Interview: She Shirts

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She Shirts was founded by Sally Patterson. She was joined by Ceini Bowen, and together they turned her idea into a reality. Sally and Ceini are both students as Bristol University, and passionate about feminist activism. She Shirts is a women-led project, seeking to empower society through the creation, distribution, and showcasing of feminist t-shirts. I was lucky enough to interview Sally and Ceini about their business. 

Hello! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. How are you?

We’re really well thank you – so excited to be featured on the blog!

Tell us a little bit about your background.

We’re both students at the University of Bristol. Sally is a final year studying Politics and Sociology and Ceini is a Masters student studying History. We met whilst working on the Women’s Network Committee at the Bristol SU and bonded over our shared interest in feminism and gender equality!

I adore your business. What made you decide to set up She Shirts?

She Shirts was initially Sally’s idea - she felt like someone was missing a trick by not tapping into the feminist consumer market. Over the past year or so, there’s been a move within the fashion industry towards ‘reclaiming’ feminism, with big brands now selling feminist slogan tees.

But slogans aren’t quite enough – especially when big corporations package and sell feminism as a marketing gimmick without supporting women in other ways, such as using ethically accredited labour. There was a gap in the market for ethical, feminist t-shirts, that actually made a difference, so about 5 months ago, Sally decided to just go for it. She reached out to Ceini and together they made She Shirts a reality!

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What does your shop sell?

We sell feminist tees, with all profits going towards charities that support and empower women: Bloody Good Period, Smart Works and Women’s Aid. The aim is to empower women through the creation, distribution, and then the showcasing of the She-Shirts range. Every she-shirt tells a story, focusing on contemporary challenges faced by women.

For example, our “Woman Up” design is a word play on “Man Up”, a common phrase used to reinforce stereotypes about masculinity , “Feminist Legacies” pays tribute to inspirational feminists emblazoned across the chest and “All bodies are beautiful” challenges the relentless demand for women to conform to the ‘ideal’ body image.

Why did you call your shop She Shirts?

Sally loves playing on words. She once accidentally said it and was like ‘Woah why is that not a thing?!’ The whole brand basically stemmed from the name!

How has your creative process changed since the start?

It’s been a big learning curve! We’ve both had to learn to gear our creative process not just to our individual likes and aims but to a broader audience. Learning to collaborate has meant working at a slower creative pace and editing designs consistently throughout the process rather than simply at the end of the designing process!

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How did you manage to learn and hone your craft?

I think we’re both still learning. Neither of us have ever done anything like this before, and so we’re working it out and finding our feet. She Shirts is still so new that we’re still working on honing our craft and are constantly adapting to new ideas and challenges.

Have you always been into design and craft?

Ceini’s always loved design and creating new things - having taken GCSE Textiles, she was really keen to work on the creative aspect of She Shirts.

Why has social media been an important platform for you to use?

So many young people are currently using social media, not just as a social platform but also to engage with feminism and activism. Recently, people have also begun to use social media, such as Instagram, as a shopping platform. It’s therefore been really important for us in reaching new people and has allowed us to grow our brand really quickly! We also love how many like-minded young businesswomen we’ve come across on platforms such as Instagram - there’s a wonderfully creative feminist community out there that we’re thrilled to be joining!

Who inspires your shop?

We take inspiration from the issues faced by women in contemporary society and so find inspiration in our friends, peers and family. We’re inspired by women in history, and women who are making history everyday.

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Do you have any favourite pieces from your shop that you adore at the moment?

We love all of our designs but are particularly fond of our ‘Woman Up’ tee which has been really popular, with people of all genders! Ceini is also fond of the ‘All Bodies Are Beautiful’ tee, which she drew herself - seeing people wearing it has been really exciting!

What do we hope to see in this up and coming year for your Instagram page?

We’re hoping this year will bring more growth in who we’re reaching - we’ve already grown so much over the first few months of having launched but are hoping to reach even more people! We also want to keep highlighting and fighting the challenges we face as women in contemporary society - our next collection challenges issues such as stigma around menstruation and female body hair so hopefully we’ll be introducing some fresh content very soon!

What’s your typical working day?

As we’re both still students our working day for She Shirts very much varies and normally consists of squeezing in a few hours of designing, sorting out emails and admin and planning our new collections in the evenings.

What’s been the biggest struggle in getting your business off the ground?

Predominantly having the time to commit to She Shirts! Recently we’ve both had important coursework, meaning we’ve had to fit in She Shirts work around other commitments which has been rather demanding. We really couldn’t do it without each other!

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Do you have any exciting plans for this year?

In June of this year we’ll be making our first donation to our three charities which is really exciting! As well as this, we’re launching a new collection soon which we’re really proud of, which will include collaborations with some incredible young artists. We’re both also graduating over the coming months so will be starting full time jobs - both an exciting and scary prospect!

What advice would you give to people looking to define their own style?

Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone!

Do you have any advice for anyone starting their own shop?

Be prepared to put in a lot of time and effort! And make sure you love what you’re doing- you’ve got to be passionate about it to make it work!

What’s next for She Shirts?

As already mentioned, we have a really exciting second collection in the works. It’s a collaborative collection which is really fun; we’ve produced one of our own designs but also ran a competition for two of the designs and are collaborating with two wonderful feminist illustrators as well to produce another two designs.

What's the best piece of creative advice you've ever been given?

That a perfect creative process doesn’t just come naturally but is something you have to work at and hone!

You can find She Shirts on Facebook 'https://www.facebook.com/sheshirtsuk/' and Instagram 'https://www.instagram.com/sheshirtsuk/'. You can find all of their products on their website 'https://sheshirts.teemill.com/'.