Wonderfully Empowering

By Katie Vaughn | Photography by Hillary Schave

When Elizabeth Medina became pregnant with her daughter, she started taking note of the words featured on products for girls.

“I began to see the world through [my daughter’s] eyes even before she was born,” Medina says. By then, she’d spent a decade working in the New York City fashion industry, and she recognized an opportunity for more empowering messages. So she shared her idea with her mom.

“I came up in the ’70s and I loved the concept,” says Medina’s mom Deb Kusmec, who has had to advocate for her place in environments typically tailored to men.

The two worked on the concept, and in Verona in early 2014, they launched Girl Wonderful, a girl-positive brand of clothing and accessories. The signature items are soft gray T-shirts featuring messages such as “GIRL STRONG,” “GIRL SCIENTIST” and “GIRL ATHLETE” in bold black letters. The simple design lets each girl put her own stylistic spin on the shirt.

“The tee doesn’t make the girl, the girl makes the tee,” Medina says.

To date, Medina and Kusmec have sold tees in all 50 states, as well as Canada, Europe and Australia. Medina handles the creative, branding and social media, while Kusmec takes on the business side.

And, to their delight, Medina’s daughter Isa has gotten involved, lending her opinion across the business and, of course, wearing the tees to school. “It’s three different perspectives from three different generations,” Medina says.

They love hearing from customers, especially about how the messages of the shirts have sparked conversations about girls’ interests. And Kusmec and Medina have fielded questions as well, particularly why they choose to qualify their messages with the word GIRL.

“It’s the power of representation,” Medina says. “It’s hard to be what you can’t see.”

“Girls need that advocate,” Kusmec adds. “Think of all the firsts we’re still seeing. And yet we haven’t had all the firsts yet.”

And they look forward to when it’s commonplace to see women leading in all spaces.

“The day we’re able to retire “GIRL ASTRONAUT,” says Medina, “and just put “ASTRONAUT” on it will be a really good day.” – KV

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