Ladies First highlights women and girls who are making the world better for the rest of us.
Kayla Robinson is no ordinary teenager. The 18-year-old already has her own clothing empire, endorsed by none other than Frank Ocean and Zendaya.
Green Box Shop is all about activist tees which sport bold slogans like, “Pizza rolls not gender roles” and “Roses are red, Doritos are savory, the US prison system is legalized slavery.”
Her designs have gone viral ever since Frank Ocean went onstage at the Panorama music festival in one of her tees in late July. The tee boldly says, “Why be racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic when you could just be quiet.”
Robinson started Green Box Shop in May 2016 out of the apartment she was living in with her mom. As an Afro-Latina bisexual woman, she just couldn’t find activist tees that expressed what she wanted to say, so she started making her own.
“I want people to feel powerful in my shirts,” she told Teen Vogue. “I want them to understand that their voice and their actions matter. They have the power to make an impact and they will be heard.
For a while, Robinson sold the tees by donation to raise money for her yoga teacher certification. Eventually, as the orders rolled in, she decided to get organized and open a proper online store, which became Green Box Shop.
After Ocean wore her shirt, business exploded. The Instagram hype was major and orders went from 50 to 3,500 per day overnight, according to Bust.com.
For Robinson, T-shirt activism is a way to vote with your dollar and support companies that jam with your beliefs.
“To me, fashion is a valid way to express your opinions and desire for social change,” she told Teen Vogue. “I feel as though we can really make a difference with the things we put our money into.”
Her success is stunning, but the journey hasn’t been all roses and sunshine. Her landlord cancelled her lease when he realized the business was taking over the apartment. And Robinson was a newbie to the T-shirt business — her skills were limited to a love of tie-die.
There’s also been controversy that Green Box Shop borrowed other people’s words for their tees without permission. The Frank Ocean tee was inspired by a popular tweet by @avogaydro. Robinson’s now onboard to get him credit and compensation.
Green Box Shop is now a team of 13 based out of Broward County, Florida and they’re busy designing new shirts. Robinson often checks in with her followers from marginalized groups she doesn’t identify with, such as the trans or disabled communities, about what stigmas they face and how she can represent them on her tees.
The shop’s also branching out by working with charities. A portion of profits from the “Trans people are not a disruption” tee goes to the True Colors Fund which fights LGBTQ+ youth homelessness and fifty percent of profits of the “Climate change is real. Trump is a hoax” tees go to the Honeybee Conservancy.
She also has some pretty kick-ass words for fellow young entrepreneurs.
“Self-doubt is your worst enemy,” she told Teen Vogue. “Stay focused on your craft and always practice being creative. It will carry you a long way.”
What Green Box Shop tee are you dying to buy? Tell us @BritandCo.
(Photos via @kaylaa.robinson/Instagram)