The family photo Angela Romero DeRouen shared with me was different from the norm: Only females from her immediate family stood arm in arm wearing the same white t-shirt design, with one difference – a word. A word that in their minds defined where they were in their lives.
Ten years ago, DeRouen saw a t-shirt online that read “I love my ____life” and tucked the idea away in a tickler file. When she decided to hire a photographer for the all-girls photo at the beginning of this year, she rediscovered the slogan and tasked each family member to choose a word that best described what it is they love about their life.
What DeRouen realized was that putting thought into that one word resulted into some interesting little stories. She found herself wondering if the idea of filling in the blank on a T-shirt would catch on with others.
This April, she set out to put the word printed on her own t-shirt – Determined - to the test. Surprisingly, the “I Love my ____Life” slogan had not been copyrighted before DeRouen acquired it through a trademark attorney. An accountant for an oilfield service company, DeRouen has made this side project a labor of love, from picking the quality of the cotton T-shirt, and considering the most flattering fit for all sizes to testing the best permanent marker she’d provide and creating the stylish packaging as well as her own website, which she says was very self-fulfilling. “The project is just me. All my life I’ve been introduced as my parent’s daughter, my husband’s wife, and so and so’s friend. This is the first thing that is part of my identity.”
Sold online only, the shirts are offered in sizes from youth medium to 2x, with special orders available. All sizes are $24.99 with free shipping.
But, DeRouren does not like the word “sell” when talking about her shirts. “It’s not about selling, whatsoever,” she explains “it’s more about the back story of the words.”
Customers are encouraged to post a picture wearing the shirt and the story behind the word they chose, some of which are raw, sad, many inspiring, but all are honest and can be read on Facebook at I Love my _Life tshirt. DeRouen has been contacted by almost every woman who’s posted on line, admitting they had to do some soul-searching and give serious thought before “putting themselves” on social media. “But afterwards, they said they felt great relief and good about themselves,” says DeRouen, who’s own “I Love my Determined Life” story can be read on Facebook.
In gratitude for customer participation, DeRouen picks an interesting story each month, donating 10 percent of the T-shirt sale profits to the charity or organization of the writer’s choice. Since April, the donations have benefitted organizations like The Brain Aneurysm Foundation, chosen by a young woman with the disease, Highland Baptist Christian School and the Louisiana Heart Gallery, helping families that adopt and foster children.
At the suggestion of Fusion Photography owner Jennifer Beslin, the photographer behind DeRouen’s family photo, DeRouen provided a chalk wall on one of the outside walls of the New Iberia studio at the corner of Main and Iberia St. There, people have another opportunity to write their word and take a photo. “I’ve had a lot of feedback from residents and business owners about the wall’s positive influence in the community,” DeRouen says.
The slogan’s popularity is catching on. After hearing DeRouen speak at the Inspire Women’s Conference in June, three attendees, enthused by her talk, went directly to the chalk wall and wrote their word, posting a picture on Facebook.
Interest in the shirt has gone beyond Louisiana, with orders from Texas, Montana and California.
DeRouen is seeing a growing request for the shirt from younger girls. She hopes this project will motivate them to communicate more with parents and peer groups.
Providing a forum where women feel uninhibited enough to come out of their “comfort zones” and share their stories…DeRouen seems to have “done that – and bought the shirt(s).”