Feminist Designers: Vancouver’s own Only Child Apparel

Welcome to The Closet Feminist’s new series, Feminist Designers! This interview series will be focusing on the work and designs of clothing labels and fashion designers that explicitly identify as feminist. 

I am super-excited to kick off this series with Madison Reid of Only Child Apparel, a feminist t-shirt company based right here in Vancouver. Reid discusses the importance of diversity in fashion, giving back to her communities through her work, and what is next for this awesome local line.

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The Closet Feminist: What inspired you to start your line Only Child Apparel?

Madison Reid: I was volunteering at WAVAW (Women Against Violence Against Women) while working at a custom t-shirt company, and would daydream about making my own feminist designs.

I did searches online and found the feminist shirt market was seriously lacking in stylish designs. I consider myself a fashionable person, and I’m a graphic designer who loves great typography. I wanted to make shirts that people wouldn’t want to throw out after wearing one time. 

I was terrified to take my Etsy shop live. I had such anxiety about putting myself out there. I took the risk, opened the shop with just 2 designs, shared it on Instagram, and it has been an unbelievably rewarding experience. My first Etsy sale was December 2013, maybe a month or so after I opened it. The following December I made my 100th sale.

I wanted to try this as a fun hobby to do outside of my full time job, and it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve sold shirts to people all over the world, and I love knowing there’s a person all the way in South Carolina, Germany, or New Zealand who cares about the issues I care deeply about. And now they own a piece of my art!

Why did you choose the name “Only Child Apparel”?

I didn’t want to spend too much time thinking on the name of my brand, so I named it after myself; I’m an only child. I also didn’t want to give it an overtly feminist name. I wanted to keep it neutral.

What is it about fashion that inspires your feminist activism?

Wearing a political statement on your body lets others know who you are, what you care about, and that they are not alone. It can connect you to others. It can inspire you to keep fighting, and it reminds you that you are not alone. We are working collectively to change the world.

I’ve had the occasional comment on Instagram from anti-feminists who stop by to say “Wearing a shirt that says ‘Smash The Patriarchy’ does absolutely nothing.” Yeah, no, I disagree with that. I feel like the people who say this are the same people who declare that we have achieved equality in the West—it’s easy to say that when you’re a white, heterosexual, cisgender male. Try saying that to a transgender woman, a Muslim woman, or an overweight woman, and they might tell you a different story.

There are obviously many other ways to be a feminist activist that are more impactful than what I’m doing. This is the path that inspires me most and is how I want to contribute. I’ve learned from this experience that if/when I quit the shirt biz and move onto something else, I am an activist and will keep making feminist art.

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In your opinion, what is the future of feminism within the fashion and personal style sphere?

Our generation is very conscious of our impact on the planet. We want to make our purchases thoughtfully. You see more brands popping up that say their clothing is ethically made in the US or Canada, and I consider that feminist fashion. More gender neutral clothing brands would be considered feminist fashion, as well as more inclusive choices of models in fashion shows. I think some great things have been happening in the fashion industry recently in regards to all of these.

What have you learned working on Only Child Apparel that you couldn’t have learned anywhere else?

I had no idea what this project would bring to my life. It has made me into a business person. It has forced me to push through the fear, because in doing so I might be rewarded by connecting with people in ways I never thought possible. I’ve suddenly connected with friends over Facebook I haven’t seen in years, because it turns out they care about gender equality too.

It has taught me self care because there truly are days I’m too overwhelmed with life and I just need to take a social justice break, and not look at my Facebook or Instagram. This experience has taught me a lot about pushing past those anxious feelings, even though I have them a lot. I have so much fear when I expose my heart [through my designs]. I get anxious about being targeted by a troll. I fear crossing the line and offending someone. I get anxious asking people to model for me. Occasionally, I get so overwhelmed I just want to cash in my chips and run out the door.

We are living in a difficult yet exciting time. When I started the Instagram account for Only Child Apparel, I followed a bunch of accounts that share feminist memes, and I eventually realized that the majority of them are run by teenagers. I felt a bit funny following them because I’m a wee bit older, but I couldn’t help but be blown away by these kids. There’s a community of enlightened, informed, and motivated teens who share amazing posts about self love, gender identity, race, etc. They are so fed up with the bulls**t patriarchal system. What’s with all this trashing of millennials these days? I wish I had been that smart when I was sixteen!

[Ultimately,] working on Only Child Apparel has taught me to focus on the positive rather than the negative because the positive truly always outweighs the negative.

Finally, I’m beyond fortunate to have friends who support me tremendously.

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What is a typical day for you as the head designer and founder of Only Child Apparel?

I work a day job, so that’s usually what I’m doing Mon-Fri, and I make a few trips to the post office after work each week. Evenings often involve Twitter searches (love/hate it) for interesting articles I can share on Facebook. I use Facebook for more thought-provoking topics that I might say a few words on. Instagram is mostly just for sharing brand pictures or silly stuff. A couple nights a week I will browse Pinterest for inspiration for new designs, or for my photo shoots. I sketch in my sketchbook some nights; the majority of my designs for Only Child Apparel have been hand lettered.

I did a couple markets in 2014/2015, but because of the political content of what I’m selling, and my tendency to get a bit flustered when I’m met with hostility, I haven’t done one in over a year. The trendier markets in Vancouver serve alcohol, and I’m not interested in a hostile confrontation with someone who has been drinking.

What is next for Only Child Apparel?

I’m at a crossroads with this business. I didn’t know what to expect when I first started, and since this has been so successful and rewarding it’s given me pause to think about where I want to take this.

I think I want to start making this into a fashion brand, not just t-shirts. I did, in fact, study fashion design at VCAD when I first moved to Vancouver in 2010… for about 8 weeks, then remembered I hate sewing, and decided to study graphic design instead.

I have really talented friends I made in school that keep me connected to the world of fashion. They are very aware of some of the ludicrousness of the fashion industry, and want to do good things like make the industry more inclusive. I want to think I’ll collaborate with them at some point.

I want to do more local, handmade clothing. Possibly vintage items and non-clothing items. Collaborating more with other artists. Just about anything is possible, I guess!

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Do you have any advice for folks seeking to start a feminist business?

I think it’s important to really think about what feminism means to you and what about your business is feminist. Is it just your product or service, or how it’s also made? Is it your brand’s mission statement? Does your business acknowledge all of these things? Since I started this business, I’ve learned a lot more about feminism that I wish I had known then, and I’m evolving my brand as time goes on because of this.

I think having a thick skin can be beneficial if you would really like to join a debate, or fight to have your voice heard while running a feminist business. Anti-feminists can believe all the anti-feminist memes they have created as they want; I know that feminists are some of the most compassionate and caring human beings on this planet. Fully embracing my identity as one has made me a better person.

I admire activists who are out there shutting down the ignorance and not letting the pushback get them down, because it’s tough. But in the end, any harassment (online or offline) is just proof that misogyny is still alive and well and that feminism is thusly needed.

Only Child Apparel donates a portion of every sale to a local rape crisis centre. What inspired you to do this?

I felt that if I want to call my brand ‘feminist’ it needs to be more than just feminist slogans. I need to consider my role in feminism as a business person. Donating to WAVAW was the most obvious choice for me. They are the organization that gave me my empowered awakening nearly four years ago. WAVAW staff were among the first to buy shirts from me when I started making them. They brought an amazing network of women into my life, and I don’t know what I would do without them. The world is a better place for having an organization like them offering their services and supporting women. They are life changers. Donating to them is the least I could do. I’m not into running half-marathons, so I need to contribute a different way.

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Body positivity and inclusivity seems to be a big part of Only Child Apparel’s design philosophy. Why is this important to your designs?

I wanted these shirts to embrace intersectional feminism’s message of embracing everyone; not just through t-shirt slogans, but by how my brand presents itself and involves people from the movement. I could be doing better with the inclusive sizing with the shirts: this is a work in progress.

Intersectional feminism is tackling sexism, homophobia, transphobia, racism, fat oppression and ableism (to name a few). If I only use models who would be considered ‘traditional’ (tall and skinny), how can I really say I care about representation when I won’t do it myself?

Intersectional feminism is tackling sexism, homophobia, transphobia, racism, fat oppression and ableism (to name a few). If I only use models who would be considered ‘traditional’ (tall and skinny), how can I really say I care about representation when I won’t do it myself? I want models of different genders, races, and body types to appear in my work because these people exist and are beautiful too. 

I will mention that I know that I am white and blonde, and so I am included in the narrow type of woman that is often represented [in fashion]. I do model for my shirts a lot. I feel comfortable putting my face all over my brand, and I am obviously the most readily-available to appear in photos for my work. However, we have already seen women that look like me many times before. Representation is so important because our society is so quick to dismiss that other types of people exist. 

There are a lot of brands jumping on the female empowerment bandwagon. I see lots of fun shirts on trendy consumer sites where they still have size 0 models. There’s nothing radical about [these advertisements] and it’s clearly just to capitalize on what’s popular at this very moment.

Anything else you would like Closet Feminist readers to know about Only Child Apparel?

My photos are taken by Jackie Dives of http://jackiedivesphoto.com, who is so talented, so accommodating and so disarming. She did a series of photos on menstruation that were featured in Vice!

Want more of Only Child Apparel? Check out their social media and Etsy shop here:

Instagram: @onlychildapparel

Facebook: http://www.fb.com/onlychildapparel

Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/OnlyChildApparel

All photos used with permission from Only Child Apparel.

I Wore Feminist T-shirts 7 Days In A Row…And Everything Was Fine

This is what a feminist looks like–literally.

This past summer I decided to try a little wardrobe challenge: wear a feminist t-shirt every day for seven days in a row.

A photo posted by Emily Yakashiro (@ekyakashiro) on

Luckily, I happen to actually own seven feminist shirts (yay no repeats!). My biggest worry about this challenge was wearing these outfits to work–wearing a band tshirt to the office felt like one thing, but wearing my political and philosophical beliefs on my sleeve 9-5 seemed like an entirely different affair.

There was some strategy for this–I was careful to wear my more wild shirts for the weekends, like the VDAY tank I wore on the first day of the challenge (see first picture above).

A photo posted by Emily Yakashiro (@ekyakashiro) on

I had actually been planning to do this challenge for a while, but was waiting for a stretch of warm, sunny weather–it would have to happen during the summer. My rationale here was I wanted people to actually see my shirts. If I had done the challenge during colder months, I would probably cover up the shirts with sweaters and cardigans in effort to stay warm, which rather defeats the purpose. Plus, practically speaking, its wayyyyy easier to take outfit pics when its not freezing outside.

A photo posted by Emily Yakashiro (@ekyakashiro) on

I admit, I was a little nervous about how people would react in my day-to-day life. I’m happy to report though that absolutely nothing bad happened at all. Nobody even questioned me (“soooo feminism, eh?”).  I get tired of answering the “why feminism?” question, so largely, I just don’t do that anymore–I leave that up to my allies. Wearing the shirts was a quick, easy way to signal (as if its not already obvious) ‘hey I’m a feminist’.

A photo posted by Emily Yakashiro (@ekyakashiro) on

I’m assuming that no one talked to me about my shirts for a few reasons:

  1. I’m always dressed up. Wearing a colourful outfit and fun tshirt that happens to be relevant to feminism really doesn’t change my general wardrobe aesthetic
  2. They couldn’t be bothered–in talking to me, it’s obvious I’m a feminist–what difference does it make if I have a shirt on that declares it? It’s like wearing a religious jewellery, like a cross necklace. It indicates part of your identity, but most people aren’t going to bother to ask you about it.
  3. The privileges I enjoy (visibly mixed race, thin, cisgendered, etc) tend to effectively guard against any particularly invasive questions with regards to my wardrobe

 

A photo posted by Emily Yakashiro (@ekyakashiro) on

Since all was fine, I’m thinking I will do it again this summer (different outfits, naturally). If I’m being honest, I only actually enjoy wearing a few of these shirts–the others are uncomfortable, don’t fit right, etc–specific notes below.

A photo posted by Emily Yakashiro (@ekyakashiro) on

 

  1. I Love <3 My Vagina tank – got this at an actual Vagina Monologues performance years ago, so I can’t offer any current purchase details. I looove this tank top, fits so nicely. Wear it often as a pajama top.
  2. Women In History tshirt – I love this tshirt! I especially love how diverse it is, and where else would you see these women being honoured in such a fashion? You can buy it here, but they only ship within the US (boooo!)–I was only able to get mine via my girl ST who lives in the states right now. I will say though–it fits really long and covers my butt which is kinda annoying
  3. …And I’m Not Sorry tank- this one was made for me by my sister-in-law! I love it, and wear it often on the weekends (the super-thin straps make it a little unprofesh for work and necessitates layering). It’s about taking up space and not being sorry of course.
  4. Women Belong In the House…of Commons! tshirt – I’ve had this one for years, and while I think the graphic is clever/awesome, I hate the fit–its that thick, ribbed cotton tshirt material that bags easily after too many washes.
  5. feminism tshirt – While I love the simplicity of the statement, this shirt also fits poorly–too small, so its rather uncomfortable. Also, it says ‘humanism’ on the back which I didn’t picture because I don’t like that aspect of the tshirt–I’m a feminist, and don’t identify with humanism.
  6. Feminism tshirt – This one is so comfy, plus I really like it because it is made by Only Child Apparel, which is a local, Vancouver-based line!!! Also, this was probably my favourite outfit of the week.
  7. got consent? tank – This one, like shirt #4 is that unfortunate fabric. Also, it has shrunk over the years so it doesn’t fit well–neckline is too high for my taste, and its short on my torso. I got this while I was at UBC while I was working for the campus sexual assault support centre, but it looks like they are no longer for purchase.

BONUS: Looking for other awesome places to find feminist tshirts? Check out the list I have going here.

Currently Preoccupied: Recent Style Revelations

By: Emily Yakashiro

It is probably pretty obvious that I think about fashion, personal style, and clothing a lot. Here are a few things I have realized lately–nothing earth-shattering, just a few things that have recently occurred to me.

1. What I Should Be Wearing Under White Dresses

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Above: Love it–but what to do if I want to wear it with bare legs and don’t want people to see my choice of undies??? Dress found here.

I really love white dresses. However, most of what I buy (first or second hand) is poorly lined or quite sheer. I was previously wearing black tights (who cares if you can see the outline under my dress) or bare legs and these high-waisted black spandex shorts I have (if its see-thru the retro shape would look cuter than regular spandex). My new solution (duh) is to get some damn shapewear in a tone similar to my skin–it will disappear under whatever white dress I’m wearing. Presto! I thought shapewear was for achieving a certain figure or silhouette in tight clothes only, didn’t every consider it could be used to deal with light clothing.

2. Alexa Chung’s Secret: Bare Legs

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I love Alexa Chung’s style (but doesn’t everyone interested in personal style?), and while I can easily imitate her outfits, I always found something was off. It should be easy–I’m half-Asian, therefore one step closer to actually emulating her whole ‘look’. Finally, I figured it out: bare legs. Chung opts for bare legs more often than not, and it makes all the difference.

3. Skirt Suits: Waiting for them to hit the mainstream

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Above: Great skirt suit, waaaay too expensive for me. Image found here.

I LOVE the skirt suit trend, but can you find it anywhere for a relatively accessible price? No, you cannot. I remember being in high school and patiently waiting for skinny jeans to make their way to my home town (not exactly a thriving metropolis, let me tell you). When they finally did arrive: one store in my whole town, and they were super-expensive. I saved up and bought them. I remember girls in my school carefully safety-pinning their jeans back to make them look like skinny jeans. Times were tough. I find myself in a similar situation now waiting for skirt suits to hit the mainstream…

4. Why I don’t care for this floral trend…

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Above: Dress found here.

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Above: Outfit found here.

I love floral prints, it’s pretty much a joke. My closet looks like a spring meadow. However, while all the fashion sources are hawking florals as a new trend, I have found myself not liking looks like the ones above–I should be in my element! I finally put my finger on why I don’t like these looks though: I prefer my floral prints to look (dare I sound this ridiculous?) organic/as close to the real thing as you can make it. Now, the second look above is the Peter Pilotto for Target collection, which I didn’t much care for the first few times I looked at it. Now of course that I’ve figured out why and there are a few pieces that I want, but the look above is def out for me personally.

What to Wear: VIWIFF 2014

The 9th annual Vancouver International Women in Film Festival is taking place this year from March 6-9th. What better way to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th than to check out some excellent films made by women? Here’s what to wear to this exciting cultural event driven by and celebrating work made by women.

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Madewell sheer shirt, 100 CAD / Red camisole, 46 CAD / Nümph highwaisted pants / ALDO black stiletto, 110 CAD / Alexander Wang buckle purse, 1,355 CAD / Revlon eye makeup, 5.55 CAD / Revlon beauty product, 5.55 CAD

Attending film festival screenings is like going to any other movie theatre. However, the films are introduced, and Q&A panels may follow with the filmmakers, so a few special details might be nice to have. An easy rule? Throw together whatever Euro-chic pieces you have like the ensemble above– a nice blouse, unexpected colours, interesting cuts, etc.

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Topshop chiffon shirt, 78 CAD / Vanessa Bruno pink tuxedo, 745 CAD / Mango skirt, 52 CAD / Topshop sporting footwear, 110 CAD / ASOS laser cut purse, 42 CAD / J Crew tri color jewelry, 83 CAD / MAC Cosmetics lips makeup, 18 CAD / Essie nail polish, 15 CAD

A basic silhouette works for attending a screening as well. Above we have a skirt, blazer, and blouse. Adding pops of colour and something fun like a polka dots lends the outfit a more cosmopolitan vibe. Don’t have the $ to pull an outfit together? Just paint your nails an exciting colour–it adds colour, and won’t break the bank.

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The outfit above is pretty neutral–perfect for colour-shy Vancouverites. Add a bright necklace or a contrasting-print scarf to a dress with touches of colour to give your outfit an extra something.

Supporting women involved in the Canadian film industry is super-important considering the barriers they face. The 2013 report Women in View on Screen showed that women made up just 22% of fiction directors and 20% of fiction writers. Things were even worse for racialized women–the study found that out of 78 fiction directors, just 2 were women of colour, and that racialized women were entirely absent from documentary production.

The Vancouver International Women in FIlm Festival is mostly entirely volunteer-driven event, here are some interesting facts about what was going on behind the scenes during the planning of the festival (found here).

Interesting facts about #VIWIFF 2014

  • The festival line-up has a movie from every continent this year except Australia and Antarctica.
  • For the first time ever, the festival is opening with a thriller/horror movie–Karen Lam’s Evangeline.
  • Our block of Venezuelan films showing the afternoon of Saturday, March 8th, are not only excellent films, but the result of a partnership with the Venezuelan consulate to bring the best of Venezuelan female filmmakers to Vancouver!
  • The beautiful documentary Chi by Anne Wheeler focuses on Babz Chula, a larger-than-life Vancouver performer who was also a lifetime member of Women In Film & Television Vancouver.
  • Germany and Venezuela tie for having the third most films showing at the festival after Canada and the States. From Germany we’re showing FinsterworldZu Dir?, and  Am I Not Your Girl?
  • Evangeline was submitted at the very last  minute before the submission deadline–at it was a good thing as it is our opening night film!
  • Our Evaluation Team watched an average of 945 minutes of film each; Festival Committee members had to watch an average of 2350 minutes of film each.
  • You name it, we had it: we had submissions of all genres and lengths–films as short as 90 seconds, and as long as 2 hours. We had rom-coms, horror movies, animated films, student films, even erotic films!

Don’t miss out on #VIWIFF 2014!  Info about the schedule here, ticket info here. Check out the VIWIFF blog for updates on everything from fun facts about the filmmakers to media literacy resources. 

Editor’s Spring Wish List: Katie D.

Last week we started up our Editor’s Spring Wish Lists, following what we did for Fall 2013. Advising Editor Lydia O. posted her picks on Wednesday, next up is our Advising Editor and Graphic Designer Katie D who is dreaming of summer with these sunny outfits.

Out for a Bike Ride

Sleeveless tank, 95 CAD / AX Paris blue denim skirt, 17 CAD / Opposite Stripe Bike Shorts, 20 CAD / Kate Spade canvas flat, 84 CAD / Mini bag, 28 CAD / Wildfox Couture acetate sunglasses, 190 CAD / Bike helmet – Webshop – YAKKAY, 61 CAD

Perfect for a bike ride through our beautiful city is this adorable watermelon-print top with the nautical striped canvas flats!

Day at the Beach
Not sure how to wear high-waisted print shorts? Throw them over your bathing suit and head to Kits beach!
Summertime Date
Headed out on a balmy spring or summer evening for a date? Pull a Zooey Deschanel and throw on a sweet romper–instant outfit!
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