From a very young age, Amy Leung had a very special devotion to the saints.
This devotion later inspired her to create a Christian clothing line called Saintly Tees.
The Vancouver company offers a variety of baby T-shirts, onesies and bibs from its website (SaintlyTees.com). Each shirt has a cute illustration with a Scripture verse or Christian saying on the bottom. Size range is 0-3 months to 24 months.
Leung first got the idea for a clothing line while leading a youth retreat. During adoration, she was encouraging the teens to ask God what he wanted each of them to do.
As she recalled, “I asked myself those same questions, thinking about what God wants me to do. I thought about what talents he has blessed me with and how to serve him better.”
Leung was blessed with the gift of drawing and designing, and she felt God was calling her to serve him in that way. “At the end of the hour I asked him: Give me any sign of what you think I can do. First thing I thought of was the shirts and sharing the faith in that way.”
Now that God challenged her with this service, Leung was faced with the practical challenges of what to do next. “I was completely overwhelmed. I never ran my own business or designed and sourced an actual product.”
Leung said she looked to the saints for her inspiration and courage to start. “I think most people struggle to be holy; and there are days that I fall away from what God wants me to be, but I’m reminded of how wonderful our Church is with all the saints. When I was a kid, I went to Catholic prep class, and one of my teachers told us that we can be saints too. That always stuck with me.”
Leung said she picked the name as a reminder to people that they can be holy too: “I can be a saint just like all these great saints. They were ordinary people that started out just like us, but led a holy life.”
Little Flower’s Help
Leung’s special devotion to the saints stemmed from a childhood illness that doctors could not cure. “My mom took me on a pilgrimage trip to France, and I visited St. Thérèse’s home. Since then, I always had a special devotion to her. I wasn’t sure if I was going to recover, and St. Thérèse’s ‘Little Way’ really resonated with me. I felt helpless, but I needed to have faith. St. Thérèse resonated with how I lived my life. She was someone I could confide in, and she always walked with me.”
Leung dedicated her first project to St. Thérèse. The first clothing piece was a drawing of St. Thérèse for young ladies. “I felt called to that because ladies have the pressure to dress a certain way or they feel like they need to wear something revealing,” she explained, “so this gives them something cute to wear.” Her first print run was 80 T-shirts that sold at the University of British Columbia.
Clothes With a Message
Leung said she started thinking about making the baby and toddler clothing line when she was expecting her first child. “We got all kinds of gifts for our baby,” she said, “but I wanted clothes for kids that had a good message.” Doing research to find out if there were companies that sold Christian children’s clothing, she was able to find just a few. Realizing there was a great need in that area, Leung started with graphic designs and her favorite Scripture verses for the baby line. But she needed to find a shirt supplier. She didn’t want to partner with the big companies that sold immodest clothing and had a marketing message that was not in line with her Christian values. She also wanted pure, blank organic cotton and a supplier that practiced fair trade.
“I felt like those values were closer with what I wanted and who I wanted my customers to know that I’m supporting. I looked for a while, and I did a lot of praying,” she recalled. “There were times I was really discouraged, but God always comes through, and I was able to find the right partnership.”
Leung decided to go with a company called Pure Blankz. According to its website, PureBlankz.com, the company is committed to “only certified organic cotton, grown using sustainable farming practices that maintain and replenish soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers.” Owner Adila Cokar understands the damaging effects of pesticides not only for the environment, but also for the farmers.
Cokar encourages consumers to do something good for the world and choose organic — and customer demand is growing: “There is a big demand, especially with mothers, because they are looking for things that tread lightly and don’t harm the environment for their kids.” This philosophy is also important to Leung’s customers. “Many of [my customers] let me know that they appreciate my sourcing fair-trade shirts,” said Leung.
The response to Saintly Tees’ clothing has been positive.
“I’ve had people come up to me and let me know what a great idea it is. They love that the shirts feature Scripture verses,” said Leung.
Caroline Ng of Burnaby, British Columbia, bought one of the T-shirts for her daughter. She said she purchased the clothing to show that she is proud to be Catholic. “We try to instill as much of our Catholic faith into our children as we can so they know who Jesus is and what the cross is,” she said. Ng said she loves the shirts and would like to see more products for older children.
Leung plans to have toddler shirts ready by next year: “I’m really inspired right now because of the birth of my second daughter.”
The company’s long-term vision is to bring Saintly Tees into retail stores, but, as always, Leung is waiting on God’s direction.
“I don’t want to plan too far ahead. I don’t want to walk too far without touching base with seeing what God wants me to do. I always go back to him and see where he wants me to be. I’m looking forward to seeing where Saintly Tees will go next in God’s great plan.”
Robyn Lee writes from Cheshire, Connecticut.