Shewolf design tries to capture female spirit
By Ty Johnson
Published in News on October 10, 2012 1:46 PM
Rosewood High School graduates, sisters, Amanda Quinn, left, and Tara Thompson, have created Shewolf, a brand of clothing that intends to empower women. The two stand in front of their products on display at Southern Charm inside Cary Towne Center.
Sasha is Shewolf's mascot, designed because of a lack of female wolfpack graphics.
Rudyard Kipling's law of the jungle in "The Jungle Book" says that the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.
The same can be said of Shewolves, according to sisters Tara Thompson and Amanda Quinn, both graduates of Rosewood High School.
The notion of strength in numbers is one consistently alluded to in the animal world and throughout society, but there is one sect of humanity the two feel are left out of that fold: women.
That's what led the pair to create Shewolf, a brand of clothing created for women by women that puts center stage the empowerment of women.
Shewolf began as the sisters' rallying cry, but what it has become is something much more than a clothing line -- it has become a philosophy.
It all started as Ms. Thompson returned to North Carolina State University in 2007 -- right about the time Mrs. Quinn was receiving her undergraduate degree from the university.
Ms. Thompson had received her undergraduate and master's degrees from N.C. State and had taught at Rosewood Middle School and Wayne Community College before beginning the quest for her doctorate and marked her return to school with a car decal that read "Shewolf."
Before long, her younger sister's car carried a similar decal.
After that, others showed interest in her slogan and suggested she market it.
Finally, late last year, Ms. Thompson said, "We said 'Let's do it. We have nothing to lose.'"
But she determined from the beginning that the endeavor wouldn't be simply the marketing of a clever moniker -- it would be a campaign to empower women.
Ms. Thompson said the strong women she had known and been inspired by in her life -- her mother, her sister and other relatives, as well as her students and her daughter -- all helped contribute to her vision of what makes a Shewolf.
"Wolves are fearless. They look out for each other," Mrs. Quinn said.
Ms. Thompson said there are entirely too many divisions among women and that strong females deserve a way to interact together in mutually supportive ways -- like a wolfpack.
"We definitely want to make this more than a clothing line," Ms. Thompson said. "We're trying to help women find an identity we can be confident with."
And that's difficult in a world where strength and confidence are still more closely identified with male subjects, she said.
Athletic gear and T-shirts are also typically cut for men, something the sisters noticed at the N.C. State Bookstore and at other licensed apparel vendors.
While both stress the Shewolf concept is something to be embraced by all women -- including Duke and Carolina fans -- they acknowledged that providing female Wolfpack fans with options to embrace their feminine identity while cheering on their team was one of their aims.
They also felt it would be easier since N.C. State is one of only a handful of colleges in the nation with both male and female mascots: Mr. Wuf and Ms. Wuf.
Ms. Wuf is a fixture on the sidelines of women's sports and sometimes travels solo to away games as far away as Chestnut Hill, Mass., so it seemed a no-brainer that a company aiming to add feminine flair to the Wolfpack tradition would want to market her. The problem was, though, there is no licensed image of Ms. Wuf for use by vendors.
"Ms. Wuf exists as a mascot, but in the graphic world she doesn't exist," Mrs. Quinn said.
N.C. State has recently debuted a litter of wolf pups into its marketing scheme. The younger versions of the mascots do offer licensed images of a female wolf mascot, but they are intended to appeal to younger Wolfpack fans.
Shewolf has incorporated those characters into its children's clothing options, but toddler wolf pups don't exactly channel the determination and strength Shewolf is aiming to inspire. So the sisters created their own mascot, Sasha -- a name they chose because of its "sassy" sound, Ms. Thompson said.
But offering headstrong, independent women an identity wasn't enough -- the pair also wanted to find a way to directly impact women in their ultimate challenges, which meant donating a portion of all proceeds to a women's charity.
And what better cause to donate to than the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, a charity begun by the late N.C. State women's basketball coach. The sisters had attended her basketball camp years before and said they felt Ms. Yow's fierce perseverance in the face of adversity represented the essence of the Shewolf spirit.
Today, identifying fellow Shewolves, like Ms. Yow, has also moved to the forefront of the business's branding efforts, as the Shewolf website features rotating profiles of women who the entrepreneurs feel embody the fearlessness and strength of Shewolves.
Also at the forefront of the company's philanthropic initiatives are plans to award scholarships to female adult learners -- an injection of Ms. Thompson's zeal for teaching into the Shewolf philosophies and goals as her research interests center on adult learning and the intergenerational classroom.
Her creative eye meshes well with the talents of Mrs. Quinn, who heads up the business end of the two-woman operation.
"We complement each other really well," Mrs. Quinn said.
The formula appears to be working, as they will be among a select group of vendors at N.C. State's annual Hoops for Hopes game in February, the signature fundraising event for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, and Shewolf merchandise is available for sale at Southern Charm inside Cary Towne Center and online through the Shewolf web catalog. They've also had booths at the N.C. Pickle Festival in Mount Olive and the Ham and Yam Festival in Smithfield.
The two intend to expand the Shewolf brand through partnerships with the Wolfpack Club and has plant to expand their graphic T-shirts and decals into more types of apparel in the future.
They won't rush it, though, as the two, who both have other commitments, say they're aiming for the Shewolf brand to have staying power, perhaps partnering with other big-ticket entities in the future.
"We're trying to start something with longevity," Ms. Thompson said.
Until then, though, the two will settle for trying to spark a philosophical movement to instill confidence in women and Shewolves everywhere.
"It's a labor of love," Ms. Thompson said.
For more on Shewolf or to view an online catalog, visit myshewolf.com.