This Lingerie Brand Casts Its Models On The Basis Of Their Story Rather Than Looks. We Think This “Anticasting” Is What Every Fashion Brand Should Do
Most girls start to feel insecure about how they look even before they enter their preteens. It’s a fact, not a fun fact, a rather depressing one actually. And I can vouch that since even I was always mesmerised by those fair, skinny, tall, basically flawless models I saw in fashion magazines and billboards with the perfect set of teeth and shiny, straight hair. I’ve come to love my crooked smile and curly hair now but if I didn’t know any better I would still be praying to look like those girls on the covers of glossy magazines.
Whose fault is that? I didn’t have anyone looking like that in my vicinity but those ads told me that that was the ideal beauty and not real women like us. And, sadly this old school thought that beauty is perfection still prevails and is very evident from the numerous brands that pick picture-perfect models to endorse and represent them.
The truth is everyone perfunctorily talks about inclusivity in brands and how it should be THE norm for casting models and brand ambassadors so it represents the deeper and true meaning of beauty, but then how come every billboard ad we see has models with envious body, clear skin and super shiny hair that makes you feel like garbage? Some brands have, fortunately, managed to break this ceiling and cast real people and better yet real people with powerful stories rather than a photogenic face.
One of these brands that truly believes in fashion inclusivity and doesn’t just throw empty gestures is a lingerie brand called Underargument. It’s sole criteria for picking its models is how extraordinary their life stories are and not how they look. This may sound strange for a fashion category like lingerie that has been purely based on appearance since forever, to get the male gaze, but isn’t this exactly what we have been trying to do? Break the backward norms and make fashion more inclusive and meaningful? I think this is the first step in fashion’s long road to inclusitivity.
For Maïna Cissé, the founder of Underargument, looks don’t matter when it comes to selecting models for her brand. So much so that she doesn’t even look at the photographs of the models when they apply. They blindly pick their models (in actual sense) after hearing their stories. She calls it “anticasting.” They ask interested models to submit their stories related to the theme she decides on the website and they are selected on the basis of what they’ve contributed to, struggled through and experienced in accordance with that theme.
About 50 entries are submitted every week on the website. These themes could be centred around what modern loving relationships entail, standing against stereotypes, supposed perfection, sexism, against conformity and more. Isn’t this so much more relevant than featuring the blind idea of beauty? The brand advocates the idea “that you are more than just a body, and your story is valuable,” and it is amazing.
These models are diverse not only in their life struggles but also body type, race and cultural background. They are as unique as the ideology of the brand. Cissé said, “Everyone looks different, but everyone looks amazing.” “We have never met the people before, but we have never had a bad shoot,” she added. The lingerie line has more than 40 bra sizes to cater to every body type and requirement. “I started with 10 bra sizes and now I have more than 40. I go from 28a to 38e, and I’m working on increasing the sizes of bottoms and bras for next year,” she said.
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The inspiration of idealising the individuality and diversity comes from within for the founder. She said in an interview, “Being a minority myself … I saw a lot of brands wanting to tick boxes, and wanting to pat themselves on the back because they had chosen models of colour or supposedly bigger or curvier [models] instead of staying in the safe zone.” For the brand, the idea is not about “embracing the trend” by featuring models from a trending subject matter or background like they’d cast women of colour because BLM is trending or a transgender model because it is pride month, no, it more about featuring unique people with real stories.
I feel the whole purpose of lingerie is feeling confident and comfortable in your skin. It has got nothing to do with an hourglass body, smooth skin and luscious hair. So, why pick models on the basis of looks when you could feature amazingly confident and fearless women who are beautiful inside out just like Underargument is doing. I think it’s time more fashion and beauty brands take a leaf out of its books and at least attempt to promote diversity and the idea that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and colour. Enough with the stereotypical and fictional standards of beauty! Let’s get real, fo’ real.