Girls Garage is a design and construction school for girls and gender-expansive youth ages 9-18 in the Bay Area.
Through classes in carpentry, welding, architecture, and activist art, they support and equip a community of fearless youth who are building the world they want to see. Since 2013, their students have built 185 projects, most of them in service of other community organizations.
This spring, 14 high school students in the Protest + Print class collaborated with Dovetail Workwear for the “Reclaiming Workwear” project. Using Dovetail’s thermal trucker jacket and the Oahe work jacket, our students designed unique flourishes to the jackets through embroidery, spray paint, fabric paint, and sewing. In doing so, they reclaimed workwear—traditionally designed for male bodies—for their own female and gender-expansive identities.
Bethany Kaylor is the Communications Manager at Girls Garage. In addition to her writing and design work, she also co-teaches Protest + Print at Girls Garage, an activist art class for high school girls and gender-expansive youth.
Interviewer: Bethany Kaylor
Girls being interviewed: Margot, Stella, Tesnym, Zoe
Note: these interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity.
Why did you choose the jacket you did?
I really liked the color. Gray looks better on me.
It looked comfortable and easy to wear.
I really liked the design and the story behind the gray jacket that I chose.
What does the design you chose represent to you? And what were you trying to communicate?
It's about night and day and differences. One of a kind,
polar opposites and how that's kind of shown through the front and the back of the jacket. I like to see how differences can also be similar. I had the recurring theme of flowers and I wanted to show how opposites are similar in some ways.
I kind of wanted to make myself in a jacket, the things I love and things that are important to things that represent my family and my friends, so I chose different icons to represent that.
It was the stars. Yeah, like a trip to the galaxy. I kind of felt like I can do anything with this jacket, you know?
So my design is a really big flower on the back with some embroidered flowers next to it. And I chose this design, because I just really enjoy flowers. I feel like they really embody my personality. It was just an exploration of how many different ways that you can make the same thing.
Why did you choose the technique you did? (painting vs stitching etc)
So you did some painting and some stitching, right? What inspired those decisions?
I wanted to do something where my design could be easily brought out. I had an image and I wanted it to look like my sketches. It was just an efficient way to bring out the style that I want.
Stella: (stitch embroidery)
It was something I wanted to learn more about and how to do it. I do embroidery in my personal time now.
Why did you choose to paint the design?
I chose painting because it gave me the creative freedom to do what I want, compared to the other ones where it takes a lot of skill and practice to get what you want.
How do you feel wearing your newly designed jacket?
I love wearing it. I love when people ask me about it. I get to tell them the story. And, when they asked about specific things, I explain it.
Is there a favorite element that people will comment on?
The campfire campsite in the back.
It's really awesome. I have a lot of fun wearing it. It's super comfortable, and just makes me feel empowered.
Has it sparked any conversation in the world when you wear it?
People give me compliments. Some people ask me how I did it and where it’s from.
I've gotten a lot of compliments. And I'm like, “Yeah, it was this really cool class that I took.” Then it can spark conversations. I feel like it tells people a lot about me and my style and that I like doing art… that I like flowers. I’m just so happy to have the opportunity to do this.
What is it about flowers that embodies your personality?
I feel like I just really enjoy flowers. There are different lots of different kinds of flowers and I can have different sides to my personality, depending on the situation.
If you could come up with one word that describes your jacket, what would it be?
I just feel proud. I painted this jacket and I wear it and it's comfortable.
What do you like most about Girls Garage?
I think my favorite thing about Girls Garage is that it's just a really safe space for a bunch of girls and gender expansive youth and I've met a lot of really cool people and have also learned how to do a lot of really cool things.
Who or what inspires you when it comes to being creative?
I think my parents inspire me because they're very creative people. I'm inspired by the people around me at Girls Garage. I get inspired by other people's work. And, seeing how other people take on things makes me think about how I can be creative in different ways.
What are your parents do creatively? What about their creativity is inspiring to you?
Well, my dad's a musician. Art has always been very important. My mom has done a bunch of art classes and displays her art.
My dad supports the creative stuff that I plan to do. So that's awesome.
Is he a creative guy himself?
No, but his support inspires me to be more creative. It totally allows me to do whatever I want without hesitating.
all photos by Smeeta Mahanti (@mahanti.photo)
Dovetail Workwear Disclaimer: We are not the boss of our Women At Work! They say it their way and wear it their way.