In March of 2019, NASA canceled an all-female spacewalk because they had not mastered a spacesuit that fit a female body. Shoshana Swell, a Cornell University senior studying Media Arts and Information Science, read an article on the news, and a fire lit inside of her.
“I was sitting in a Starbucks and I saw this cancelled mission and I had this initial, immediate reaction. I was honestly bothered, and I wanted to do something about it,” Swell, who has always been interested in product design, storytelling, filmmaking and fashion, said in an interview with NYMM.
So what did Swell do? She designed and launched the clothing brand THIS IS MY SPACESUIT. According to its website, the brand endeavors to “create a storyline through fashion that invites people to join a new galaxy. Her company, THIS IS MY SPACESUIT, sells t-shirts, sweatshirts and other branded items with the slogan “THIS IS MY SPACESUIT” printed across them—to empower people to enter spaces where they’ve formerly been excluded.”
Swell, who is passionate about building inclusive communities, wanted to use the brand to spread the message that “anyone can blast off.”
“I decided to make a crewneck and a t-shirt and build a social media presence almost immediately. I designed a pop-up shop on my campus first and made this entire experience where people could come interact with each other and connect to the brand. That was a year ago now. The same night, I launched the online store,” Swell said.
Swell, who always loved to meet fellow creators and push herself out of her comfort zone, did not anticipate the heights that THIS IS MY SPACESUIT would take. In July of 2019, Swell was invited to a rocket launch with SpaceX out of the International Space Station.
“It was the weekend of the anniversary of Apollo 11, which was a crazy time to be there. It was really cool to go to NASA and be like wow… This is what inspired this entire brand. This was also around the time I wanted to start leading educational workshops, and I looked around while I was there and thought every single story being told here is from the male astronaut perspective. This inspired me even more to want to push people to enter career spaces that are deemed impossible for them,” Swell said of her experience with NASA.
As an offset of her experience with NASA, Swell began teaching educational workshops based around the brand. She began teaching these workshops on hydrodipping and sewing, and then they really expanded to what she calls “all things creative”. From wearable technology to teaching people to code for the first time, to dream building workshops, Swell has combined her love for technology with her love for fashion and shared them with the world.
In January 2019, Swell was invited to teach Wearable Tech and Fashion Design workshops in Ghana and Eswatini by way of Code Afrique, which was founded to provide African high school and university students the opportunity to learn about computer science.
“I’m still in contact with a lot of those students and mentor them for things they want to chase related to fashion design and computer science,” Swell said. This was just the beginning of SPACESUIT’s partnership abroad.
Swell was recently at Milan fashion week partnering with brands and organizations and teaching workshops on introductory coding and wearable technology.
“One of the crazier things I’ve done is gone to Milan Fashion Week. There was a challenge in being in an international space [station] and finding partners to work with there, but it was so cool, especially because of how exclusive fashion week can be… I wanted to show that you didn’t have to be the top of the industry to be there. There’s an inclusive community,” Swell said, on behalf of this experience.
Swell, who will start a job with Facebook as a product designer after graduation this May, will continue her work with THIS IS MY SPACESUIT.
“I’m looking at planning workshops in New York City. I’m looking to partner with other brands and organizations. The big dream is for people to feel empowered to blast off and chase anything.”
Featured Image Provided by Shoshana Swell