George Brown students start clothing line, with funds to support women experiencing homelessness
George Brown College (GBC) students Kelsey Orlando and Kathleen Marques are taking back the word freak.
Their social enterprise Freak Ppl Co. is a feminist and queer enterprise based out of Toronto that produces hand-made and environmentally sustainable clothing that pays fair wages.
Having both taken the social enterprise course with professor Natalie Wood in the social service worker (SSW) program, they were able to see a need within their community and develop that into a plan of action.
“There’s definitely closeted queer people at GBC, (as well as) out people, and there’s not enough visibility of the queer community,” said Marques. “What we want with the t-shirt line is to say that we’re here and we’re queer and you’re not alone.”
After being accepted into the social innovation hub within the SSW program, they were ready to start their mission. The hub is an early-stage incubator for ideas and innovative projects that drive social change and social justice.
They are currently screen-printing their own branded T-shirts, and “it has been learning curve after learning curve, but positive learning curves,” Marques said.
“Freak Ppl Co. is for anyone that has been labelled, or labels themselves as freak, crazy, misfit or outlier,” said Orlando. “We invite everyone to push the boundaries of conventional society.”
Right now, the two are focused on getting their website up, establishing a wholesale connection to produce their T-shirts and getting their first batch of shirts out there.
Funds from Freak Ppl Co. T-shirts go directly into Orlando and Marques’s social initiative, Power Packs for homeless women.
Power Packs are feminine hygiene kits which include eco-friendly pads, tampons and other items such as underwear and feminine wipes for women who identify themselves as homeless.
“Homelessness looks so different for various people—whether it’s couch surfing or living on the streets,” Marques explains. “There could be people attending George Brown that identify as homeless, which means there are people in our GBC community that are also in need of these resources.”
The pair recently held a pad and tampon drive at St. James campus where they collected over 800 pads and tampons from GBC students to go towards their first round of Power Packs.
Marques and Orlando have learned that it is essential for social justice entrepreneurs to believe in their ability to make an impact. Orlando advised that, “if you have something that you really want to do, don’t keep it an idea forever, make it a reality.”
Donations of feminine products to the project can be made at the social innovation hub in room 409B at 200 King St. East.