Kate McNair

Shopping can sometimes be good for the soul, and Melissa Blyth and Kate McNair are turning t-shirts into thought-provoking artwork in their venture to raise funds for vulnerable people living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

The bamboo and organic cotton shirts, which sell for $34.95 each, are screened with original artwork created by Downtown Eastside denizens whom Blyth and McNair interviewed. “The whole idea is about creating possibility for people and empowering them to create their own life and show them that they have a choice,” explains Blyth.

The fashion fundraiser is a form of expression that can help connect people to the community, adds Blyth. “When someone actually wears the t-shirt they’re being enveloped by the person,” she says. “Each t-shirt has a story.”

To date, half a dozen designs have been made, and these tees will bring the thoughts, expressions and images of this marginalized community to the mainstream.

Renowned aboriginal artist Garnet Tobacco, who now lives on the street, drew the design for the “Heron Lies Hope” t-shirt with coloured markers. “He just started drawing,” says Blyth. “Art to him is an escape. He said he hadn’t done artwork in about two years.”

Funds raised through the Give a Shi®t initiative will go to the Transformational Venture Capital Fund, a resource created by The Business Collective, a group of entrepreneurs and business leaders.

Buy the t-shirts at, and find the Give a Shi®t initiative on Facebook.