Updated: Mar 25, 2020
Written By: Jessica Sage & Aparna Rajesh
Our newest partner Alpha—a clothing company that does so much more than make t-shirts—is an up-and-coming organization hoping to answer a big question: what does a maker look like? Their Founder-in-chief, Karina Popovich, has an answer.
“The word ‘maker’ means so many things: being an entrepreneur is being a maker, working in a lab is being a maker, crafting up something because you feel like it is being a maker, starting a social movement is being a maker,” Karina shares. “Maker goes beyond traditional building…this bigger idea of celebrating makers and doers is at the core of our mission.”
Karina is a business student at Cornell University and an all around-champion of making STEM education accessible to a diverse audience. She’s the kind of person who doesn’t let big questions like these go unanswered.
Alpha was born from Karina’s interest in redefining the gendered notions many attribute to STEM—namely, that scientific work is inherently masculine. Alpha’s early designs, which were reserved specifically for donations, feature messages that highlight the power of women in science and technology. As she continued to shape her company, she began to realize a clothing line, “wasn’t something that could really fix a deeply rooted problem [like sexism]” by itself.
She reoriented her course toward creating a brand that finds power in diversity and empowers engineers to proudly wear their inner Maker with 3D-printed streetwear. The Maker Collection features neutral-toned tops, shirts, and hoodies with a 3D-printed design of the words Maker along with a wrench and screw-driver. “I wanted to create clothing that let engineers show off just how badass they are, because what isn’t badass about being a maker”, explains Karina. Using the revenue from the Maker Collection, Alpha is able to partner with Reinvented Magazine in a number of ways, one of which is through donations of earlier designs, the “STEM-inist” and the “Minimalist”.
Her designs feature the faces of female scientists and makers—past and present, and from a myriad of cultures and backgrounds—and are meant to provide meaningful role models for young people of all identities. “The biggest thing with the clothing line is that I want to showcase diversity and I want to bring representation,” Karina explains. “I want little girls to be able to point to the shirt and say, ‘that’s me’ and wear that proudly.” When designing these shirts, Karina’s goal was to break down the barriers women and people of color disproportionately face on their path towards STEM leadership through representation.
Alpha will be donating 75 of their “STEMinist” design shirts to Reinvented Magazine’s One-for-One Program, a program in which Reinvented donates magazines (and now a STEMinist shirt!) to girls in low income areas who aren’t typically given access to STEM education resources. Reinvented will also be one of the organizations that benefits from Alpha’s Giving Back initiative with $7 of revenue from the sale of each 3D-printed “Maker” hoodie collectively funding like-minded projects and organizations worldwide.
Beyond the clothing design component of the company, Alpha provides a host of resources and support for women in STEM. 20% of purchase revenue from their products goes toward organizations that support the cause and create a meaningful impact on their communities. Their partners, like htm.elle and Reinvented Magazine, have already reached 3,300 girls from minority communities. Alpha also hosts free workshops in tandem with other women in STEM-focused organizations, and they even create webinars and resource videos.
For Karina, the public’s response to Alpha has validated a long-held belief that the perspectives and experiences of women in STEM are more than important: they’re vital. “[When I tried to start my own initiatives] everyone always said ‘We support women in STEM’ but their actions never seemed to prove it,” she shares. “I wish there had been something like this out there for me.”
For Karina, and for us at Reinvented, partnering with other organizations and individuals who aim to support greater diversity in STEM is as much a matter of principle as it is one of collective empowerment. “There’s a lot that every person brings…everyone brings a unique perspective and ideas,” Karina says. “Women share a commonality and bringing that into tech and STEM is the only way we can be more innovative and more thoughtful.”
You can visit Alpha’s website here.