When Keisha Greaves started having trouble moving her limbs at age 24 while studying for her master’s degree in business at Boston’s Cambridge College, she figured she might just need to hit the gym harder. She never expected to be diagnosed with Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, a chronic illness affecting movement in the entire body.
Greaves had already earned her bachelor’s in fashion design and merchandising at Framingham State before the diagnosis and decided to put her passion for fashion to work by spreading awareness about muscular dystrophy and other illnesses.
When it came to naming her business, a light bulb went off. “I wanted something with the word ‘chronic’ in it for chronic illness. I was lying in bed one night and it just came: Girls Chronically Rock. It felt strong. It felt confident,” Greaves tells Exhale. From that slogan, the clothing brand Girls Chronically Rock was born.
The collection currently includes graphic tees and bracelets for men and women featuring slogans like “Trust Your Dopeness” and “Walk with a Twist.” Greaves says the most popular shirt is the design depicting a name tag that says, “Hello, My Name Is Chronically Ill Badass.” Greaves is working on debuting a few new colors for fall/winter, including lime green, the official color of Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy. She’s also designing tote bags, hoodies and pullover sweatshirts, socks, and leggings for the colder months.
A portion of the proceeds from every Girls Chronically Rock product goes to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Greaves is also looking to partner with local organizations to benefit the cause. On Nov. 17, she’s hosting a shopping day with Sara Campbell in Beacon Hill. Customers can enjoy snacks, music, and socializing with Greaves while a portion of every sale is donated to the MDA.
We still enjoy life. We’re not just at home sobbing. We’re just like everybody else, trying to live life to the fullest and take it day by day.
In addition to the empowering slogans, Greaves’ line is designed with chronic illness in mind. “American Apparel is the brand I use because it’s more stretchy and soft and easier for someone like myself to pull over [her] head,” she says. “I would love to come out with my own adaptive clothing line for Girls Chronically Rock in the near future.” As more businesses being to debut adaptive clothing lines (like Target and Tommy Hilfiger), Greaves feels like the opportunities for her vision are growing.
Greaves hopes the line will empower people living with chronic illness and spread awareness about the issue. She says there are a lot of misconceptions about living with chronic illness. “We still enjoy life. We’re not just at home sobbing. We’re just like everybody else, trying to live life to the fullest and take it day by day,” Greaves says.
She’s the living embodiment of this message: a vibrant, passionate business owner putting her heart and soul into Girls Chronically Rock despite the limitations her illness puts on her. Greaves works part time in fashion merchandising to pay the bills and then goes home for another full day of work on her company. She says there are ups and downs, but she would never consider doing anything else. “Girls Chronically Rock, that’s my passion. That’s what I live and breathe,” Greaves adds.