Science, Art Inspire Women in Tech Entrepreneurship

An unusual STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) concept combined with some fashion know-how sewn in is creating a unique brand of tech-based fashion entrepreneurship.

Svaha USA is a STEAM-themed clothing and accessories brand whose online store is changing the face of women’s and children’s apparel. Svaha celebrates women in all fields of endeavor and confronts gender stereotypes with bright, fun clothes to allow kids’ imaginations to soar.

Founder Jaya Iyer’s two-year-old daughter in 2015 desperately longed for some planet-themed clothing to fuel her dreams of flying to space as an astronaut. But nothing space-related in clothing departments existed.

Iyer used her knowledge of fashion merchandising to create a specialized clothing brand designed for her STEAM-themed assortment that defied gender stereotypes. Those efforts resulted in her growing one of the most successful STEAM fashion brands for kids and adults in the world.

“I wanted to encourage my daughter’s passion and other girls with similar interests in the best way I knew how — with clothes! I realized there was a missed market for kids who like things that are not gender-traditional,” Iyer told TechNewsWorld.

The Difference an ‘A’ Makes

Jaya Iyer, founder of Svaha USA, and daughter Svaha
Jaya Iyer, founder of Svaha USA, and daughter Svaha, the company’s namesake. Jaya moved to the U.S. from India with nothing but a backpack and ambition. She earned a doctoral degree in Fashion Merchandising from Iowa State University, taught fashion buying, and wrote a textbook on fashion in emerging markets that is now used in universities.

In doing so, Iyer stitched together a connection that fosters academic STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) studies to a previously ignored recognition of the role art and humanities play.

“I believe that there is no STEM without the A [art]. Art is a part of science, technology, engineering, and even math.”

One of her biggest hurdles was being able to make the clothing designs technically accurate. But working with women who are in the field has helped her overcome this hurdle.

“We are now working on getting our products in front of more women so they can also wear these dresses and show off their love for tech-themed clothing,” Iyer said.

From Dreams to Reality

Today, only about 25% of computer scientists and 15% of engineers are women, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Iyer hopes to change that situation with her fashion lineup. Very responsive to customer suggestions, she developed 95% of the designs from customers’ inputs.

“Our customers absolutely love our products! Teachers love to wear our clothing when they are teaching the concept represented in the design of our clothing. Professionals love to wear them to work and to various conferences. We have a very loyal customer base who come back to buy our products on a regular basis,” offered Iyer.

STEAM influencer Dr. Arlyne Simon is a biomedical engineer who invented a blood test that detects when cancer patients reject a bone marrow transplant. She is also the founder of Abby Invents, a multicultural children’s products company that helps to inspire young inventors.

Dr. Arlyne Simon, Medical Marvels Hedy Dress
Dr. Arlyne Simon is a biomedical engineer, patented inventor, and author. Simon created the Medical Marvels Hedy Dress design encompassing African print inspiration and biomedical engineering symbols.

All too familiar with being the “only woman” or “only Black” engineer in a room, Simon sees Svaha USA as a game-changer. Its creative approach to help close the gender gap in STEM makes science fun and fashionable and empowers girls and women to pursue STEM careers.

“If she wears it, then she can be it. Give a girl a space dress, and she pictures herself as an astronaut. Give her a biomedical engineering dress, and she visualizes herself creating life-saving healthcare technologies,” Simon told TechNewsWorld.

This level of identity exposure is life-changing. Ask a girl to draw a scientist, and more than likely, she will draw an old guy in a lab coat, she observed.

“When girls are not exposed to women scientists, they are unable to imagine themselves in these roles. But perhaps all it takes for a girl to fall in love with space is for a teacher to talk about the solar system while twirling in Svaha’s Rings of Saturn skirt,” she added.

This type of grass-roots support for advancing women in technology is essential. Science T-shirts and dresses are conversation starters and spark dialogues between girls and their moms/educators.

“Tell me about your dress” may lead to a conversation about how mathematical models in epidemiology predict the spread of Covid-19. Since each Svaha dress is named after a famous female scientist, girls are introduced to notable women like Hedy Lamarr and Marie Curie,” said Simon.

Ladies in Space Pursuit

Svaha launched collections in collaboration with women who are making a difference in the STEAM fields today. These contributors include former NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg.

Astronaut Karen Nyberg
Astronaut Karen Nyberg aboard the International Space Station holds the hand-made dinosaur for her son that inspired a “space fashion” collection.

In her free time on the International Space Station, Nyberg created hand-made items from cast-off supplies and videographed them floating with no gravity inside the station as gifts to her son, Jack.

Her first doodad was a cloth dinosaur crafted with the fabric lining from Russian food containers. She stuffed it with cut strips of cloth from one of her used T-shirts hand-stitched with ivory thread on board.

Iyer and Nyberg teamed up to develop a line of dinosaur-themed clothing. For that, Nyberg tapped into Jack’s strong knowledge of dinosaurs.

Her grade-school-aged son, still a dinosaur lover with aspirations to be a paleontologist, offered his Mom “dino advice” on her design for Svaha USA. He picked out his four favorite dinosaurs to include in the design and provided her with an accurate depiction of each in her Dinos in Space collection.

Birthing the Concept

Jaya Iyer’s young daughter was already focused on becoming an astronaut when Jaya started her clothing company seven years ago. The company, named after Iyer’s daughter, developed its first line of products partially funded by launching a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised over $30,000.

Iyer later expanded the merchandise line following customers’ suggestions for women’s apparel dubbed Smart Dresses for Smart Women. She again funded that clothing style with a second Kickstarter campaign which raised over $57,000.

Some of Iyer’s product inspiration came from Nyberg’s passion for creating memorabilia for her son while she orbited the earth.

Rachel Ignotofsky
New York Times best-selling author and illustrator Rachel Ignotofsky is another Svaha USA contributor who connected her tech expertise with a new computer science clothing collection based on her own science-based artwork and her book “The History of the Computer.”

“We have been able to make the designs accurate by working with women who work in the STEM fields. But, reaching more people is still a work in progress. We have grown a lot … but we still have a long way to go,” she noted.

The connection between STEM and STEAM is a key driving factor for Iyer and her followers. Including art and humanities in her clothing line provided something for all the professionals who are not a part of STEM.

“We make literature, music, and library-themed products that appeal to a whole different group of customers,” Iyer noted.

The fact that art is an integral part of STEM is being accepted by more and more people now, according to Iyer. If people can be educated about the importance of various fields of Art in STEM education and professions, the adoption will become a lot easier.

“We try to do it through our clothing and social media. But, more people need to understand the importance of art in our lives,” she said.

Earthly Wear

Kallie Moore in Velociraptor Skirt
Kallie Moore, manager of the paleontology collection at the University of Montana, collaborated with Svaha USA to design the Velociraptor A-Line Skirt.

Iyer’s clothing collections allow scientists to harness their inner Ms. Frizzle. They also feel like a form of “broader impacts,” noted fossil librarian, science communicator, and manager of the paleontology collection at the University of Montana, Kallie Moore. The company recently launched her Velociraptor design collection.

“By wearing your science, you invite questions and comments. I have all sorts of interactions wearing Svaha USA pieces. It is another outlet for me to spread my love of paleontology,” she told TechNewsWorld.

Kids having heroes is great. But many times, it can be hard to connect with them. Having someone in your community, more on your level, being successful at supporting women in STEM is more tangible, offered Moore.

“Jaya collaborates with real scientists, and it is fun to see what they would make for themselves. I hope it inspires others to create STEM-focused clothes for people who identify as female,” she said.

Coming from paleontology, where art is so interconnected to science, art is a huge benefit. In paleontology, art helps us imagine what ancient creatures and ecosystems would have been like, continued Moore. This allows us to get closer to our past. “Obviously, being really, really good-looking while totally nerding out is also a plus,” she said.

STEAM Wear at a Glance

Svaha USA’s high-quality, 100% organic, super-soft dresses all have a hint of geek and feature pockets, according to Iyer.

Each style of dress is named after famous female scientists such as Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, Ada Lovelace, Ruby Payne-Scott, and Dorothy Hodgkin.

Some of Svaha’s unique designs for dresses, skirts, blouses, T-shirts, cardigans, hoodies, sleepwear, and accessories are visually intriguing.

The collections feature everything from science heroes on raglan tops to stylish, high-quality dresses featuring STEAM-themed concepts.

Other thoughtful selections include the line of Amazing Women Pioneers Canvas Bags, the PI Day Collection, a Moon Phases Glow-In-The-Dark Ombré Ada Dress, and a colorful Chemistry Lab Rosalind Dress.

Also offered are fashionable creative dresses featuring Augmented Reality, DNA Iconic Double Helix, Trigonometry, and even literary treasures such as Jane Austen.

Visit Svaha USA to browse all the collections of geeky, STEAM-themed apparel and accessories.

Jack M. Germain

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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