When Abby Misbin received an Etsy order for one of her handmade cowboy hats from someone claiming to be Beyoncé’s stylist, she thought it was a prank. Setting her reservations aside, in June 2022, Misbin sent off a one-of-a-kind Stetson adorned with more than 5,000 mirror discs, in the hopes that the order was genuine. Then there was silence.
Eight months later, Beyoncé announced her Renaissance World Tour on Instagram. In the official poster, the “Break My Soul” superstar is seen mounted on Reneigh, her disco horse, wearing a glorious diamanté leotard, cascading blingy jewellery and… Misbin’s hat. Three hours later – after Misbin asked a mob of her friends to tag her business account, TrendingByAbby, in the comments – she was inundated with orders.
“I was under the impression that I hadn’t seen the hat being worn because Beyoncé didn’t like it!” recalls Misbin down the line from Pennsylvania, six weeks on from the tour’s final concert in Kansas City. “I just imagined her saying, ‘I’m not wearing this.’” But Beyoncé did like the hat. And so did millions of fans who were desperate to emulate their idol’s style. Misbin’s sales soared from approximately two hats a week to 30. At the height of the tour, she would be working 12-to-15-hour days just to keep up with demand. Each night, she’d find tiny shards of glass in her hands after glueing thousands of individual mirror discs to dozens of hats.
Misbin is just one of many Etsy sellers who earned small fortunes making unofficial merchandise for the Renaissance shows. Many of these small business owners spent the six-month duration of that tour at the singer’s whim – their day-to-day lives consumed by the various hues of silver that dominated the tour’s colour pallette – a nod to Beyoncé’s disco-themed album. But it’s been six weeks since the concerts came to an end and Beyoncé rode off into the darkness on Reneigh. The silver bubble has popped, leaving Misbin and her peers wondering: what now?
Erin Fritts, the owner of North Carolina’s Everwind Creations whose holographic hand-fans also became a staple among the concert crowd, says she was at the “mercy of Beyoncé” during the tour. Between May and October, the singer would make specific demands of her fans – ones that Fritts, Misbin and other Etsy sellers had to be savvy about. For her birthday in September, for example, Beyoncé implored her devotees to dress like “shimmering human disco balls” – and so Fritts got to work.
Firstly, she did research into what keywords were being searched on Etsy the most: “Renaissance”; “silver”; “hand-fan”. It made sense. After all, it was peak summertime and an arena full of boisterous fans was bound to get sweaty. Fritts also noticed that the main prop Beyoncé used in the tour routine for her hit song “Heated” was a sprawling hand-fan. The stars had aligned.
During the course of the tour, Fritts saw orders for her fans shoot up from two a day to more than 30. At £26 each, there was a time when the fans were generating over £800 daily. “My Etsy sales just skyrocketed out of nowhere,” she says over the phone. In those peak months, Fritts pivoted from her day job in digital marketing to focus on her Etsy full-time. “I was working long hours, and sometimes my mum would help out.” She laughs, “I was at the mercy of Beyoncé. I had to listen to whatever dress codes she put on the internet because who knows what she’s going to tell her fans to wear next?”
When the music stopped on 1 October, though, these Etsy sellers faced an unwelcome inevitable. “I was really worried about demand dropping off,” Fritts tells me. “I was like ‘No! Please add more tour days!’ I was definitely mourning the end of the tour. I miss just chatting with the Bey Hive.” Her orders fell back to three per day– five on a good day. “I often wonder… if she does go on that tour again – will she use hand-fans in songs and make it her thing again? It’s up in the air.”
Anna Ferguson, the owner of the OneLoveOneAnna Etsy shop based in Atlanta, Georgia, has noticed a similar lull in the sales of her disco ball earrings in the aftermath of both the Renaissance tour and Taylor Swift’s similarly colossal Eras tour, which is currently on hiatus. In addition to online sales, Ferguson would regularly loiter in hotel lobbies near arenas to peddle her handmade jewellery to fans staying there. “In Atlanta, I walked around the hotel with a bag of my earrings and a sign and in five minutes I had made hundreds of dollars,” she says. The next weekend, Ferguson followed the tour to Nashville, where she made $2,000 in 24 hours. “The tours were really a game-changer for me in terms of sales. And I have just ridden on the crazy world tour coattails all of the way.”
Now, Ferguson is trying to adapt to a post-tour world. “Sales trickle in, but it’s nothing like what I was seeing,” she says. “This weekend, I’m trading at a Tay-Gate party [unofficial concert parties run for Taylor Swift fans].” She is also holding out for the Renaissance tour movie, which releases on 1 December, as she hopes there will be another spike in Beyoncé-related purchases, like her disco ball earrings with Queen Bey’s face printed on them. “During the tour, I managed to accommodate everyone with their accessory emergencies – I just hope that happens again.”
Misbin says that the tour’s end is bittersweet. “Business is not what it was,” she sighs. “I don’t have as many opportunities like that anymore, but I do feel really lucky to have had it in the first place.” At her peak, she was selling 30 hats a week. Now, if she sells 10, she considers it a success. The milliner has also noticed hundreds of dupes of her hat surfacing online with a cheaper price tag. “I’m lucky to still be working full-time but I’m noticing companies recreating it with varying quality,” she says. Misbin herself had been advised to start outsourcing to a factory when she was at her busiest, but she never wanted to compromise on the quality. “I wouldn’t feel right paying someone pennies to make what I make,” she tells me. ‘I can’t imagine someone getting paid less than me.”
When Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour ended, ticket seller Live Nation said it made more than half a billion dollars ($579m) from 56 concerts performed to approximately 2.7 million fans. Some fans will have searched Amazon or fast-fashion sites to get their quick fix of silver, disco-inspired outfits, but many, hearteningly, turned to independent sellers. For now, Misbin says she is keeping her “finger on the pulse” for the next big thing. She hopes that with Christmas around the corner and the forthcoming Renaissance tour movie, her sales will soar again before the new year. “I don’t want to miss another thing. If I had closed down my store two years ago, then this would have never happened,” she says. “I’m not going to necessarily shut down if sales are slow – they’re pretty good now. I’m just trying to ride it out.”