Christian clothing line designs inspired by St. Therese of Lisieux
By Nathan Rumohr
The B.C. Catholic
Normally a vocations retreat is a gateway to religious life. But for St. Francis Xavier youth minister Amy Leung, who is already married, it was a gateway to her "saintly" business.
"How can I design for God?" she asked in 2007 in front of the Blessed Sacrament at the Westminster Abbey youth getaway.
Leung used her skills as a graphic/web designer to design stylish clothing for teen girls with a good "saintly" message.
"I felt the need to design for girls, because they are pressured to dress a certain way."
However, things changed for Leung with the birth of her first child. This took time away from developing her business but refocused it quite successfully. Leung designed baby clothes instead. She named her company Saintly Tees.
Leung sold shirts, onesies, and bibs through her website, saintlytees.com. She has received an "overwhelming" amount of support. She has displayed the clothes at "Congress" and recently at the "One" conference.
"People were excited to see that these items are local."
Leung has experienced a lot of success and feedback over the clothing line, but work and family have taken up her time.
"I want to choose my kids over work."
She joked that her maternity leave with her second child allowed her some time to focus on her business again. She also decided to return to work part time to allow herself to focus on the business.
"We're not asking for a lot. God always gives enough to us."
Her family supports Leung: her two daughters model Saintly Tees on the website.
Leung drew her inspiration for Saintly Tees from St. Therese of Lisieux. She became inspired by the saint's life and strength after visiting the saint's house.
She suffered in her young life from histiocytosis, a condition which mostly affects children with severe pain like that of cancer. To help Leung through this, her mom took her to Lourdes to pray for healing, and they passed by St. Therese's house on the way.
"When I have doubts I ask St. Therese to intercede for me. I feel she can relay my message, the way she offers up the little things to God. It's how I want to live."
That admiration for St. Therese has led Leung to conduct her business ethically. She will forgo easy profits to avoid cheap labour.
"As Catholics we are told to care about our brothers and sisters, so it's important to make sure I don't take advantage of people."
Leung said Christian shirts have to equal Christian values. "If I was going to do it, I was going to do it right! Christian values have to carry you in everything you do."
This business concept made it difficult for her to find distributors. "I was discouraged that I couldn't find the right company."
However, Leung's patience led her to proudly develop her clothes through Fair Trade. She also uses organic cotton, which is not only good for the environment because it doesn't use toxins or pesticides, but it also makes for better working conditions.
Retail might be down the line for Leung, but like her favourite saint, she is patient.
"I just want to focus on getting designs out."
She hopes that balanced working hours in the future will allow her time to focus on designing teen clothes again. Leung also wants to add some accessories, and she is in the process of designing bags.
Saintly Tees can be purchased online at saintlytees.com.