They were selling – and fast.
When Diana Kane English noticed how quickly her new line of gold-lettered “Feminist” t-shirts was flying off the shelves of her Park Slope boutique, she was stunned. Her inspiration for creating them, after all, was born of a typical designer frustration: “I wanted one, and Googling wasn’t turning up what I wanted.”
Her first shipment sold out in two days, and, months later, her shop is still buzzing. “The excitement just keeps growing,” says Diana. “People are buying them for themselves, their girlfriends, sisters, kids, mothers – even husbands.”
Suddenly, Diana had happy customers tagging her in photos of themselves and their children, wearing #feministgold t-shirts, all over social media. Actress Connie Britton had offered the shirt as a giveaway on her personal Instagram account, and a loyal Diana Kane Boutique customer gifted one to activist Gloria Steinem at a local event.
With dozens selling every day, the t-shirt is a product on a mission – and that’s just how Diana intended it. “I want the t-shirt to be unifying, and good on as many levels as I can make it: aesthetically pleasing, made out of eco-friendly materials by people earning a fair wage, and ultimately worn by people furthering the message of equality for all people,” she says.
Why a t-shirt? “Imagery is important, and what we see in pop culture influences us. So even though it’s ‘only a t-shirt,’ it’s an outward expression of where I’m at – and it seems to be connecting to a lot of other people.”
As the demand for the t-shirts increased – with celebrities Samantha Bee, Sissy Spacek, Christy Turlington and Martha Plimpton donning them, as well – it seemed only natural that the proceeds could also do some good. That's where GGE came in.
When Cassie Schwerner, Senior Vice President for National Partnerships at the Schott Foundation for Public Education, introduced her to Girls for Gender Equity (GGE), Diana was sold. “GGE suits me. Their objectives fit my agenda, and I love that they’re local to Brooklyn, just a mile or two down the road from my shop. Their work has direct impact in my city… Giving to a cause whose objective is uplifting, educating and giving equalizing opportunities to young women of color feels right.”
The Schott Foundation is a longtime supporter of GGE, a nonprofit founded by Executive Director Joanne N. Smith, that uses a dual approach of community organizing and direct service to encourage communities to remove barriers and create opportunities for girls and women to live self-determined lives. GGE runs inclusive programming, guides leadership development through advocacy campaigns and peer mentorship, and offers youth-led trainings for educators, community members and the general public on racial and gender equity in education, sexual harassment and gender-based violence. The work of GGE has been featured extensively on the news television show of Melissa Harris-Perry, as well as by Colorlines, W. Kamau Bell, Jezebel, The Daily Show and BRIC TV.
GGE’s work focuses on ensuring that the voices of young women are heard and respected. The organization’s commitment to lifting up the leadership of young women of color led to partnering with the New York City Council Speaker in the creation of the Young Women’s Initiative (YWI), a citywide effort to address the policy, program and resource needs of young women of color and LGBTQ youth. GGE was instrumental in the creation of the Young Women’s Advisory Council, a signature component that centers the participation of young women of color in shaping the priorities and implementation of the YWI.
“Having the support of Brooklyn-based women like Diana helps us proclaim our intersectional feminist lens with a fun, great product,” says founder Joanne Smith. “It shows we want to project the strength of all of our sisters and our brothers in support of true equity.”
The Diana Kane Boutique has no plans to stop production of the shirt. “It’s inspiring conversations,” Diana says, “providing an opportunity to speak with your kids about what feminism is, what the fight for women’s rights has been, how it continues and how they can be a part of it. I love to see it worn by so many generations.
“Anything I can do to add a push in the direction of equality, fairness and opportunity for girls is a step in the right direction.”
Diana Kane’s gorgeous #feministgold t-shirts can be purchased online at www.dianakane.com. 10% of all proceeds benefit Girls for Gender Equity. To learn more about GGE or to donate directly, visit www.ggenyc.org.