Sally Patterson and Ceini Bowen, founders of Bristol-born t-shirt brand ‘She-Shirts’, explain the importance of ethical feminist fashion.

The commodification of the feminist movement, with major brands such as Topshop and H&M appropriating notions such as ‘Girl Power’, has recently received much media attention. Critics have spoken out against ‘femvertising’, the use of feminist messages as advertising tools to sell products, as simply feeding a capitalistic system in which large corporations make money out of social rights movements. Contemporary feminist movements ask whether women actually benefit from the buying and selling of the feminist movement.

Most recently, large brands have offered us ‘feminist’ slogan t-shirts, using phrases such as ‘Not Your Baby’, ‘FEMINIST’ and ‘Girl Power, apparently in a bid to empower women. As much scholarly and journalistic attention has attested to, such proclamations of empowerment alone can hardly be seen as fulfilling feminist aims; the very brands selling these slogan tees hardly empower women in the production of said t-shirts, and profits rarely go towards women in need.

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Nonetheless, feminist t-shirts may also carry some benefits. The messages that such slogans convey can be affirming and empowering for the women who choose to wear them. Indeed, the very success of feminist t-shirts speaks to both their fashionability and appeal to a vast array of women. For young women in particular, wearing such t-shirts may allow them to feel a part of a bigger movement, drawing them into a global network of feminists. Indeed, products that celebrate the strength and empowerment of women can help to spread important messages to large audiences. As Noor Evers has noted previously:  

“Ad campaigns are an effective way of communicating to women that all bodies are beautiful (Dove), that girls can kick ass in sports (Always), and that women shouldn’t apologise for shit (Pantene).”

Taking the shortcomings of the current market into consideration, what appears to be lacking are feminist t-shirts that are both empowering for women and meaningful. That is what the new Bristol-born brand ‘She Shirts’ seeks to provide. She Shirts offers authentic feminist fashion: t-shirts portraying empowering messages, with the profits generated going towards charities that support women and really make a difference. The products strive to be as ethical as possible at all stages of production, distribution and selling.

She-Shirts was founded by two students at the University of Bristol, Sally Patterson and Ceini Bowen, and launched on Wednesday 28th February. She-Shirts is transformative in that it is committed to fighting inequalities in a practical way, with all profits supporting three inspirational women’s charities, initially: Women’s Aid, Smart Works and Bloody Good Period.

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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.

The she-shirts, manufactured by Teemill, are printed in the UK using low-waste printing technology in a renewable energy-powered factory, made from certified organic cotton by ethically accredited suppliers. Everyone involved in She-Shirts is a volunteer, including the founders, models, photographers and graphic designers.

As modern feminists, the founders seek to not only highlight gendered inequality but also to do something tangible about it. Have your cake and eat it too: wear your fashionable, feminist tee, safe in the knowledge that, by doing so, you are actively contributing to women’s emancipation.

Buy your She-Shirt here:

Images courtesy of She-Shirts.

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