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Firewater Apparel Co. to hold event in coordination with #MeTooMSU

April 13, 2018
East Lansing resident and MSU alumnus Austin Pabian sits at his desk where he designs his shirts for his company, Firewater Apparel, on April 10, 2018. (C.J. Weiss | The State News)
East Lansing resident and MSU alumnus Austin Pabian sits at his desk where he designs his shirts for his company, Firewater Apparel, on April 10, 2018. (C.J. Weiss | The State News) —

Firewater Apparel Co., founded by MSU alumnus Austin Pabian, is hosting an event in coordination with #MeTooMSU to support survivors of abuse from ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. The event will be held at The Rock off Farm Lane from 10a.m. to 2p.m. on April 27.

Firewater will be selling its own "No More #MeToo" T-shirts for $20, with all of the proceeds going to #MeTooMSU. 

Pabian graduated with a degree in creative advertising in August 2016.  

“After the Nassar case was exposed, we were both kind of shocked. It hit home for her and she was distraught by it. I felt a sense of helplessness to an extent because I really didn’t know too much about it and I wasn’t involved,” Pabian said. “I wanted to find a way to help, so I decided to try and use my platform as an apparel company to fundraise and potentially benefit the survivors of the Nasser case.” 

Pabian runs his company with help from his girlfriend, Robyn Lowes. Lowes felt the heavy effects of the abuse cases, and the two decided they wanted to help.  

“I was a gymnast for about 14 years. Growing up, everyone who were my idols, a lot were affected by Larry Nassar,” Lowes said. “The No More shirt kind of started when I was really upset, and I was really hurt that my personal friends were going to be in court.”

The event will be run in coordination with #MeTooMSU. The MSU campus Insomnia Cookies representative and the campus Monster Energy representative will be in attendance.   

“I am a survivor of Larry Nassar. Way back when negotiations happened with the civil lawsuit, my attorney got a group of seven together, and walking in you're not sure what to expect,” #MetooMSU Founder Jessica Smith said. “Meeting that group of women was really incredible for my healing process from all of this. I realized how important it is for people to feel a part of something, to feel like their not alone.” 

Smith, a native of Laingsburg Michigan, is an elementary education junior at Ferris State University. 

“That gave me the idea to start #MeTooMSU and I started the Facebook page and it really started as a way to get information out and to inspire people, start conversations, reach out to their loved ones,” Smith said.  If there’s one thing that I’ve realized, so many people, so many people are affected by sexual assault.”

Pabian reached out to Smith and told her about his T-shirts, and the two agreed to work together to benefit the community through an inclusive event. 

“Austin had reached out to me a while back. He wanted some way to give back,” Smith said. “It’s important to bring people together. Social media is great for conversation, it’s great for starting conversations, but nothing really beats in person connections, contact and support.”

Pabian started his T-shirt venture while as a junior at MSU. He took a year and a half hiatus running his brand, but gave it a rebirth in the fall of 2017. 

“When I came to MSU, exposing myself to the party scene and all that, obviously it was a blast, but at the same time, with MSU being so environmental conscious, that I noticed that party’s and tailgates alike, just left behind this rain of plastic cups and smashed beer can,” Pabian said. “It was just such a mess. Especially in those areas that don’t have clean up crews, it turns into litter,” Pabian said. “I founded Firewater as a way to target the market for the people that cause the problem, and incentivize partying.”

Firewater Apparel Co.’s  flagship product, and most recognizable, is their reversible “East Lansing Drinking Team” tanks. Five percent of the proceeds for these products go towards the local Sierra Club, which has several environmental preservation projects throughout the state of Michigan. 

“The flagship product started just before my 21st birthday, it’s the reversible drinking team tank that you can find on our website,” Pabian said. “The tags, the printing, the packaging and the shipping materiel, everything we use is either 100 percent recyclable or post consumer and I push that in many regards.” 

Lowes stressed it’s more than selling some T-shirts and then moving on. She believes there is a lot to be done to make positive changes for the survivors and community as a whole. 

“I know personal girls that every day are like ‘I’m still fighting this, this is affecting my personal life, this is affecting my relationships and I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same’. That’s something that a lot of people are like ‘Let the healing begin,'” Lowes said. “As I spoke with a survivor, she said she was more empowered talking about it … That’s why we really want to push this event and do something like this.”

Smith said she believes the Spartan community is more than Nassar and the officials that turned a blind eye.    

“I get a lot of people message me on the page and they ask if I hate MSU … I love MSU. I have been a Michigan State University fan since I was practically born, my whole family is. To me, what Michigan State University is the students, it’s the staff, it’s all the people who care about the community,” Smith said.  “I think that it's really important to bring the people together who believe in the university and believe in the good that is there.”

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