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Changing the World One T-Shirt at a Time

Alex Lane wearing her product

Alexandra Lane ’08 wants to see a woman elected president of the United States in the next election, during the year she graduates from Smith. And she’s doing something about it.

Lane last summer began Grit & Wit, a company that prints and sells fashionably designed t-shirts adorned with slogans supporting her mission. “Our next president,” says one slogan beneath a generic female figure. “Sink Patriarchy,” says another with a picture of a sinking ship. Another shows a woman stuffing the word “patriarchy” in a garbage can.

“Too many people think feminism is just a movement from the past or a cause fought only by masculine lesbians who burn their bras," says Lane. "I want to abolish the stereotype; feminism shouldn't be taboo."

The t-shirts and Lane’s company are her way of combining her interests in art, government and business while supporting a greater cause.

Since 1945, the rest of the world has had 35 female presidents and 38 female prime ministers, says Lane, a studio art major with a minor in government. “It’s astonishing how controversial the possibility of a woman U.S. president still is. Grit & Wit shirts bring a woman-positive message to the public.”

Other Grit & Wit products:

Lane launched Grit & Wit from her home in Missoula, Montana, working out of a space in her mother’s downtown art studio, after becoming frustrated with the dearth of quality feminist apparel available. She chose a name for her company that reflects her business outlook. “I think that individuals who wear these shirts have to have a strong backbone and a sense of humor,” she says, “just like our shirts.”

Grit & Wit is a one-woman operation: Lane designs her shirts and illustrates the prints, purchases her own materials and contracts with printers, manages ordering and deliveries, and generates her own publicity, including her business Web site.

After running the company while attending school in the fall, she took a break from college to give needed attention to the business. She received a grant from the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation, a Smith program that gives cash awards to students to help develop entrepreneurial endeavors.

So far, Grit & Wit is off to a strong start, says Lane. She’s selling her shirts at three stores in Missoula and seeking a national distributor. She’s also adjusting her Web site to handle online sales. Last month, Lane won a Most Likely to Succeed business award at the New England Undergraduate Women’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Conference at Mount Holyoke College.

Perhaps the strongest testimony to the power of her shirts comes from her teenage sister.

“My 13 year-old sister has given me reason to believe that even young girls in middle school will receive the shirts well,” says Lane. “I gave a group of girls at her conservative school my ‘Our Next President’ shirts and they have all worn them proudly to school. They always get comments that turn into conversations. These shirts are successful if they get anyone to talk.”

Lane says launching her own company has been an invaluable learning experience. And as a side benefit, she’ll never run out of fashionable t-shirts. “I love wearing Grit & Wit shirts,” she says. “It’s the most straightforward and honest way for me to receive feedback and get reactions. Plus, the designs aren’t too bad.”

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