To launch Our Sacred Women's blog, I thought it fitting to start with this. When the idea for our signature statement tee first came to me in a daydream, it was 2014. At the time, American media was awash with stories of sexual assault cases on college campuses, and incidents of domestic violence among NFL players. Violence against women was a topic that was gaining more traction on a national level. Fast forward 3 years later and statement tees with pro-woman phrases, like ours, has become the norm.
In addition to it's affirming messages, OSW is committed to honoring women through responsible sourcing, ethical manufacturing, and it's give-back component. But this kind of full integration of our core value didn't exist back in 2014. At the time, I was focused solely on the design and simply getting the shirts made. Having zero background in production, it took me about 5 months to go from daydream to my first sample. This included many moments of confusion and frustration mixed with an unrelenting eagerness to share the message - women are sacred - with the world. The first sample was digitally printed on a women's conventional cotton Bella Canvas tee. After all those months of work, I can still remember the sense of awe I felt when the shirt came through the dryer and I held it in my hand. But that feeling soon faded once I tried on the sample and realized that the shirt wasn't very comfortable. So I drove to a nearby American Apparel store, purchased some tri-blend tees (made of 50% Polyester / 25% Cotton / 25% Rayon), and had the screen printing shop do another sample run. Despite the shirt having a better feel, I didn't feel excited about the design anymore. I finally came to terms with something that had been nagging at me since I saw the first sample. The fact was, the design was tacky. It didn't matter that I spent months creating it. I had followed the advice of several friends and included a handwritten lettering component as well as color. Nothing like the design you see today. And it was just bad. Period.
About the same time, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter Celine. My body naturally began to shift inward to focus on growing my child, which added to my growing disinterest in this t-shirt idea I had been working on. So I packed everything related to the shirt up in a box and didn't think about it again until a year later. During this break I watched the documentary The True Cost - a powerful film that sheds light on the dire social and environmental consequences of the fast fashion industry. From serious health issues caused by pesticides used on conventional cotton, to environmental AND health problems resulting from the runoff of garment dyes containing harsh chemicals, to the modern day enslavement of garment workers paid well below living wage. Seeing the images and hearing the stories of those negatively impacted moved me deeply. And when I eventually revisited the t-shirt idea, I knew that I had to create the shirt in a way that actually reflects its message.
SUSTAINABLE MANUFACTURING TO HONOR WOMEN
So I proceeded to spend months sourcing organic cotton t-shirts from various companies and went through two full production runs that ended poorly before finding the manufacturer I use now. They were and still are located in Los Angeles. I was lucky enough to also find a woman-owned screen printing shop just 3.5 miles away that could print using eco-friendly water-based ink that is free of PVC, lead, phthalates, heavy metals, AZO compounds, nonylphenol, and formaldehyde - all of which are commonly found in conventional screen printing ink. Choosing organic cotton and water-based ink protects the environment, the workers, AND makes sure that our tees are safe for the bodies they adorn. Given that skin is the largest organ we have and is highly absorbent, it stands to reason that we should be mindful about what we wear and expose our skin to right? So I wanted to make sure that our tee honored women not by the message alone, but by also being safe for their bodies. Additionally, having these two vendors in the same area helped me realize the benefits of sourcing locally: it would reduce our carbon footprint, I could support my local economy, and I could meet my vendors in person and develop genuine relationships. Most importantly, it would help ensure that the people involved in producing our t-shirts were being paid living wage, operating in safe working conditions, and all the other protections afforded workers in California. Add to that our give-back component in which we donate 10% of proceeds from each t-shirt sale to The Breathe Network to support survivors of sexual violence. In taking all of these intentional steps, I am very proud to share our signature WOMEN ARE SACRED tee with the world knowing that the shirt itself literally embodies the message printed on it.
HOW YOU CAN HONOR WOMEN
If you're interested in creating a product that honors women, I encourage you to consider how you can infuse that intention into the entire process.
- Use eco-friendly fabric like GOTS certified organic cotton. You can verify GOTS certification by simply asking a company for the certificate. *Note that companies are now offering "eco-friendly" fabrics that contain recycled plastic material that are not as environmentally friendly as you may think. Each time you wash fabric made from plastic (including polyester), tiny plastic microbeads are released into the washer, then into our waterways, and eventually into the ocean where they wreak havoc on the eco-system and the animal life (they eventually make their way into humans too through the food chain. Sushi anyone?). Learn more about plastic microbeads here.
- Use eco-friendly water-based ink for screen printing. You can even take it a step further and look for a screen printing shop that is transparent about their production processes being environmentally friendly as well.
- Source materials and services locally to reduce your carbon footprint, support local businesses, and be more certain about businesses employing safe labor practices.
- Add a give-back element to the product that helps support women in need.
- Learn more about the issues. Documentaries like The True Cost will change your life (see below for the trailer).