ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Last month, Audrey Brown was having dinner with her 5-year-old when she saw an alert on her phone. She read it, put her hands on her chest and tried to catch her breath.
"What's wrong?" her daughter asked.
It was something Brown knew was coming, but she still couldn't believe had happened. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was dead at age 87.
The second woman to sit on the highest court in the nation had long been a giant in gender equality, arguing six cases in front of the Supreme Court in the 1970s. But it was a more recent transformation as a pop cultural touchpoint that endeared her to legions of fans. Her rebranding as the "Notorious RBG" by a New York University law student sparked a cottage industry of Ginsburg-themed clothing, posters, magnets and mugs. Talk show appearances, "Saturday Night Live" sendups, a documentary and a Hollywood biopic further cemented the legacy of the soft-spoken octogenarian.
In the weeks since her death, local designers and shop owners have hustled to meet the demand for merchandise emblazoned with Ginsburg quotes, "dissent collars" or her unmistakable silhouette. Some have accelerated the release of already-planned product lines, while others cranked out new T-shirts, jewelry, bags and blankets. They expect the surge in interest to continue through the presidential election and the confirmation process for Ginsburg's replacement, nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
Brown, who lives in south St. Louis, had already included Ginsburg in the "bad-ass women" series of stickers she sells through her Etsy shop. Orders tripled the weekend after Ginsburg's death.
The stickers are signifiers, Brown said: "It's been such a polarizing political year, and people want to make a statement however they can. It lets you know who your people are."
Elizabeth Griessow of Brentwood finally bought a tote last month that she had been eyeing for a while at Union Studio in Botanical Heights. The print of Ginsburg includes a quote scrawled across her robe: "Women belong in all places where decisions are being made."
"It gives me pride to carry a little bit of her with me," said Griessow. "I always get feedback. It's that connection with people that's really neat."
The bag was designed by Mary Grayson Batts, who started Onward Designs three years ago as a small side business while she worked and went to school. But in the weeks since Ginsburg's death, she has been busier than ever, shipping stickers, prints and bags across the country and as far away as Scotland.