Dandy was born during the punk rock explosion of the 1970s when it seemed that no young person would be seen without sporting a lapel full of badges.
Music, politics, smart slogans or just plain shocking – button badges were a sign that you were definitely not in the mainstream and had something to say!
Laurie Gordon and Maryla Kizny started making badges around 1976 and sold them outside Sydney’s music venues before graduating to Paddy’s Market and eventually opening The Badge Shop in the now defunct Crystal Palace Arcade.
The shop was based on the London Badge Shop run by Laurie’s cousin Des Kay. Des, known as Professor Kayos, is also an environmental activist and went on to be bestowed a Green Champion award by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Meanwhile the Badge Shop in Sydney developed into a niche retail outlet selling posters, tee-shirts and assorted other rock paraphernalia as well as the humble badge – now developing into a sizeable cottage industry.
There was a huge interest in “punk culture” and big sellers included the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees and local groups like Radio Birdman.
The business had began literally on the kitchen table with a hired machine pumping out a growing variety of buttons. Artists Annie Wilson and Ian Hartley presided over the visual direction, with basic black and white being the prevailing theme. In fact black and white was all they could afford with only the most rudimentary of colour printing available!
As demand for badges, posters and other music paraphernalia grew, the shop moved to larger premises in the arcade closer to the theatre hub of George Street.
Small-scale manufacturing began in an upstairs room with an odd assortment of part-time workers. As the business grew, so did the need for more production space and an upstairs workshop was acquired in Parker Street, in Sydney’s Chinatown. It wasn’t long before an even bigger retail shop opened around the corner in Pitt Street – Sydney’s second busiest shopping street at the time.
Admittedly the new Badge Shop was in the run-down end of Pitt Street, but it became an instant success. The grand opening was by radio presenter and TV host Jonathon “Jono” Coleman and music by emerging punk rockers Box of Fish (whose lead singer, Andrew Johnston, also doubled as Dandy’s chief badge-maker.)
The opening made the TV news and daily papers, if only for the colourful and noisy clientele who spilled out into Pitt Street during the festivities.
As retail developed into a full scale wholesale business, our badges found themselves being distributed all over Australia and New Zealand in record shops, bookshops, newsagents and galleries.
Dandy always had the latest designs and many rock groups requested orders for their own promotional purposes.
With the Badge Shop now established, the manufacturing side of Dandy started to become more serious as advertising agencies, record labels and community organisations such as Greenpeace realised the promotional value of the humble button badge.
More production machinery was needed to cope with demand and a network of printers built up to cope with the new demands of quality colour. Artwork was handled in-house by a floating and talented team of young artists. Many went on to greater things including David Art Wales who began his career as a Dandy part-timer and contributor to Radio JJJ publications among others. Inventor of the mock cult figure Guru Adrian, David later moved to New York to pursue his artistic ambitions. He has figured in many quirky enterprises in the NY art scene.
Another of Dandy’s early artists was Simon Day who became lead singer and frontman for glam-rock band Ratcat. Simon was prime-mover of the band and produced much of their album artwork.
Dandy soon outgrew the Parker Street premises and the next move was to Regent Street, Chippendale, on the city fringe opposite Sydney’s historic Mortuary Railway Station. First one shopfront, then two, then a third was added to cope with expanded production, administration and sales.
The site was just a few minutes from the old premises and was soon transformed into a fully-fledged badge factory with darkroom and artroom up a set of creaky stairs and a dedicated engraving section up another. Increased demand led to investment in air-driven presses and a second-hand offset printing machine.
Further product lines were added to service the marketing industry, such as engraved name bars, keytags, cards…and fridge magnets.
Up until then, fridge magnets had been a pretty low key product, usually a standard rectangle or square, printed in one colour on a white background. Production was slow, using either foil-stamping or screen printing.
Dandy recognised the opportunity to introduce full colour using high-quality offset printing and from that moment on the humble fridge magnet became a major new marketing tool.
Fridge magnets were suddenly available in all shapes and sizes and the colour has become even more brilliant with high-gloss lamination to give impact and durability. High speed presses speed up the production process – turnaround time started to be measured in days, not weeks!
In 1993 Dandy moved to even larger premises in Elizabeth Street, Waterloo, where the company consolidated its market position and acquired its first Heidelberg four-colour press, extensive film and platemaking equipment and large scale die-cutting machinery.
There the company stayed until August 2010 when we moved to our present factory.
Laurie and Maryla are still directors of the company which now employs nearly 30 people at the factory in Ralph Street, Alexandria, an inner-city area between the City of Sydney and the airport.
Artwork and production is carried out in-house using the latest manufacturing and printing techniques – ensuring that deadlines are met no matter how tight!
Why the name Dandy?
Originally the venture was to be called Beano Badges – because it sounded good. However the business name was rejected because (believe it or not) there was already a company with a similar name.
So if it couldn’t be Beano, it had to be Dandy. Those with an English background will recognise the names as two popular children’s comics dating back to the 50s – and still in existence today (2012).
So Dandy Designs it became, later incorporated as Dandy Designs Pty Ltd and trading as Dandy Badges and Magnets.
How appropriate that a punk-rock badge business should be named after a comic!
Nowadays of course Dandy is a mainstream manufacturer and services many major companies, agencies Government and social organisations.
We produce millions of badges and magnets annually and are proud to be an Australian owned company providing a reliable service to its customers and stable employment to its staff.