Amandine Liepmann started her gender neutral, children's clothing company after she realized that in order to get her fifteen-month-old daughter a dinosaur t-shirt, she needed to go to the boys section. That didn't sit well with her so she took it upon herself to change that.
"Knowing that (dinosaurs) were the kinds of things that were cut off to her really bothered me. So, I made the dinosaur dress so she had something to wear that had dinosaurs on it."
Liepmann bought her daughter the t-shirt from the boy's section but also began designing a dinosaur dress that ended up being a prototype for Mitz Accessories, her apparel company that offers clothes that are free from gender stereotypes.
She thought surely other millennial parents are running into the same obstacles when it comes to gender limiting clothing. And she noticed a big niche since major retailers only offered traditional color schemes and designs.
"People are surprised when I tell them that children's clothes were gender neutral until the invention of the sonogram. Marketing companies then realized they could sell you two of everything."
The idea that marketing companies were telling her daughter what interests were bothered her. After all, why can't a little girl be obsessed with dinosaurs?
All of the Mitz designs are gender neutral, meaning they can be worn by a boy or a girl. They are also made from high quality fabric here in the U.S. and can be handed down through multiple children since the clothing was created for both sexes, making it very environmental friendly and shareable.
"Little boys love cats. They also really love the the color purple. Little girls like dinosaurs and they also like construction trucks."
The colorful designs challenge conventional gender stereotypes and introduce new visuals for both gender's clothing isles. Cats, for example, are almost always on girls' clothes.
For whatever reason you're not going to see cats on children's clothes for boys and you're not going to see dinosaurs on girl's clothes. The Mitz line changed that.
"We've deemed these things either specifically for boys or specifically for girls and our clothing is really reaching across and saying - No, children's interests are not necessarily in these traditional gender stereotypes. They really reach across and we should be embracing that as part of the learning process for early learning childhood."
Last year Mitz launched a Kickstarter campaign that raised $38,000 in just 30 days.
The funding allowed Liepmann to expand and design a new literacy line that has bold, easy to read, block lettering next to fun items that kids are just learning about. The text is multidirectional so that a child and an adult can see the wording. These are conversation starters.
"Instead of commenting on physical appearance like 'you're so cute/pretty,' the conversation shifts towards that child's innate preferences."
"Our clothes change the conversations around young children." Liepmann explained that although most people are incredibly well intentioned when they call a child cute or pretty, in the long run it ends up sending the child messages that their value is in their physical appearance.
If the child is wearing a Mitz t-shirt or dress, the adult is more likely to ask them about their opinion or preference regarding that object. Perhaps a question like "Are strawberries your favorite fruit?"
Questions like that spark up a conversation that encourages literacy development.
By teaching children they can imagine a world of possibilities, free from gender stereotypes, they're living up to their full potential regardless of gender.
Liepmann is looking forward to continuing to design gender neutral clothing that she knows will impact early childhood learning.