Tracy Robertson, better known as Batty, is an internationally known model and goth fashion designer. She has been making high-quality, hand-made spooky clothing since 1998, being based in her hometown of Houston until recently moving to Fort Worth, where she lives with her boyfriend and fellow Gothic Council member Toby Rider of the band Ending the Vicious Cycle. Her work has been featured on the cover of Gothic Beauty magazine, and her gowns have placed every year in Houston's Miss Spooky Pageant, winning twice including the most recent contest.
Like many craftswomen running their own businesses, Robertson was drawn to the ease of Etsy in selling her wares. However, that move may have been a mistake as Etsy suddenly shut down her account, citing a violation of their policy against selling factory-made items. The shutdown left Robertson without many years of item descriptions, images and unable to contact any of the customers who had outstanding orders with her at the time.
"My business is completely crippled right now," said Robertson in an e-mail to Etsy. "I am sure you understand how devastating that is for a home-run business. I moved my entire catalog over to Etsy and closed my personal Web site because I loved and trusted your platform so much, so closing my Etsy store essentially means shutting down my whole business."
Robertson has worked hard building her brand over the years until selling her clothing line has become her full-time job. The loss of her store has necessitated selling through eBay, or seeking out other avenues such as contracting for a regular Web site, a hefty expense.
Etsy's claim that Robertson was selling factory-made items is hard to believe, as her handmade clothing is fairly well-known. Robertson did use the term "factory-produced" on a single item, a corset she has made mass-produced by a team of workers in her employ that accompanies a gown. However, she produces all the patterns, sizes the pieces and sews each one save for a few she farms out to her team or her mother. According to Etsy's policies, help with items for sale is acceptable as long as the seller has a major role in the item's creation. Robertson's situation would appear to fulfill those standards.
When Robertson attempted to contact Etsy over the dispute, offering to change the wording on her item or remove it all together, Etsy replied:
Etsy has elected to revoke your account privileges permanently. Recent policy violations committed in one or more of your accounts has brought us to the conclusion that our business relationship must now come to a close. We do not make such decisions without great consideration.
"We don't have any comment on this story," said Etsy spokesman Adam Brown when we attempted to contact the company. "Also, due to our privacy policies, Etsy never discloses members' private information."
In the five years that Robertson has been selling Azreal's Accomplice designs through Etsy, she claims to have paid around $9,000 in fees to the Web site. Now those fees will go through her eBay account and through Big Cartel until a permanent online home can be found for one of the longest-running and most-trusted names in gothic fashion.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.