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Endings, re-brandings, and new beginnings

Barbara Ntumy

Sassy Tees came to me at a time in my life where I was looking back at my involvement in politics – three years at that point. I was reflecting on the combination of the ability of people and progressive politics to change things for the better. I was looking at how far my involvement in politics had brought me, leading students who were not prepared to accept the status quo of a lifetime of debt just because they wanted to go to university or people who were looking to gain new skills to maximise their earning potential by doing a college course.

My activism has not just been confined to the world of student politics either; in fact I’ve attended all major anti-war, anti-austerity (fancy word for cuts) and anti-racist demonstrations in London over the past four years. Political activism has led me to gaining a degree in international relations, peace and conflict studies; being a political commentator on T.V; and connecting with anti-racists and Pan-Africanists across the world. However there were times where I felt that there could be more people involved in the fight that I currently saw. I was learning about the historical contributions of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong and Friedrich Engels and wondering how to use these in my daily political life. Their ideas had resonated with some of the most important political figures of the last 60 years, such as Kwame Nkrumah, Thomas Sankara, Frantz Fanon, and Patrice Lumumba (yes, we have the tee).

 

Candice Armah in Black History is World History.

Candice Armah in Black History is World History. 

That’s where Sassy Tees comes in: bridging the gap between people, political ideology, political figures, social issues and popular culture. That was reflected in our first two collections, which paid homage to Assata Shakur, Angela Davis, Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X. We promoted Black History as part of world history, we mixed pop culture and politics by repurposing the phrase “to the left” from Beyonce’s smash hit single Irreplaceable, and we made politics a little more accessible. As a business, we will never shy away from taking political positions and supporting political actions. In fact most people know me for my political opinions and activism. At Sassy Tees, we are very vocal about our support for Jeremy Corbyn and The Labour Party. Businesses are always advised to err on the side of caution because they need everyone’s business, however our very conception was born in politics and given the political climate we are in, some businesses are taking positions on issues.

 

"As a business, we will never shy away from taking political positions and supporting political actions."

 

That's why when Diane Abbott MP was being attacked during and after the 2017 UK General Elections we put out our hugely popular “Team Diane” tees in support of her. We released a limited edition tee when Maxine Waters reclaimed her time during a committee hearing and then memorialized her with an illustrated tote. We adhered to Beyonce’s call when she asked us to ‘get in formation’, and we proudly support all calls to DUMP TRUMP. We stay on the pulse of political moments, enshrining them on tees and accessories, not for gimmick’s sake, but in order to make those moments and those important discussions part of our daily lives, in the same way our clothing is.

 

Diane with Team Diane Tee

L-R Barbara Ntumy, Zeid Truscott and Diane Abbott MP

For the past two years we have worked with and received support from several platforms and organisations. We have featured in the print and online platform Afrokanist Magazine, in Shades of Noir as a Black Business empowering the Black Community and have sponsored The Project 1957’s Spring Soiree. Some of the events we’ve had stalls at include The Black Women’s Forum Conference, No Fly on the WALL events, and Hair Today, Here Tomorrow by Xana. We have hosted our own events too: The Politics of Afro-Hair after the Pretoria High School news broke and Young, Gifted and Black to celebrate our first anniversary. For our 2nd anniversary we opted for reflection and asked, ‘What Next?’.

Being a socialist at heart and running a business in the age of capitalism can be tough too - from grappling with partaking in consumerist activities like Black Friday sales to the commercialisation of Christmas. However the beauty of running a business like Sassy Tees is the fact that we are hopefully a small remedy among the toxicity. And speaking of Christmas, our end of year items will be available in December (C’mon - we’ve gotta plug!). This will be a opportunity to get someone or yourself a unique and memorable Christmas present. Some of our older products will no longer be available come the new year, as we enter the next phase of our journey, but never fear! Our new collections will still be witty, sassy, politically conscious, and stylish.

Sassy Tee's 2nd Birthday event.

Sassy Tees 2nd Birthday event. L-R Nicole Crentsil, Siana Bangura, Seyi Newell and Barbara Ntumy.

2018 looks set to be a big and refreshing year for us as a business and brand. In the new year we will announce our brand new Creative Director, partner up with some of our favourite people to put on a conference, move to become an ethically accredited supplier, and undertake a huge rebranding, culminating in a relaunch event in Summer 2018! Our new website will also feature the ability to customise your own tee or tote and we’ll be blogging more so you get to know the team, our outlook, and the challenges and the triumphs involved in running a business like Sassy Tees too.

Thank you for all the love and support throughout the years and we can’t wait to have you with us for the next chapter of our story!


Barbara,

Founder of Sassy Tees.


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