Houston native Emily Brill had just moved into her New York City apartment when the Coronavirus crisis broke out in the city. She headed back to Houston to isolate at her parents’ house, but still felt like she needed to do something. Then she remembered her hats.
Last year, while living in Austin, Brill had used her father’s Houston manufacturing company to make a dozen hats that said “Not Doing Things” to spoof the “Doing Things” hats from Outdoor Voices, an Austin-based athletic apparel brand.
Brill didn’t put any effort into sell her hats; she just passed them out to her friends and called it a day. “I set up a website,” she says, “but I never really got it off the ground. I just thought it was a funny idea.”
That was then. Now, Brill is selling her hats for $26.50 on her Shopify website, and donating all of the profits to NYC Health + Hospitals, an organization that supports healthcare workers on the frontlines in New York City, where there has been more than 100,000 positive cases of COVID-19 and more than 7,000 people have died.
Brill says she’s been able to raise more than $1,700 so far, and her hats now come in blue and black options. She doesn’t have any plans to keep selling her hats in the future; she’s just focused on doing what she can to help out in the present.
“I just thought that the idea and the timing made sense right now,” she says. “It makes me feel like I can help in some way.”
We spoke with Brill about her hats and why she’s helping out.
Can you tell me about your hats?
I started making them about a year ago. It was when I was living in Austin, and everyone was wearing the Outdoor Voices ‘Doing Things’ hats, and I just kind of had this feeling of imposter syndrome, thinking, “What would I have to be doing to wear a ‘doing things’ hat?” Like I feel more comfortable wearing a ‘Not Doing Things’ hat.
Why start selling them now?
I guess with all this going on—you know I just moved back to New York in January, and I came home to quarantine with my family. I just thought that now is such a good time to not be doing things that maybe my hats would take off. And also, just being in Houston and feeling like there’s not much that I can do from afar, just wanting to help the frontline workers in New York somehow, so I just decided to start selling my hats and donating the profits.
You’re using your dad’s Houston manufacturing company to make these hats. Can you talk about the importance of producing them locally?
It’s just an added benefit that, first of all, that I have this outlet that my dad can help me make the hats. I’ve also been able to pay one of his employees to help me make the hats, which has also been really fulfilling because my dad’s factory is closed for the most part. She’s able to get paid right now because she’s helping me make the hats. So that’s been another way I’ve been able to help through selling these hats.
What’s it like to move all the way up to New York in January and almost immediately have to move back because of the crisis?
I do feel like I haven’t spent this much time at home since high school, so I definitely feel like I’m back in high school a little bit. This project has also been nice because it’s kept me really busy … I had literally just moved into my apartment, so it is weird to come back home. But, so many people are doing different things right now. I live alone, so I’m happy that I can be at home with my family and not have to isolate by myself.
You lived in New York City for three and a half years after college and just moved back. How are you feeling watching NYC go through this experience from afar?
I mean it’s definitely hard watching what New York is going through. It’s just a very unsettling time. I also feel like New York is experiencing this right now, but a lot of cities in the next few weeks and months might experience something similar, so it’s definitely hard watching.
Every day at 7 p.m. everyone is doing a cheer from their apartment to celebrate the healthcare workers ... Seeing stuff like that is heartwarming, and I know that New Yorkers in general are very resilient, and I’m sure that not only will New York get through it, but we’ll all get through it.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.