Wear Your Medicine™: The Full Story
Posted by : Mary Wutz /
Recently I've received some very strong criticism regarding the trademarking of the phrase "Wear Your Medicine" and some steps we've taken to protect it, including questioning my character and motivation behind it and a claim of theft of the phrase and concept. I spent a week unplugging, grounding and writing my response to it all, which turned out to be the story of how we came to use "Wear Your Medicine", which is the story of Seam Siren. I feel this story will provide all the missing context, which I hope will help fill in the missing gaps for people in the community, to understand why we trademarked the phrase, that it was done in hopes to benefit the community, and that it was not taken from anyone. It has all the context and supporting information here that you can verify in case you want to investigate this matter for yourself. You can find it here:
My journey with the concept of Medicinal Clothing started in February of 2012 in Iquitos, Peru during my first traditional Plant Dieta with a plant named Pinon Blanco. I had been in isolation for a week, and after ceremony one night, I returned to my Tambo, or hut, and started transcribing what I later understood to be a “download” from the plants.
I had just finished two years of studying herbal medicine at the California School of Herbal Studies (CSHS). The first year is called “roots” where the students are exposed to all kinds of herbal medicine practices: medicine making, Aromatherapy, Plant Spirit Medicine, and propagating and growing plants medicinal plants, etc. The second year is focused on Clinical Herbalism, working with people from the community who are needing support for various symptoms of disease.
I was fascinated with Clinical Herbalism and was determined to get as much experience as possible. As I began taking on clients of my own, I ran into an issue of what most herbalists refer to as ‘compliance’. Getting someone to drink tea three times a day or a tincture multiple times per day is a lot to ask, especially when the client is use to the Western medical model of taking a pill in the morning and that’s it. I was left wondering how I could get people to take their medicine in a way that worked with their schedules and lifestyles, so that the plants could do their thing.
During the first year of herbal school in 2011, I was introduced to natural dyes and fibers by Rebecca Burgess of Fibershed who came to guest-teach at CSHS. I was immediately drawn to the art and creativity of working with plants in this way, and always wondered how I might fit this into my herbal practice. That first year we were introduced to Plant Spirit Medicine by teachers Jim Hall, Leslie Gardener, and a woman named Michelle from Occidental Arts & Ecology Center. I was hooked. I began sitting with plants as often as possible, to meditate and “learn to listen’ to what they were saying. I often had doubts about the messages and thoughts I was receiving, but continued my practice. That’s when shamanic medicine entered my life.
I had never heard of Ayahuasca, nor had I ever considered using psychoactive plant medicine for healing, but when I had the chance to experience this modality I felt intuitively guided to it, and so in 2011, during my first year of herbal school, I sat in ceremony and began what would become an eight year journey with this particular method of Plant Spirit Medicine for healing. I became a student of a Shipibo Maestro and his apprentices in Peru and begin the never-ending journey of self-discovery and healing. During this time, I learned about Plant Dietas and how plants act as master teachers to provide lenses through which we may learn to look and study our lives. I began the process of going down to the jungle and dieting plants, and continue this practice today.
As I began working more deeply with the master plants of the Amazon, I began applying the concepts I learned from my teachers to Western plants. I began “dieting” Western plants to develop deeper relationships with their spirits. During my very first Plant Dieta in Peru in February of 2012, the plants spoke to me, and gave me the answer to the question I had been contemplating as a Clinical Herbalist, the answer to my compliance challenge: wearable medicine.
That night the plants showed me how their frequencies were imbued into the dyes and fibers that came from them. They showed me their energetic‘fingerprints’ and how those fingerprints interacted with our individual blueprints to help us heal. They also showed me the copper spiral, and how the copper spiral potentiated the frequency of both the fibers and dyes in our energy fields. They showed me how the practice of medicinal clothing had been lost and was ready to return to heal us. They showed me that this was what I was here to bring into the world as medicine, and gave me the blueprint for what I needed to be a part of re-creating that modality in the modern world. The plant that came to me specifically that evening was Nettle. As someone who had been suffering from allergies of all kinds most of her life, Nettle had become a plant ally to me during my very first year of herbal school. I was confused, because I had never known of fiber or dyes from the Nettle plant, but I wrote it down, and continued to listen.
During that trip, I also learned how the Shipibo women embroidered the fingerprints or frequencies of the master plants into medicinal Talas, or tapestries, which were their version of wearable medicine. The pieces of medicinal fibers, dyes and patterns started to come together for me on that trip, and it changed the course of my life.
After I got back to the U.S. from this dieta in Peru, I was unsure what to do with all of this information. I didn’t have any experience with fibers or dyes besides what Rebecca Burgess had taught me in herbal school, and I didn’t even know if I should start a clothing company. I had no experience in the industry and there was so much to learn. I began to research everything I could find, and found information on Chromotherapy, plant fibers, dyes, and the Fast-fashion industry in general. I didn’t find what I thought I was looking for, but I did find a lot of information on frequencies, color, healing, and a concept of something called Ayurvastra from India. I also learned about how toxic the fashion industry is and felt more compelled to start a company, just because of that fact.
Being someone who has always had sensitive skin, I started remembering from my childhood reacting to clothing and detergents with hives on my skin. During this time, I also reached out to Rebecca Burgess, my teacher from herbal school, as she was the only contact I had who had any information on plant fibers and dyes. I asked her about Nettle fiber, and to my delight, she told me that recently she had received some samples of Nettle fiber from a woman who had traveled to Nepal, and who was looking to sell the rest of the fiber she had brought back with her from the trip that she no longer had use for. Rebecca sent me those samples.
At the time she sent the samples, I was in transition, including moving to Hawaii, and didn’t look at them again until a year later, when I was unpacking my things in my new home in Haiku, Hawaii. During that year I had continued working as an herbalist, and kept bouncing my idea for wearable medicine off anyone who would listen. Although I was afraid to tell them that I had channeled the entire company and concept from plants (this was all still very new to me), I began to find more examples of various cultures using fibers and natural dyes and longed to travel to these places to learn about this practice.
When I finally opened the envelope Rebecca had sent me with Nettle fiber samples, a card fell out with the name “Sunny Savage” written on it, with the company name, “Savage Designs”. When I realized that I had just signed up for a course with this exact woman and a man named David Bruce Leonard in Maui to learn more about the native plants and environment without knowing that she was the Nettle fiber lady, I got goosebumps and immediately reached out to her. I wrote Sunny an e-mail in early February 2014 telling her my vision about medicinal clothing, and my plans to create a company honoring this ancient wisdom tradition. She responded warmly and told me about her interest in mobile cellulose fiber and of her work with dyes and hydrosols and agreed to meet with me. To my surprise, she lived only 10 minutes away!
During our e-mail exchange, and even during our meeting at her home in Haiku, she never mentioned the phrase “wear your medicine”. When I initially reached out to her, I told her I was working on a medicinal clothing company with nettle fiber and wanted to connect with her. I’m not saying that she wasn’t working with that concept, but if she was, it wasn’t mentioned to me in those words at that time, nor was the phrase “wear your medicine”. I have recently been made aware that there are others who have told me they have been working with the concept of medicinal clothing for over twenty years. This is why I was confused when Sunny recently replied to a thread on social media with a comment saying that I took the concept and phrase from her. In our original e-mail exchange, I even suggested that perhaps she would like to partner with me in this endeavor, but at the time she was pregnant, and was not interested in a collaboration. I thanked her for her generosity in sharing her contacts with me, and in September of 2014, I made plans with the young man who she had trekked with in Nepal to visit the villages to source Nettle Fiber to make a similar journey.
For those of you who would like to see the e-mail exchange from that time, please refer to the image attached to this blog post. I just want to make it very clear to everyone who is involved or interested that I haven’t taken this concept or phrase from anyone, and that it is verifiable here.
Since I had been living in Charleston, SC prior to moving to Maui, I knew they had a Fashion Week in the Spring, and so I made plans to launch my medicinal clothing line ‘Seam Siren” at Charleston Fashion Week in March 2015 after I had returned from Nepal with Nettle fiber. I hired a team of seamstresses in Maui to realize my clothing vision which I began sketching in 2012. The link to the runway show can be found here. I dyed the whole collection myself, and worked with various consultants to label my collection. As the plants that had given me my vision during my time in Peru were very clear that this concept was to be taken to the mainstream, I hired brand consultants to help with the concept of the line. I decided upon “Frequency Clothing” for the launch, as I was told at the time that using the term “medicine” or “medicinal” could be an issue with the FDA.
After the initial launch of Seam Siren, I embarked on the long journey of learning about clothing production and briefly moved to Portland, OR to work with Portland Garment Factory, as well as a couple of consulting firms to help further develop the brand. At the time, I had the chance to consult with the trademark attorney for Adidas, who told me that the phrase “Wear Your Medicine’ would never be accepted as a trademark, because of the term “medicine”. He also explained to me that trademarking “Medicinal Clothing” or “Frequency Clothing” would prevent others from creating brands that fit into that market. For example, if someone had trademarked “Yoga Clothing”, there would be no Lululemon or Gaiam. I did not want to do that, because my intention was to create a space for other companies and not to prevent anyone else from entering the space.
I took this attorney’s advice and continued referring to my brand as “frequency clothing”. During this time, I continued my personal journey with shamanic medicine, and the plants continued to urge me to use the phrase “wear your medicine”. I hired a trademark attorney from New York who had worked with start-ups, and we did a search on the internet and all the social media channels, and there were no results for any other being or entity in the clothing or herbal space using “Wear Your Medicine” that we found. So finally, after two years of ignoring my intuition, I decided to take a chance and submitted the phrase to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and to my surprise, it was passed.
My initial guidance to trademark the phrase was due to the fact that the entity “Seam Siren” I had channeled, made it clear to me that she was always meant to be presented to the mainstream, and that as such, needed to be protected in the corporate space. The plants and the entity of Seam Siren showed me that this is where the industry was headed, and in order to protect the sacredness and purity of what one could call wearable medicine, I should do what I can to protect the concept and phrase so that it was something people could trust, and not turn into a marketing phrase that could be scooped up by a larger company like Nike or Adidas when the industry started heading in that direction. For instance, Nike is coming out with a line of plant-dyed shoes this year.
During 2017, I had the honor of presenting at The International Herbal Symposium and realized that a fellow herbalist had been making and selling medicinal clothing. She was also using the phrase “wear your medicine”. As I knew what she was creating was medicine, and that she was unhappy with my decision to trademark “wear your medicine”, I began to think how I could honor the herbal tribe, as I didn’t own the concept of Medicinal Clothing, and that other people like me understood the importance of purity and integrity when making clothing being referred to as “medicine”. At that time, the idea of creating a “mark” or “label” for everyone to use emerged. This way, anyone who was adhering to a level of purity as medicinal, could benefit from it being a mark for medicine makers. Not a marketing concept for a big company who didn’t honor the importance of the healing modality.
Although it was not my initial intention to trademark the phrase, it became just as important. While I spoke with the trademark attorney in NY, he told me that the particular type of licensing I was thinking about, hadn’t been done that way before, and that in order for me to create a space where it could be licensed out at a fair cost relative to the net profit of an individual or small business making medicinal clothing, I would first need to protect the trademark and follow the protocol as its laid out in the USPTO laws. If I didn’t adhere to the protocol, it could hurt my cause in the long run. For instance, if a larger company decided they liked the phrase “wear your medicine”, and they saw that a small business named Seam Siren owned it, and looked into whether or not I was “protecting” the mark by notifying others who were using the phrase that it was trademarked, and it could not be shown that I had sent out “cease and desist” letters, they could easily take the mark for themselves, without any intention of honoring the ancient wisdom of the modality of wearable medicine.
So, for the last two years, since trademarking “wear your medicine”, I’ve watched as an increasing amount of people have been using the phrase. I’ve been witnessing the concept of medicinal clothing come back into consciousness and it couldn’t be more exciting. I truly believe that “a rising tide floats all boats”, and wearable medicine is one of the main things we need to help heal ourselves and the planet.
In terms of whether or not a hashtag is considered to be an “infringement” on a trademark, from what I have been told by trademark attorneys, the answer is that it resides within a grey area. As the laws of the USPTO as they are currently written do not take into account social media, I was advised to follow the current protocol for protecting the trademark, which is to send notice to those using the phrase in association with selling products, including those using the hashtag.
There are plans to re-launch Seam Siren with a fashion-forward new line, combining Nettle fiber and linen within the year with a new partner. This partnership would help make medicinal clothing visible to a much larger audience. It would allow people to learn about toxins in clothing and how it is affecting their health, and the health of the planet, on a larger stage than is currently being done. It may help create a new segment in the clothing market called “Medicinal Clothing” and create more awareness and demand for wearable medicine. I believe this is something we can all benefit from.
I continue to work with a trademark attorney and an attorney who has offered her time and expertise because of her own experience with sensitivity to fibers and dyes, to help me create this “mark” in the industry that can be used by all of us to label our clothing. The plan is to license the phrase/mark to other healers/companies that are adhering to a level of production and processing of clothing that is plant-based, non-toxic and as pure as possible for a very low price.
In short, trademarking “Wear your medicine” would protect any of us endeavouring to bring medicinal clothing to the mainstream and prevent any existing bigger companies from taking that concept of name for the sake of fad without really protecting the environment and the intent as our community would. I took on the task of trademarking this, because I felt it was the lesser of the two evils, because if we didn’t do this, one of the bigger commercial companies eventually would. Since this is the direction where things are going, at least in concept. But we’ve all seen what bigger companies do with herbal products.
Given the conflict of having to balance the freedom of usage of the wording “Wear your medicine” and wanting to protect it, I consulted many from the herbal community and attorneys on this, and this is the best solution I could find and I thus I do not regret my decision to take this course of action. However, I do regret any misunderstandings or pain it may have caused. I full heartedly believe in the importance of bringing the concept of medicinal clothing to the mainstream, and would like to work towards that with others who share the same vision. My hope is that my story will promote understanding towards that goal and hopefully alleviate the friction that is being caused from all of us moving towards that goal.
With Appreciation & Love,
Founder, Seam Siren
P.S. There has been a claim that the designs for our Collections were stolen from Savage Designs. The original patterns that were made for the clothing that debuted at Charleston Fashion Week were original ideas co-created by Mary Wutz and seamstresses Rosie White, and Ellie Imgrund of Maui. The Fashion Drawings that were submitted for the collection at Charleston Fashion week are pictured below. These designs were 100% original and were not stolen from anyone. Our current wearable collection was designed by Project Runway's Gordana Gehlhausen and our accessories were designed by Sustainable Fashion Designer Anna Cohen and Portland Garment Factory.
P.S.S. There have also been claims that some herbalists and natural dyers have received Cease and Desist Letters from an attorney in NY on behalf of Seam Siren. This is not true. The letter we sent out from the Seam Siren account on instagram and e-mail is posted below (which is technically not an official Cease and Desist, although it does use legal language at the end). If you have received a Cease and Desist Letter that does not look like the letter below, it did not come from Seam Siren.