As a record setting number of women are being sworn into Congress today, expect to see fashionable feminist donning something unique: a cult-status scarf by DC-based label Resistance by Design. Owners of the wispy accessory, printed with the portraits of 209 of the women who ran for office in November, have been known to hand their accessory over willingly to those who will bring visibility to the cause. If you aren’t familiar with the brand Resistance by Design yet, here are the cliffnotes: the silky blue “Herwave 2018″ printed scarves took the resistance fashion scene by storm this past November, selling out not once, not twice, but three times in the buildup before the holidays (and reportedly still in great demand, about to sell out yet again).
The two co-founders Dahna Goldstein, a DC-based tech entrepreneur, and Alexandra Posen, the sister of fashion designer Zac Posen and former creative director of the brand, promised the public more of their artfully designed resistance wear, and today they deliver. The high-end tee, dubbed “Representation Matters,” drops online with Posen’s signature style of graphic portraits done in black and white.
The tee memorializes not just the historic moment for women, but for diversity in Congress. The simple silhouette with intricate portraits of 14 historic female elects includes Krysten Sinema, Jahana Hayes, Abby Finkenauer, Cindy Axne, Lauren Underwood, Sharice Davids, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Angie Craig, Ilhan Omar, Deb Haaland, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Veronica Escobar, and Sylvia R. Garcia. The historic “firsts” they represent range from the youngest woman elected to Congress, to the first Native American and Muslim women elected to Congress, to the first openly bisexual person in the Senate.
“The artwork is just a joyous and dynamic celebration of this core group of women that we are celebrating individually, but also symbolically,” says Posen, the illustrator. “The breakthrough represents a new direction for our future.”
For the co-founders, the “Representation Matters” tee was an opportunity for the founders to create something more casual than their scarf, equally at home under a blazer in the office or out and about at a protest on the National Mall. With a lower price point, the t-shirts also allow the niche brand to be more accessible to the public. The shirts retail at $55 whereas the scarves were sold for $125 a piece. Like the scarves, whose proceeds went to Emily’s List and Emerge America, the shirt’s profits will probably go to an organization that’s in line with the company’s pro-women values, according to the co-founders.
As Goldstein was swept up in the get out the vote frenzy before the November elections, she decided needed to do something. Like many others, she had participated in her share of marches and political rallies, but found a disconnect between that drive and the values she projected walking into the office the next day. Somewhere between putting down the signs and peeling off the outraged t-shirts, the energy seemed to peter out. Was there a professional way to carry her political views into the board room?
Five months and one company later, Goldstein had her answer. She reached out to friend and designer Alex Posen, who was figuring out a way to re-enter the fashion market after leaving her role as Creative Director at her brother’s label Zac Posen in 2010. For Posen, the idea neatly coincided with a rising passion to civically engage. “It was not a conscious thought,” she says, “it was driven by an urgent need to do something.”
Together, the duo began brainstorming creative ways to portray what they were feeling in terms of the excitement leading up to the November elections. They toyed with the idea of featuring the Congresswomens’s signatures before Posen’s sketches caught a friend’s eye. The resulting silk scarf, featuring expressive illustrations of 209 of the women running for office in the November elections, was an instant hit.
“In August we landed on the concept and had a short timeframe to execute,” says Posen. “It was an extraordinary experience because these are not the kind of women we are normally looking at carefully in our culture.”
A few of the scarves have even made their way up the ladder to the very women they portray; a clip of Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger during the House room lottery draw shows the representative referring to the scarf as her “lucky charm.”
Goldstein and Posen have plans to expand the scarf line with even more designs, and they are exploring other categories of garments, too.
“What we really want” says Goldstein “is to create something that can be worn in different contexts, something that sparks conversation.”