Trendy T-shirts with sassy slogans and hashtag-style phrases may be the style du jour, but the messages they convey can often be demeaning or even sexist in tone.
Craving change, one fashion-designer mom began creating her own T-shirts with a single empowering motto: "I love who I am." What started as a clothing line has since exploded into an entire self-acceptance movement, aiding domestic abuse survivors and underprivileged children among others.
The idea came to Micaela Bubola Passeri, the founder and creative director of Love You Revolution, when she was walking down the street with her then-4-year-old daughter in Santa Monica, California, about six years ago.
“I saw a girl wearing a tee that read something like, ‘I’m cute, and I’m going to steal your boyfriend.' I knew instantly I wanted to counter that tone by putting love-positive messages into the world," she said. "There was a need to support women and young girls in their journey to love every part of themselves.”
As a handbag designer and manufacturer by trade, Passeri decided to post her initial idea on the crowdfunding site Plum Alley since it supports female entrepreneurs. The response was so strong and supportive that she then donated additional shirts to shelters and schools.
"The results were heart-opening and humbling," Passeri wrote on her fundraising page. "Women who had been beaten down emotionally and physically came alive, children tapped into their creativity, young adults found hope in their talents. In all, this little T-shirt touched over 500 women and kids. Then I knew, I had to bring this to the masses."
From there, she continued to spread the message to the Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, Girls in Power and many other non-profits that help build self-confidence. That message of love and acceptance grew into workshops, mentoring programs and speaking engagements across the country.
“I host a two-hour workshop providing basic personal development skills and writing exercises to those who may not have been exposed to this type of learning previously," she said. "The T-shirt is a way to integrate the lessons learned.”
After hosting a session, Passeri is often flooded by grateful responses and thank you letters from attendees.
“I was able to connect to myself,” wrote workshop participant Sophia, 31. "To express my emotions and concerns in a way of acceptance and self-love."
For Laura, 25, attending one of Passeri's workshop was a life-changing experience. “I came to realize how important knowing one’s self is, truly a life changing experience. A journey I am now willing to travel down in order to achieve that piece of life that I’ve been missing,” she wrote.
A woman named Linda shared her most meaningful takeaway from the program. “The first thing I got was the ability to forgive myself because for [so] long, I did not know where to begin. Now, I will begin with compassion for me.”
And Passeri isn't stopping there. After yet another successful round of fundraising recently, the designer is forging ahead with her major goal: To reach 1 million women through her campaign. Although Passeri is hesitant to share her progress thus far, she is confident the clothing will help her succeed.
The fashion line has already expanded to include long-sleeved options, dresses and childrenswear and will soon expand to include men's clothing as well.
“Everyone should love themselves," Passeri said. "I wanted to offer my T-shirts to everyone in different shapes, sizes, and colors. Through funding, now I can.”
To get your own "I Love Who I Am" design, visit www.loveyourrevolution.com.
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This story was originally published on March 13 at 4:28 p.m.