Taking her cue from the hundreds of Dolls-inspired creations she’d seen at shows over the years, Palmer invited fans to submit designs for what she describes as “the fucking future of merchandising” – a cooperative project where fans design and make all of The Dresden Dolls merchandise and share in the profits.

The concept is actually a logical extension of The Brigade, the ever-changing collective of professional and amateur performance artists who are an integral part of The Dresden Dolls’ live show.

“It seemed like such an obvious fit to me, because we’d be touring all over the world – it seems to be an international phenomenon – and we’d show up at a show in Sydney or London or Prague and fans were bringing us these beautiful items that they’d made, like purses and clothes and lunch boxes,” Palmer told Pollstar. “They’d bring us stuff sometimes as gifts, but sometimes just to show off and say, ‘This is this Dresden Dolls thing that I made.’

“I was constantly getting my mind blown by how creative our fans were. Some of this stuff was actually really high quality merchandise, because these people were real artist who spent time on their work. It seemed obvious to kind of turn that in on itself and reach out to those people to actually make our merch.”

Palmer struggled to get the idea off the ground for a few years until she came upon the perfect person to make it work, dancer and designer Katie Kay. Kay originally got involved with the band as a performer and is now the Doll’s tour manager.

“I’ve been fantasizing about this project for the last three years and I finally thought ‘I’m not going to be able to get this off the ground my self because I don’t have time, but I think I’ve found the right person to realize it.’ So I asked her to do it and she was totally game.”

Kay agreed that heading up Post War Trade is a natural fit for her.

“I’ve had a [fashion] line for several years,” she told Pollstar.

“I’ve always had a hand in both music and fashion, so this was a really natural process, because it was taking two industries I was comfortable with and finding a happy medium between the two. And also being able to support the fans, which is so, so important to Amanda and me.”

Both Kay and Palmer stressed that point repeatedly – Post War Trade is as much about supporting fans creatively and financially as it is about benefiting the Dolls.

“It’s two-fold,” Palmer said. It’s not just that the stuff is cool because I’m actually really directly involved in making it and approving it. It’s also that it’s not just being manufactured by random people in a random factory – the majority of it will hopefully be handmade by the fans.

Fans have been submitting ideas to [email protected] and Kay has been combing through them to pick the ones that will work.

“We’ve had an onslaught, especially from young fans which is the point of this project – to support artists,” she said. “And really we’re not being too selective about what level of artists we’re trying to support.

“Granted we want a professional product, but at the same time there’s just so much raw talent out there we see that just needs development. And it’s a shame that we can’t just develop a hundred artists, because there are amazing 14-year-old girls from Minnesota that have such raw talent, but can’t quite produce a professional level item yet.”

Palmer compared the experience to the one the band goes through when selecting acts for The Brigade.

“It very much like how we deal with selecting performers for our live shows,” she said. “We get a lot of input and then it can be really hard to decide who and what to focus on, because you want to encourage the amateurs to really get their game up an put time into their work. But you also really want to give the fans quality stuff.

“So the challenge to running the company is trying to figure out how to make top-notch stuff while still making sure everyone feels included and feel like they have shot.”

In the first two weeks of the project, Palmer and Kay received more than 150 submissions, the majority of which were wearables, something both of them are trying to keep in balance with other items.

“We don’t want it to be strictly clothing,” Kay said. “We want it to be really odd, like beer coozies and placemats and random things. We don’t want a million reconstructed t-shirts, as great as they are.”

The next challenge is getting merchandise ready in time for the Dolls upcoming winter tour which kicks off December 27 at Sixth & I Synagogue in Washington, D.C., and wraps up January 13 at NorVa in Norfolk, Va.

Palmer and Kay think they’ll be able to have at least a few items available in time to get Post War Trade up and running by then.

Another thing that’s been taking up Palmer’s time is her debut solo release, Who Killed Amanda Palmer?, which is due for release in March.

“It’s been a long, arduous record-making procedure – but it sounds incredible.

“It’s produced by Ben Folds. He plays drums on a lot of the tracks, surprisingly, and a little bit of synth and organ and MOOG.”

Palmer has a couple of solo dates in Australia in December, and then she’ll hit the road with the Dolls. After that she plans on touring in support of her album through the fall, both with a new five-piece backing band she describes as “incredible” and “smoking” and on her own for some “an evening with” shows.

Complete information on Post War Trade, including details about how to submit designs, is available at DresdenDolls.com.