Meet The Teen Who Made Frank Ocean's Powerful Panorama Tee
Since launching Green Box Shop in 2016, social media has played a huge part in how Kayla Robinson, 18, runs Green Box Shop: She heavily relies on Instagram and Twitter to promote her line of t-shirts bearing progressive, all-caps messages, and she's found inspiration for some designs by connecting with people online and checking her feed, too.
A couple of famous fans have snapped up Green Box Shop shirts — including Zendaya, who posted an image of a Green Box tee on Snapchat before saying she'll snap up a few shirts (or all of them) herself — thanks to their popularity on these platforms, and it was one of these well-known customers who let Robinson know that Frank Ocean was rocking one of her shirts for his headlining set at the Panorama Music Festival on July 28.
"Well, Jessica Williams, she DMed me," says Robinson of the moment she realized her shirt was about to go viral. The star of The Incredible Jessica James and former Daily Show correspondent has been a Green Box shopper for a minute, and was all too eager to share that Ocean was broadcasting Robinson's WHY BE RACIST, SEXIST, HOMOPHOBIC, OR TRANSPHOBIC WHEN YOU COULD JUST BE QUIET? design to a thousands-strong crowd. [Editor's note: MTV News and The Daily Show are both owned by Viacom.]
"She texted me in all caps, all excited, like, 'FRANK OCEAN IS WEARING ONE OF YOUR SHIRTS!' I was like, 'That’s not true! You’re lying!' I didn’t believe her at first, but then she sent me some pictures, and I was like, 'That’s crazy.' I just started freaking out. I just remember doing something in my kitchen, and I just immediately started running around."
Robinson's reaction is completely understandable given the intense surge in interest Green Box has seen in the last 48 hours. During a typical week, Green Box sees a daily average of 50 orders. On July 29, the day after Ocean's set, Robinson says that 3,500 orders were placed (though not all for the shirt he wore, specifically); an additional 1,000 orders came in before this article went to press on July 30. That means that Green Box sold ten times what they typically do in a week in a single day thanks to the exposure Ocean provided — and it also means that Green Box has a chance to give back more than they already do.
The WHY BE RACIST... t-shirt was inspired by a viral tweet from @avogaydro, and gives credit where it's due: "I credited him on my website and linked people to his tweet, because I understand that’s something he created ... just like I want credit for my shirt, I totally understand that he wants credit for his tweet." The shirt isn't currently contributing funds to a non-profit organization, but other designs in the Green Box shop do, like their CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL and TRANS PEOPLE ARE NOT A DISRUPTION tees.
For Robinson, the focus of Green Box has always been more about freedom of expression than about fashion, as she launched the company to sell tees with activist messages she'd actually wear (and raise money to fund her yoga teacher certification in the process).
"I never really had an interest in fashion — you know, as in being really trendy or fashionable," she says. "I was already in the phase of tie-dying a lot of shirts, and so I decided to put my ideas on shirts and sell them to raise money. I first started doing this through GoFundMe, and then the business grew. It basically came from a passion of speaking my mind and tie-dye."
Those passions are ones that plenty are eager to share — and Zendaya, Williams, and Ocean can vouch for that.