How and why we started A-Wear
A-Wear for me has been a process. I have learned from being in this whole allergy world that children can have very different levels of sensitivity to allergens. My daughter is what many would consider highly sensitive. If she touches a food that she is allergic to (or if she touches anything that has been handled by someone with that food on their hands), hives appear all over her hands and then quickly spread to the area around her eyes. The whites of her eyes also become bloodshot and her eyelids begin to swell shut. Although this response isn’t lethal, it’s very frustrating and uncomfortable for her and terrifying for us. The symptoms are far more dangerous if she ingests dangerous foods, with the reactions ranging from uncontrollable vomiting to anaphylaxis. We have adapted to this new life of strict food control in our house, reading every label, and calling food companies to verify if necessary. Much of this has become second nature now, but it still scares me how quickly her body responds just upon touch, so I try to avoid exposure to those foods as much as possible.
In the spring of 2012 I had a situation with another mom at a gymnastics class for my daughter. The mother walked in laughing at her daughter, who was covered head-to-toe in peanut butter. I felt a little twinge in my gut when I heard this because our daughters were about to enter a room where they would be touching the same equipment. I asked the mother of the peanut butter-coated little girl if there was a chance she could have it on her hands. The mother seemed irritated at the question and said, “I’m sure, it’s all over her. Why? Is your daughter allergic?” I said that she was. The mother responded with a curt, “What? It’s not like I have a change of clothes for her!” I had no idea what to do with that comment. As I stood there wondering if I would actually have to debate with her to prove that my daughter's life was more important than her child's snacks, the mother grabbed her child and stomped off to the bathroom with her (I assume to wash her daughter’s hands.) A kind woman standing nearby leaned over and said to me, “It’s as if some people need to see it to believe it.” (Later I retold this story to my sister-in-law. Her response was, “Sadly, you have been placed in the role of educating others.”)
Later that year, our family was preparing to go across country for the first time in a long while and I found myself wanting something that would help people to immediately recognize that my daughter had food allergies. I hoped that they would be more mindful of their food and/or washing their hands if they were just aware. I think awareness must start with identifying these children so that people can begin to understand just how many kids out there have potentially lethal food allergies. I decided to search for a shirt that was cute, something with a little flair for my fashion-conscious daughter (who threw her first tantrum about what she was wearing when she was sixteen months old.) I needed to offer her something that sent a clear message about her allergies but was still something that she would want to wear. My searches online yielded very little.
I mulled over the events from that day outside the gymnastics class and slowly ideas started coming to me. I shared my ideas with a fantastic graphic designer who just happened to also be a fantastic friend. I have also been blessed to have a small group of friends who have shared in this vision and contributed in one way or another to this whole long road to starting my own small business.