“We’re are all different and all equal. We can be both,” says Shaun Williams, Founder of Equali Tees, a clothing line that supports various causes through its products and events.
Equali Tees started with a black equal sign on a white shirt, which customers were expected to customize according to their personal style. Today, all items still have the equal sign, and there are a variety of customizable printed patterns, colors, t-shirts, and tops.
The equal sign represents that each person is equal, and the various stylings show that they are different. A social cause is often tied to a particular color or combination.
Shaun grew up as a dancer in Boston and became inspired by fashion at a young age. She moved to New Orleans in February 2015.
Out of college, where she studied Arts Management, Shaun worked in financial assistance at the Department of Higher Education. She took a Politics and Public Policy grad program and then worked as an assistant to Representative Willie Mae Allen at the State House.
Over time, Shaun’s passion for art brought her to the world of fashion. On the side, she starting producing items for Boldfacers, which exposed her to extravagant parties.
Many of the people she met shared Shaun’s sense of compassion, yet were unaware of systemic challenges people face as a result of class or race. “We are all different and all equal,” Shaun noticed, and the concept for Equali Tees was born.
If people with this sense of compassion at all levels of society could come together in one place, like the space Shaun is creating through Equali Tees, maybe they will have meaningful discussions and solve problems like the ones that her work in government purported to address.
The very first Equali Tees were printed in 2011, when, totally at random, fashion icon Daphne Guinness replied to Shaun’s Tweet in which she offered to make her a shirt. “I don’t know what made me offer something that I didn’t have, but it led me here,” says Shaun.
She registered Equali Tees in 2012 and has since participated in fashion shows, popups, and produced extravagant events of her own.
In Boston Fashion Week 2013, Shaun evolved Equali Tees beyond t-shirts, experimenting with club-style shredded, chained, dyed garments and hoodies.
In 2014, Shaun, along with Jessica Leigh French and Chaylin Diaz, organized and directed the Boston Gallery of All Arts for Black History Month, to raise awareness of the long unacknowledged 1921 Tusla race riots and Greenwood Cultural Center. This event showcased a diversity of culture and art forms, including dancers, performances, musicians, live painting, and poetry flash mobs. Participating artists wore black-on-black Equali Tees.
In New Orleans, Shaun is hatching plans for a fashion show at NOEW or Fashion Week. She would also like to organize another collaborative Gallery of All Arts event.
Shaun has a “Peace Love Equality” design that directly supports Mother’s Love, a nonprofit which Shaun’s mother has been working on establishing to aid parents and caretakers that have lost loved ones to violence.
Another cause that recently caught Shaun’s interest is supporting transgender people that are unable to transition due to their financial standing. This cause will use a rainbow-on-white t-shirt design, and Shaun is actively looking for an organization where funds can be allocated to impact this issue.
Equali Tees are traditionally customized by individuals before and made to order. More recently, Shaun hosted a popup at El Libre in the French Quarter during Decadence 2016, and pre-made a number of items. She is now establishing a permanent collection to take to markets and events with minimal prep time.
Shaun is also experimenting with a new glitter vinyl material.
Equali Tees are typically ordered by contacting the Equali Tees Facebook page. Customers can pick from photos of available materials, fabrics, and colors to customize their own design.