogs’ that came out in October on Overlook Press. That was quite a feat and I’m already working on another one! Keep an eye out.