Romantics wear their hearts on their sleeves, now feminists can wear their beliefs on their t-shirts.
FeministApparel has become that one stop shop of equal rights expression for women (and men.) With its mixture of smart, funky and clever feminist slogans on versatile t-shirts and tank tops, the site has already made waves on the internet and beyond (Gloria Steinem herself is rumored to sport the shirts.)
In addition to being the only company of its kind, Feminist Apparel is notable for one other reason—it was created and is currently run by a man.
Shortly after graduating from Rutgers University, Alan Javier Martofel decided that he wanted to become better informed on “intersectional feminist issues,” and have a creative outlet to express his own feminist beliefs.
The idea for Feminist Apparel was spurred on by a short documentary that Martofel was working on at Rutgers about the Clery Act, a statute that requires all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to keep and disclose information about crime on and near campus. His documentary focused on the different ways numbers are reported within the act that don’t reflect the extent of sexual assault on college campuses.
In order to fund the project he nixed the idea of a Kickstarter campaign and instead decided to sell feminist t-shirts. This led Martofel to the discovery that there was no website in existence that sold “a variety of fun feminist t-shirts.”
The site was launched in December 2013, and although it stems from and supports a serious issue, it was immediately apparent that the site would create awareness about women’s issues in a fun, outspoken way. It’s hard to peruse the site and not find a shirt that speaks to you, or at least catches your eye.
The shirts have a variety of sayings and designs; there’s “Cats against Catcalls” and “Free Pussy Riot” to “We Shall Overcome,” with a 60s era image of feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem, and even a simple white t-shirt with “Feminist” in black capital letters.
“We are striving to make this a wholly feminist and intersectional company and brand, so I always keep my ears and eyes open to recommendations, critiques and especially fan mail,” said Martofel, who encourages fans to share their thoughts with him via email.
Interestingly, the head of Feminist Apparel has a day job, too. The 25-year-old still relies on video production as his main source of income.
“I continually invest the money from Feminist Apparel sales back into the company to continue growing it and accomplishing our mission on a larger scale,” he said.
While more than 90 percent of its customers are women, Feminist Apparel does offer shirts in unisex or men’s fit style. Some are even specifically designed for men, such as a t-shirt that says “Men of Quality Respect Women’s Equality,” Martofel pointed out.
The site also has a Resource page that they hope men and women alike will check out to learn more about feminist issues and causes that they may not have otherwise been exposed to.
But other than clever designs on t-shirts, Martofel is making sure his company is doing something concrete for the feminist cause.
Twenty percent of each purchase (shirts cost $24.95) is donated to Women’s Way, an organization that provides grants, public education and advocates for a lot of feminist issues. Feminist Apparel passes on the 20% donation to Women’s Way and relies on their 35 years of experience and expertise to figure out how to best help the community.
Now solely an online retailer, the company could move into a brick and mortar store if it continued to grow. Already based in Philadelphia, like Women’s Way, it would be the chosen location.
“Philadelphia has a great activist-feminist base,” said Martofel.
Right now Feminist Apparel is successfully reaching its target audience through its website and social media, so a physical location isn’t a top priority yet.
What is a top priority is building a dedicated team that is currently made up of Martofel, graphic designer Chris Nappi and Amy Shackelford, lead marketing manager, who works part-time and helps spread the word via social media brands and partnerships.
Currently the only woman on the team, Shackelford landed the job after perusing the site and buying a shirt for herself, later realizing that she could mix her marketing skills and feminist values in one place. Once she graduates this semester and wraps up her position at the website Everyday Feminism, she’ll be joining Feminist Apparel full-time.
Her favorite shirt also combines two of her favorite things, feminism and cupcakes.
“My favorite shirt is probably the ‘Riots not Diets” t-shirt with the cupcake,” Shackelford said. “I’m sort of known for being a bit cupcake obsessed.”
A site that supports equal rights and spreads the love of baked goods? Definitely Lydia approved.
To see more, check out the summer issue of Lydia Magazine!