Changing Perspectives with Synonyms

As the website reads, “My ultimate goal is to help build a more sustainable, honest and vibrant world.” Boston College senior Lev Omelchenko, A&S ’15, has taken his passion for creativity to the next level as he continues to design unique shirts, along with pursuing filmmaking.

Lev made his first shirt during Freshman year on Newton campus. Lev had writers’ block while working on a paper for Professor Cronin’s Perspectives class, and decided to try to form words, starting with “good” and, only using synonyms, transition “good” into “bad.” It worked.

From there, Lev took an old black fabric marker and wrote his design on a new white Hanes t-shirt. He had no plans to sell the shirt to anyone; it was just a creation he had made. Soon, people started to ask him about the shirt, and what the words meant. “When I told them the words were all synonyms, they would get excited, and that would lead to a conversation about words or language in general,” said Lev. With the interest surrounding his unique shirt, he decided to jump on the opportunity and try and sell the shirts.

The shirts have started a phenomenon and have sparked curiosity with the complex meaning that lie behind a simple design. The words on each shirt are black, while the shirt itself is white. The words are formed on the left-hand side of the shirt, with empty space remaining on the right side. Lev explained that the shirt design and the transitioning words are open to interpretation. At the same time though, Lev describes that he, “felt that the concepts of duality and change were inherent to the conversation.”

Not only do the words deal with duality and change, the 13 words that don each shirt have their own symbolic meaning. Lev explains that originally, having 13 words was an accident. He investigated as to why 13 is considered an unlucky number, and found that part of its meaning came from the 13th tarot card, the Card of Death. There was an assumption, when Tarot was popular in the 15th century, that the Card of Death foretold death and illness. However, Lev learned that the card actually represents cycle, change and rebirth. “I thought this idea was relevant to the words on the shirts, which slowly change to become their opposite,” explained Lev.

With a design created, Lev began to produce his shirts. The money that receives from selling shirts goes back into creating more shirts, keeping his website alive and funding daily expenses. Also, 10% of the money goes to the charity, Artists for Humanity (AFH), an organization in Boston that employs underprivileged youth in the arts. The remaining money that Lev makes from selling the shirts helps him to continue his creative endeavors.

Creativity is key for Lev, and it not only motivates him to design these shirts, but also fuels his filmmaking, graphic design and painting endeavors. His website, SynonShop, started off as a place just for his shirts, originally called Synonymous Shirts. “I think of the word Shop in SynonShop in the way of a workshop, not necessarily buy my things Shop. It's a place where I share my work as I complete it,” explained Lev.

When Lev started painting the summer before junior year, his website became a place to display his painting as well. The website that was originally designed for just his shirts has become a portal for a wide variety of his original work, even including WZBC graphic designs and poetry.

There are already a lot of people here on campus that really like his shirts. After graduation, he hopes to expand his business and build a bigger market for the shirts. Interestingly, he saw great interest for the shirts when his friends wore them abroad.

While Lev is a registered Biology major, he has become more disinterested in pursuing a research job after graduation. He found a real passion after he took a class called “Video Art” the spring semester of his junior year. He had already been interested in film, however, he had no real practical experience writing, shooting, directing or editing. The class was intended for beginners, which was great for Lev because he found that he had a real passion for filmmaking. “I really care about it, and everything that it encompasses,” said Lev. “As hard as it is, I love trying to come up with original stories; I love trying to organize and collaborate with crew and actors; I love directing and shooting and then finally crystallizing a final product.”

His future, like that of most seniors is still being worked out. Lev hopes to pursue filmmaking and explained that he was interested in staying in Boston, citing a community both for film and music, “There's an incentive to stay with a few friends after graduation and work up more experience and build up a bigger body of work.” Lev has found that film is a great way to help and collaborate with organizations and individuals trying to bring some kind of positive change to the world. “If I can help them build an audience and share their message, then I'm very happy. Just getting to work with a bunch of different people and artists is a pretty world expanding experience,” said Lev.

In regards to the shirts, Lev plans to continue to promote them. He loves the design, and he has been amazed how the shirts have stimulated interesting thoughts and conversations. “I think it's really cool if a stranger's day might be different just because they saw and read one of my t-shirts.”

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Claire Jasper