Entrepreneur Designs Clothing To Inspire Young Girls

By Julie Ferrell
Ames Tribune, Iowa.

When Jaya Iyer’s 3-year-old daughter first announced she wanted to become an astronaut when she grows up, her mother wanted nothing more than to encourage her. She took her daughter, Svaha, to the National Air and Space Museum and read her stories about astronauts Sally Ride and Kalpana Chawla.

But when the time came for Iyer to find an astronaut T-shirt for her child, she came home empty-handed. Iyer found several astronaut shirts, but all of them were found in the boys section of clothing stores.

The 2006 ISU alumna with a Ph.D. in fashion merchandising joined forces with two more mothers, Eva Everett and ISU alumna Mansi Batra, and together the team created a clothing line meant to empower young girls to enter into any field or career they want.

“In these days, all the mothers who have studied so hard and achieved so much in life feel their daughters need to have more than princesses,” Iyer said. “It was just accepted that princess was the way to go but I feel like now, with so much exposure to education among women, they’ve begun to feel that it’s not OK to just have that or kitchen sets for girls.”

The three created their line, Svaha, which gives girls the choice to wear vibrant STEM-themed shirts and designs featuring female athletes, firefighters, scientists and astronauts.

The group has started a Kickstarter campaign, where those interested can make a donation to support their startup and also receive shirt orders in the process. To receive funding from the campaign, the team must raise its goal of $30,000 by Saturday, June 20. As of Thursday afternoon, the campaign had earned $12,652.

Iyer said her main inspiration was to create “designs that are fun,” which children would want to wear to represent their interests. She added that co-creator Everett, who holds a degree in molecular biology, has struggled for years to find clothing that expresses her interests in STEM fields.

“We have people asking us why we need to wear clothes like this. But if you love a sports team, don’t you want to wear that sports team?” Iyer said. “And other people tell us just to find those clothes in the boys section, but they don’t fit little girls right. I bought (Svaha) a shirt and the fit was really weird and the sleeves are longer. She was swimming in it.”

But Iyer doesn’t want other children to feel isolated. She has received several requests from parents to make clothing for their sons. She hopes to eventually make more designs that feature boys in the roles of firefighters and astronauts, as well as provide colors and fits that meet the needs of the specific child.

“I guess that means my designs are so unique, boys want it too,” she said. “So I’ll make a pink shirt with a monster truck on it, it’s fine.”

While the campaign still has about one month left to raise its funds, Iyer said her main goal right now is to find out how many other parents and designers are interested. If the business sees enough interest, Iyer hopes to become a “one-stop shop” for parents.
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She hopes to expand her designs into skirts, leggings, underwear and socks, and eventually move into home decor like towels and sheets.

“We just want to know how many people are out there who believe this needs to happen,” she said. “And my long-term goal is to have shoes that aren’t pink. Believe me, it’s really hard to find shoes for girls that aren’t pink or have princesses on them.”

Donations and shirt orders can be made by visiting the group’s online campaign, “Svaha: Clothing to Empower Children.”

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