Maria Gilfoyle: The POWER Thread
Maria Gilfoyle has been a fashion fanatic for years, interning with multiple brands and pursuing a degree in Marketing, Fashion, and Entrepreneurship. Like many, she utilizes social media daily.
In the midst of 800 million people with Instagram accounts, she noticed a lack of human connection on social media. In a field where many flock to Instagram, Tumblr, and the like for style inspiration, new trends, or updates on their friend’s lives, Maria noticed in the Spring of 2018 that she wanted to start something that would influence people in a positive way. On a walk one day, the idea for The POWER Thread was born.
The Power Thread is a digital movement built online and on social media that focuses on the power that all women possess. By sharing the extraordinary stories of everyday people, Maria and her team dive into deep questions to share different women’s accomplishments, desires, and dreams coupled with the woman’s favorite fashion pieces or products. Maria explains that the platform is about humanizing social media and sharing who these women are as a whole. To date, they’ve shared over twenty-five stories with more to come. Some of the stories that especially resonated with Maria include Chicago DJ Megan Taylor and Chrissy Fogerty, the founder of a sustainable fashion brand called Fauxgerty.
At its core, The POWER Thread is a female-focused community founded on inclusivity. Any woman has the opportunity to share her story or take part in photographing women or editing stories. Ideally, Maria hopes to take the conversation further in the next few months. She wants people to read a story and then reach out to a woman sharing her story, fostering connection and interaction. She foresees career introductions and conversations about goals and accomplishments happening through The POWER Thread. In-real-life events are in the works too.
Maria adds that women are really powerful and should be able to have equality, especially in our current culture where women are told not to take up space and taught to say sorry repeatedly.
Maria encourages others who want to create a positive change in their community to listen and think. She notes that it is important to be aware of what other people are interested in and what is needed, then finding a solution. She herself had noticed that no platform combined fashion and female power. Additionally, she says that once you have an idea, just go for it. Even if it’s a big project and seems intimidating, she suggests breaking down the big pieces into smaller pieces. She adds that anyone can make an impact, even in a small way.
I spoke with Maria over the phone to further discuss community, social media, and fashion.
Maura Sheedy: At its core, The Power Thread is a community. Why is fostering community so crucial to your mission?
Maria Gilfoyle: The Power Thread is a platform for women to share stories and inspire each other. It is an online site for young women to share ideas and develop new concepts. Everyone on The Power Thread shares common attitudes, goals, and interests, and it is a place for women to combine and share those interests. These attitudes and goals include feminism, authenticity, transparency, inclusivity, and empowerment with an interest in fashion and community. In the long term, I am working to expand The Power Thread to have community events to allow more personal and interactive community experiences.
Being a part of a community has always been an important part of my life and it created a positive impact on my college experience. Back in high school, I went to an academically rigorous school 35 minutes from my house in Chicago, I figure skated competitively, which meant more than 25 hours of practice a week. I also participated in art programs every summer on the East Coast. I was doing so many activities that I didn’t feel fully a part of any community. I was spreading myself thin, and it made me unhappy.
When I went to college at Washington University in St. Louis, I was looking for a strong community to be a part of and make an impact. I joined a sorority. In high school, I never even knew what Greek life was. The community in the sorority - my friends and the older women who reached out to me - had such a big impact on me freshman year in terms of my growth and happiness. I found that community to be empowering, especially the ability for women to mentor other women in a social space. Freshman year I found an internship in New York City because of an older member of my sorority who helped prepare for the interview. Junior year I was elected president of my sorority. As president, I enjoyed being able to shape and create a positive community for women. From that experience, and for the rest of my life, I will find community to be an important part of my life.
At the core, I want the Power Thread to be a community of which any women can be a part, whether they choose to write or photograph for it or engage with other women on it.
Maura: You say that you want to “humanize” social media. How does The Power Thread fulfill this mission?
Maria: The Power Thread is humanizing social media by sharing authentic, detailed stories from women to inspire other women. All of us post on social media every day, and much of the time, we simply share a photo that we took or post about something we like. I think that’s awesome and we should do anything we want. But I think that there’s also many amazing things people do that they don’t always share on social media.
Today social media can connect so many people around the world. Our generation will stay connected with each other more than any other generation in the past. Unfortunately, we don’t always share the truth on social media. We often don’t share the unique things people are doing. I wanted to create a social media site to showcase the deeper things women are doing daily.
On The Power Thread, we share authentic stories. They don’t need to be about big accomplishments; they can be about both big and small things women do every day. During interviews, we always ask women what it means to them to be powerful. With these original stories we share, we are humanizing social media and allowing women to share their power. Transparency is also one of our core values that allow us to humanize social media through storytelling.
Maura: You associate female power with style and fashion. How are these two related?
Maria: Fashion is something that has always been a huge part of my life. I believe that fashion and style are a universal language. Everywhere around the world, everyone gets dressed, and what they put on says something about them. It is often the first decision we make every day. I think it can be really empowering, what we choose to wear. It can be a huge form of global self-expression.
I wanted fashion to be a part of The Power Thread because of my own love for it. But I also know that fashion and style are something with which a lot of women identify. I wanted a portion of The Power Thread to focus on fashion and style and how that can be a form of empowerment, but I didn’t want that to be the only focus. Many of the stories we post don’t even touch fashion and style. I think it’s really important to have both because, for some people [style] is an important part of who they are and their power, and for other people, it’s less important. Being able to have both has been key to creating a platform based on humanizing social media and female empowerment.
During some of our interviews, we will ask women if they have a favorite product or favorite item that they love or use daily that gives them comfort to be their powerful self. We have found that it is important to say that this product doesn’t make anyone powerful. No product makes a woman powerful; we ourselves are powerful. However, sometimes there is an item that someone loves, and if they don’t have that lotion [for example] that they use every morning as a part of their day, they feel like they’re missing something. It is cool to see what items people are drawn to.
Maura: Do you have any thoughts on consumer’s purchasing power? Especially when it comes to faux-feminism?
Maria: I think there is faux-feminism in the world in a lot of spaces, particularly in fashion because a lot of fashion is targeted at women. It is important to understand buying into an ad or any product will not make anyone powerful or change who they are.
If you’re seeing an ad or viewing a brand over and over and you buy into that brand and you buy that shirt, just because it’s a cool shirt on social media, it does not mean that when you put it on, you’re instantly powerful or cooler. Having that item or product shouldn’t make you more confident in yourself. It’s just an item. At the same time, you could find that these items that you’re attracted to do represent your style and show yourself on the outside. It’s important to separate the difference between style and stuff.
Fashion is fun, exciting, and around the world. It is artwork. At the same, we shouldn’t let those items define who we are. Just because you wear something or don’t wear something, it doesn’t say much about how you truly are. Women are powerful and that comes from something deeper down. On The Power Thread, we post stories that allow women to talk about fashion or items they love, but also share who they are deeper down, their values, and their true power.
Author: Maura Sheedy
Makeup or no makeup, Maura always strives to be her real, authentic self. She spent a year without wearing makeup in high school and has since channeled her project into changing all societal standards- beauty, business, leadership, and more through platform Make Muse.Currently studying Business Management at Fordham's Gabelli School of Business with a minor in Digital Tech and Emerging Media, Maura is an involved student, leader, writer, and entrepreneur. She proudly calls New York City her new home and loves spending her days exploring the city and meeting new people. All of her free time is devoted to advancing Make Muse, as it is her passion.