Style Editor Nancy Serle interviews Sally Patterson and Ceini Bowen, Co-Founders of the She-Shirts, a charitable enterprise selling original feminist t-shirts.
- As founders of the She-Shirts, tell us a bit about yourselves:
Sally: I'm a third-year Politics and Sociology student, Chair of the Women's Network at Bristol SU and women's rights activist. I'm currently working on my dissertation, examining the the scale and scope of sexual assault on campus.
Ceini: I'm a postgrad student, studying for an MA in History with specialisms in contemporary feminisms and gender, and am currently Publicity Officer for the Women's Network - I also volunteer for Bristol Women's Voice in my spare time.
- What inspired you to start She-Shirts?
Sally: I started thinking about feminist t-shirts almost 2 years ago. In a world of identity politics and hyper-consumerism, people are incredibly conscious of the way they look and how they come across. High street and designer brands have increasingly tapped into the feminist market, designing slogan t-shirts such as 'Females of the Future' and 'Empower Women'. Although I think that this shift towards feminism becoming more 'mainstream' and less taboo is positive, such products are obviously deeply problematic. For me, they just felt like empty phrases sprawled in eye-catching fonts. Feminism isn't just about what's written on your t-shirt; it's about your beliefs, your actions.
Did you know we've been featured on @nodebutante as one of Bristol's Finest Insta Fashionistas?! 👀 how exciting!! We are so proud to have seen She Shirts grow so quickly over this past month - what an adventure it's been. To celebrate we've decided to offer a giveaway to allow one lucky bean a chance to win a she-shirt of their own! See our previous posts for all the information on how to enter and get your hands on your fab feminist tee! 🌟
Moreover, the manufacturing and distribution of corporate t-shirts rarely actually support women. In fact, they are often made in sweatshops and factories where women in particular are vulnerable to exploitation, as ethical fashion activist Amy DuFault recently highlighted. There was a gap in the market for ethical, feminist t-shirts, and about 3 months ago, I decided to just go for it. University is the perfect place to try something like this out, test the waters, and it seemed particularly timely given the political climate. I reached out to Ceini, who had the artistic skill that I seriously lack, and I don't know what I'd do without my Right-Hand Woman!
- Where do your proceeds go?
Sally: She Shirts is a charitable enterprise, and we endeavour to donate as high a percentage of the money paid as possible. Everyone involved in She Shirts is a volunteer, including the founders, models, photographers and graphic designers.
Ceini: On average, for every product sold, £3.50 is made in 'royalties'. Of this, 50% goes back into repaying start-up costs, and the other 50%, the profit generated, is put straight into our charity pot. This money is then divided equally and donated to our charities; Women's Aid, Smart Works and Bloody Good Period, all of whom we've established strong relationships with. We're also very open to charity suggestions!
- You recently launched- how was that? Do you have any other events coming up?
Ceini: Launching was so exciting after having kept the whole venture so secret for the past few months. What was even more exciting was that we actually sold our first she-shirts on the very day we launched! We also hosted a celebratory tea with some very special people, including some women who have been instrumental in supporting us with She Shirts - it felt poignant to be surrounded by such supportive women given our aims and values!
We have a few exciting ideas for future events in the works, so watch this space! But, for now, we're focusing our efforts on ensuring the growth and success of She Shirts - starting by getting the word out about our products.
- Tell us a bit about your product range...
Sally: Every she-shirt tells a story, focusing on contemporary challenges faced by women. 'Hands Off' has a simple design of two handprints over the chest, "Women Up" is a word play on Man Up (a common phrase used to embolden men), "Feminist Legacies" pays tribute to inspirational feminists emblazoned across the chest, "Sexism isn't Sexy" directly confronts discrimination, and "All bodies are beautiful" challenges the relentless demand for women to conform to the 'ideal' body image.
Our aim is to empower women through the production, distribution and profits of the products. At times, feminism can feel alienating, daunting or tokenistic, and purchasing a she-shirt is an easy and affordable way to engage with the conversation.
- Finally, where can we buy your products?
Sally: All of our products are available on our website, She-Shirts. We know it's not the catchiest URL to remember, so don't worry, simply follow our Facebook page and Instagram (@sheshirtUK) and follow the link directly from there! Also keep an eye out for new designs, deals and more!
Featured Image: She-Shirts
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