forget bra burning, it’s all about feminist lingerie
We caught up with the founder of feminist lingerie brand Neon Moon to talk bras, breasts and body dysmorphia.
To celebrate the launch of our latest issue, we're turning to all those who are standing up and speaking out about what they believe in. From the young to old, the individual to the collective, these are the activists of today who are changing the world of tomorrow. One such person is 25-year-old Hayat Rachi, who, with the help of the Prince's Trust and a brilliant page on Kickstarter, has set up her very own feminist lingerie company called Neon Moon. But before you cry ''WTF?!'' and list off the many other ridiculous so-called "feminist" inventions that have found their way onto your screen, you should probably listen to what she has to say, because she's actually got a point.
In the 70s they burned bras as a sign of female empowerment, but fast-forward to 2015, and they're re-shaping the bra altogether. Growing up on a council estate and the first in her family to go to university (she graduated from Kingston in 2012, with a First Class BSc in Economics), Hayat had to fight her way into fashion, securing internships at Elle magazine and a PR/wholesale firm whose clients included some of the biggest names in lingerie. It was here that her frustration over the sexualization and objectification of women within the lingerie industry reached breaking point, and with that Neon Moon was born.
Tired of the typical bras that pad, prod, and push, whose bulging fillets and metal wires do nothing, as she sees it, other than adhere to the idea of women as sexual objects, Hayat has designed her own collection of underwear which focuses on comfort and support (without morphing into some hideously restrictive or bland colored sports bra). Hayat's goal is to empower women and relieve society's pressure upon them to look a certain way. More importantly, her designs are for all body shapes and sizes, and can accommodate any natural changes within the body. She's also shied away from the stick thin, perky breasted, retouched women who are typically roped in to advertise your average sexy two-set. Instead, she's enlisted the help of 'real' women with curves, scars, acne, cellulite and armpit hair, to emphasize the point that nobody is 'perfect' and that there is no fixed idea of being a woman. We caught up with the young entrepreneur and feminist activist to talk bras, breasts and body dysmorphia.
What is feminist lingerie?
Feminism is ultimately the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. Neon Moon is a feminist lingerie brand that doesn't objectify or sexualize girls in to thinking they're purely objects of the male gaze - because that wouldn't give us an equal footing in the world. I want girls to aspire to their own definition of success: there is a very narrow standard of beauty in today's society, and in the lingerie industry in particular, so Neon Moon endorses people of colour and proudly highlights that it is LGBT, non-binary, asexual and pansexual friendly. It is a body-positive brand that perpetuates empowerment to girls and every #NeonMoonGirl who supports it.
Why is there a need for it?
I personally couldn't buy from a brand that body-shames, objectifies or sexualizes girls. Why should I have to give in to my beliefs so brands like them can continue to grow? I was frustrated and wanted change, so I created it instead. Neon Moon is the alternate option for anyone who's looking for a brand that doesn't pressures them into looking a certain way.
How did you come up with the design?
I created the designs with all body types in mind. There is such beauty in the natural lines of the human form and I don't see the need for push-up, padding or underwiring. Soft cup bras allow breasts to change in size, whether it's due to weight gain/loss, menstrual cycle or just growth. I have designed the lingerie so that a woman's body creates the shape of it, and not the other way around.
What is the significance of using 'real' women with underarm hair and cellulite to model the collection?
I chose not to retouch any of the photos, and instead chose to highlight cellulite, stretch marks, acne, scars, freckles, underarm hair, pubic hair and leg hair. They are all normal female attributes, and I want to highlight that happiness does not diminish just because we have them. I want girls to question why they see lingerie models one way and never another. Why can't a lingerie model have underarm hair? Why can't she have leg hair or pubic hair? Just because society says girls should be one way, it doesn't mean a girl can't say, "actually I'm happy the way I am thanks".
What's wrong with Photoshopping women and selling products based on ideals?
It promotes body dysmorphia and gives girls who might already be self-conscious about their changing body an unattainable definition of 'beauty' to aspire to. I aim to promote body-positivity through showing girls the way they really are. Anyway, what's so wrong with a girl that people need to retouch them into something they're not? If there is one girl who looks at Neon Moon's models and thinks, "wow, finally a girl who looks like me," then I will be happy.
Do you think it is wrong to sexualize breasts?
Yes! And the reason being that society is hypocritical. Society plasters roads, buses, magazines and billboards with images of scantily clad girls whose breasts are highlighted as their most sexualized feature. But when a woman wants to breastfeed her child at Claridge's Hotel (which is the sole purpose of breasts), London shuts down and says, "That's revolting, cover up and move into the corner." What a double standard. How is that promoting equality within today's society? The sexualization and objectification of girls needs to stop in order for this world to become more equal, as brands don't often tend to sexualize or objectify men - that wouldn't sell their products!
What else are you working on at the moment?
This season's Mon Dieu collection! The Kickstarter has created such a whirlwind of support, it has been so crazily awesome and I am so excited for the future of Neon Moon. I am planning so much more exciting stuff for the future on the back of supporters' feedback, so stay tuned.
Text Tish Weinstock
Photography Fitria Tjandra