By MARCIA ZIMMERMAN
For The News-Letter
Hansel Romero admitted he’s guilty of using the word “awesome” too much — not as in a stereotypical teenage affirmation but rather to describe something truly awe-inspiring. A concert junkie, his favorite song is about self-empowerment and being unabashedly oneself.
Romero believes that all music lovers, regardless of gender, should be able to find a safe space and have truly awesome times at concerts without experiencing sexual harassment.
He recently co-founded Not Yours Apparel (NYA), a clothing company and movement based on social justice in the live music scene.
Romero, a sophomore double majoring in international studies and applied math and statistics, launched NYA with two students from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Oneonta, fueled by the desire to create awareness of sexual harassment and to spark social change in the live music scene and festival circuit.
In July, Romero met Sarah Waxberg, now NYA’s art and design director when covering a concert in New York for a music magazine. Waxberg was taking photos at the show.
The two found they had many common interests including a passion for music and music journalism. However, Romero said he was surprised to hear about the negative attention Waxberg had received solely on account of her gender.
“Even as a feminist, I was shocked,” Romero said. “She was telling me, even that night, that she had been followed around by men and asked backstage for sexual favors, harassed, groped, whatever in a relatively safe show with a band that fosters a good community.”
Within two weeks Romero and Waxberg teamed up with graphic designer Jessica Tyler, now NYA’s executive graphic designer, to make NYA a reality. The three of them all have experience in the music and concert industry — Romero as a writer for Kerrang! magazine and absolutepunk.net. As a record label representative, Waxberg was a music business major at SUNY Oneonta and Tyler was a designer for a non-profit organization that has run booths at big festivals like the Vans Warped Tour.
Despite their extensive experience, Romero attributed their speedy launch to the idea that if someone really wants to do something they can make it happen.
“In the end it was as simple as we had an idea, we had a team, we had the drive, we had a product and all of a sudden we were a thing,” Romero said.
The vision behind NYA is to appeal to anyone who has ever been touched by music. The brand’s first line, “Not Your Show,” focuses on raising awareness of sexual misconduct and misogyny. Romero said that by wearing NYA T-shirts, tank tops, hats and bracelets, a wearer tells the world that “I am not your show. I am not something for you to look at. I am my own.”
Romero said that while they hope to keep NYA’s message consistent, they hope to expand the messaging beyond sexual harassment to touch other important issues, including mental health. He said that he hopes a person wearing an NYA product feels personally empowered not only by outwardly wearing the message on their sleeve but also by internalizing a positive, self-affirming attitude.
The NYA team is currently focusing their efforts on spreading their message in the DIY music scene before eventually targeting bigger-name festivals. However, Romero revealed that NYA is in talks to do business with a number of music festivals, including the nationwide Vans Warped Tour, the Self Help Fest in California and the Skate And Surf Festival in New Jersey.
Although he looks forward to helping establish NYA as a company, Romero said that he also hopes the company can help spark a movement.
“Of course I would like to have NYA matter mometarily enough to get the attention of people that it wouldn’t necessarily otherwise. But that’s all tangible, and at the end of the day menial compared to the message we’re trying to bring forward with it,” Romero said. “I really hope that one day we get to a place where the message is so universal and people hear the name and they just think ‘oh this is about me and about letting me be who I am, unhinged and without any barrier.’”
NYA products can be purchased online at http://www.notyoursapparel.com.