There’s a new display in the front window of Student Stores. UNC sweatshirts hang on mannequins and attractive models sport Tar Heel emblazoned tote bags. But this one has an extra element unseen before on campus: the pictures of the factory workers who spun, dyed, sewed, silk screened, ironed and packaged the Carolina blue clothes which hang on gold hangers just inside the doors.
Welcome to Schoolhouse -— a combination of style and Sri Lanka — founded by Rachel Weeks, age 24.
Weeks has a passion for feminism, reflected best by the title of her undergraduate thesis: “The Wonder Bra: Theorizing Globalization, Women’s Labor, and Consumption for Twenty-First Century Feminism.” But the two didn’t easily mix.
“I was always struggling to find the gray area in between,” she says.
The majority of clothing sold in the U.S. is produced abroad, with many of the workers being women and earning less than a dollar a day. Though Weeks was not able to overhaul the entire garment production model, she was able to find a place to make a difference and use both her passions.
Weeks founded Schoolhouse in hopes of benefitting all women involved — she didn’t have to disregard her appreciation for both equal rights and espadrilles.
The factory, like most clothing factories, employs a majority of women. But unlike most clothing factories, Schoolhouse provides a living wage.
From their efforts, the women of Chapel Hill gain garments that are well made, fit for a woman’s body and cute to sport everywhere, from dorms to football games.
And both sides of production benefit from understanding more about our economic global connection, getting to benefit and support a group on the other side of the world.
What does this mean for UNC besides sweet new Tar Heel gear?
Weeks made Schoolhouse a reality by embracing and challenging two seemingly incompatible parts of herself: fashion and feminism.
Our campus is made up of a plethora of possibilities. Most of us can easily list off different social groups on campus -— the pearls and popped collars on frat court, the language majors smoking under the tree on Polk Place, the granola types pitching farmer’s market wares in the Pit — and can within moments sort people into categories.
Many of the faces passing you in the Pit are strangers and will remain so. Most likely you will never see the face of the person who sewed the seam in your underwear. But Schoolhouse hopes to begin to bridge that gap, one campus at a time, and I challenge you to do the same.
The campus becomes richer with each hybrid — which comes from allowing people a chance to experiment with the interests that both compliment and contradict who you think they really are: athletic nerds, vegan frat boys, activist emos and, of course, fashionable feminists.
This new school year, dare to investigate new interests, new people and new groups.
Delight in the unexpected, and don’t turn over to the crossword puzzle just because a column headed “women and gender issues” makes your eyes roll.
Embrace differences, explore possibilities and don’t sell a gal short just because she’s rocking Go-Go boots with a UNC hoodie.
She may be the next big thing of collegiate apparel.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.