For this assignment, I thought it would be the perfect time to formally introduce my past entrepreneurial endeavor known as Contraband Clothing. I have always been surrounded by advocates for human and civil rights but at 14, is when I began to take activism into my own hands. I knew I wanted to speak out about the injustices happening in my area but in a way that engaged the public. I wanted to immerse the demographic of people who had never experienced racism, discrimination, misogyny, etc. in a way that they could actually understand. My goal was to create an everyday reminder of the reality that many people face on a day-to-day basis that also had the power to start meaningful conversations. After a few months of brainstorming with my family, friends, and entrepreneurship teachers I created Contraband Clothing.
Contraband was a high-quality sustainable clothing brand that integrated “hidden” animated messages about the World’s leading Global issues that could only be uncovered through Augmented- Reality technology and the power of purposeful conversation. Even the name Contrband itself was strategically chosen to evoke uncomfortable emotions but also feelings of curiosity. I would sell these shirts to older generations of predominately white people as they were the most prevalent demographic in my area. The conversations always started the same. First, the double take. “C-Contraband?”, then a chuckle or a scoff followed by an “I would never let my child wear something that says that. Before they left I always said, “before you leave, take my phone, I want you to see something”. Hesitantly they would take my phone and you could see the negative preconceptions begin to dissipate. That’s when I would take the opportunity to open up the space to have a conversation about what the shirt’s actual purpose was and it always ended in either a sale, a phone call to a family member, or the beckoning of a group of friends to come and share the experience. That is how I used art as a form of activism. I took something that I knew would be abrasive, and allowed people to set judgment because it catches your attention, it engages you. Then I took that as my chance to change their perspective by creating an immersive and fun experience all while teaching them about activism, advocacy, and justice. People always had questions and many wanted to know in what other ways they could do more. I directed them to websites, told them charities to donate to, and explained what they could do in their daily lives. At 14, it truly astounded me to this day to know how many people want to help find solutions but just never knew how or where to start. But, it validated me. It let me know that I was headed in the right direction and it kept me motivated.
I had many goals for that business, from getting major seed funding to donating 15% of proceeds to different charities around the World but as time went on, I decided it was no longer for me. The idea had run its course but I am so glad that in the 4 years that I ran that business I am sure it had an impact on people. People in my community refer to me as “ that girl with the techy t-shirt company” and ask me if I still sell shirts. Contraband motivated me to continue finding creative ways to effectively advocate for the things I care about. Maybe one day, I will go back to Contraband or at least find a way to implement my activism strategy into a new idea. But as of now, I am grateful to know that I was able to build a reputation centered around serving others at such a young age and I hope to continue using art to change perspectives, engage others, and shift paradigms.
***I don't know where all of my pictures went, they literally disappeared off of the internet and my old phone. I’ll see if my parents have any but it's very unlikely. Sorry :(