Lauren Shelly & Zeina Thiboult © Kalindy Williams
Body positivity is an interesting topic as there are essentially two sides, the people who are fighting for women to be valued as more than bodies and people fighting for bodies that are often marginalized to be viewed as valuable. On your page you write that size does not dictate sex appeal, and you promote a message of self-love. Is the intention of your label to encourage the wearers of your lingerie to feel sexy? Do you believe that confidence comes from being desired?BC: This is a really multifaceted question. I think that yes, femme-identifying people should be valued for more than their body. And yes, perceived „marginalized“ bodies should be viewed as valuable, but at the same time also valued for more than their body. And in a fashion context, normalized, rather than tokenized. Does that make me a fence sitter in the interior politics of the body positivity movement? For me, feeling sexy and feeling desired are different things – the difference being one is for the wearer and the other is in relation to someone else. I would argue that body confidence comes not from being desired but from feeling desirable.
JBC: I don’t believe it has to do with being desired. For some people it is a very powerful form of empowerment and a confidence builder, of loving and feeling really bloody good in your body. We are trying to show that no matter your shape or size you too can feel good about yourself and about your bod.
Ayebatonye Abrakasa is a queer femme WOC set out to empower the marginalized, challenge perceptions and educate the masses. She works as a brand manager, writer, vibe creator and runs Beleafrica Vegan African Pop up dinners. She loves meditation, yoga, reading, hooping, hanging with her chameleon Ziggy Stardust, and will always stop to say hi to every animal she sees on the street.
How do you make the distinction between what is empowering and objectifying if you’re giving credit to the wearers of your lingerie for showing off their bodies on a public platform?BC: Lingerie content is always going to involve some showing off of bodies. I’d like to insert here the old adage of what is empowering for some isn’t empowering for others; some people are empowered by showing their bodies and others aren’t and that’s at the discretion of the individual. The people getting their kit-off on our platforms have made the decision and the choice to engage, to be public and vocal about their body-love and they feel empowered by this act.
Frances Cannon & Lorri Morris © Anna May Cunningham
In mainstream media and advertisement, bodies are valued based on what they can do for other people, specifically men. With your message of self love you’re empowering the wearer to realize what wearing lingerie can do for them. As someone who BC: This is also a complex question and I guess it depends on the feminist theories you’re looking at. We’re trying to challenge the dominant male-gaze, which has been so prevalent in lingerie imagery. I suppose what we’re seeking to change is the idea that sexiness and being a sex object are mutually inclusive; that you can engage with your own sex appeal in a way that doesn’t necessarily pander to the male gaze. Pander to your own damn gaze! loves lingerie, I find it very empowering and very sexy. However, there are some feminists that may disagree with this. What does this change in terms of that idea that we are things to look at and things that people should want to have sex with?
Chantelle Dobunaba © Anna May Cunningham
Your photographs are refreshing as they acknowledge all shapes and sizes, are gender inclusive, you’re creating much needed dialogue AND are opposed to recreating the same, boring patriarchal images of women. You feature marginalized body types, and even offer free custom fittings for your wearers, which is amazing! Why do you think society is so caught up in these rigid and unachievable standards of beauty?JBC: Because that’s pretty much the only image they are shown by the media, which is such a false, exclusionary representation of beauty in society.
BC: The more unrealistic the image, the more people have to buy in order to meet the standard that the image sets. Advertisers make an unachievable image seem achievable only through buying their product, and this one of the systemic ways in which rigid beauty standards are upheld. But I’m saying nothing new; people are increasingly aware that this is how companies con people into insecurity and then con people into buying their confidence back. If more companies, brands and labels created truly realistic and inclusive content, you’d hope that rigid and unachievable standards of beauty wouldn’t be as prevalent and caustic anymore.