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'Girlcott' organizers get chance to share message


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By Mark Houser
Monday, December 5, 2005

The local teen organizers of a "girlcott" that led Abercrombie & Fitch to pull two T-shirts from its shelves will visit the company's headquarters today to pitch their own designs.

Fourteen girls from Allegheny County Girls as Grantmakers will take a bus this morning to the clothier's headquarters in New Albany, Ohio, near Columbus, for a 90-minute afternoon meeting with company executives and managers.

The young women are keeping mum about what designs they have in mind until they can make their pitch, and there is no guarantee Abercrombie & Fitch will use their designs.

Schenley High School junior Emma Blackman-Mathis, 16, said she is nervous and excited that her group might have a chance to spread its message through fashion.

"I'm really, really excited to think about the fact that in a year these empowering T-shirts will be in pop culture mainstream stores, and that's mindblowing," Blackman-Mathis said.

The girls met Sunday to go over ideas for new T-shirts and other clothes and to plan their presentation, said Heather Arnet, executive director of the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania. The Downtown group is the chief supporter of Girls as Grantmakers.

Arnet, who will accompany the girls, said she hopes the company will take their ideas seriously.

"How often is it that a company's customer base comes to it with product ideas? It's a great marketing opportunity for them and a great opportunity for them to show some social responsibility," she said.

Arnet's foundation and three other local foundations formed Girls as Grantmakers this year to award grants of up to $10,000 to girl-led projects. The group's 23 middle and high school girls immediately chose the Abercrombie & Fitch protest as their first project.

Blackman-Mathis and the others were particularly irritated by a T-shirt that proclaimed "Who needs brains when you have these?" across the chest. The group held a news conference in October to demand Abercrombie & Fitch pull the shirts from their shelves.

Within days, Blackman-Mathis, Arnet and others were doing interviews on national and international networks. A week later, the clothesmaker agreed to stop selling shirts deemed offensive and to meet with the girls.

Mark Houser can be reached at or (412) 320-7995.

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