Most newcomers to the lingerie business want only to fit in and capture a small slice of the massive but overcrowded market.
But not Hayat Rachi. The 25-year-old founder of fledgling label Neon Moon wants nothing less than to shatter the paradigm that governs the sale of sexy underwear.
“We want to shock the lingerie industry and work with the people who reflect what women’s bodies really look like,” she says. “Girls should not have to question why they look a certain way. … Rather, they need to reclaim the right to their bodies and decide how it should look for them and not for others.”
Neon Moon launched this week by declaring itself a “nonconformist, feminist lingerie brand” committed to “changing the face and body of the lingerie industry.”
Its small debut collection of colorful padding- and wire-free basics won’t be available until the fall, and the brand’s future hinges on the success of a Kickstarter campaign that aims to raise £5,000 to finance production.
In the meantime, Hayat hopes Neon Moon will fuel a public discussion about how lingerie is marketed to women.
“Most lingerie brands cater towards specifically making women look like an object of the male gaze,” she said yesterday in an interview with Lingerie Talk. “But you shouldn’t be buying things to please another person or to objectify yourself.
“There are also many non-binary women and men, asexuals, pansexuals, people who don’t affiliate with any of the brands out there.”
Hayat is the latest in a growing movement of activist fashion entrepreneurs who are rebelling against the way established lingerie brands sell their wares to women. High-profile consumer campaigns against image photoshopping, unrealistic body shapes and sizes, and the hyper-sexualization of lingerie marketing have created a market demand (and opportunities) for brands that promote inclusive, female-positive values and eschew conventional marketing tools.
Neon Moon gets its message across with a photo campaign that uses unpaid models of varying size and unretouched imagery that doesn’t hide wrinkles, body hair, blemishes, cellulite or other typical “imperfections.”
“We are highlighting how modern women really look,” Hayat says. “We’re not just boobs and bums to show off a product. We are trying to tell women that you are not just a body. You define success in your own way, and your success goes beyond the way you look.”
The London native (right) got her start in the fashion world as an intern for Elle UK and later with a London PR and wholesale firm that managed several lingerie brands. The idea to start a different kind of lingerie company emerged while working at trade shows and being shocked by the lack of diversity in the industry — a realization that felt personal to the daughter of Moroccan immigrants.
She also struggled to reconcile a familiar industry paradox: working alongside smart, accomplished, highly motivated career women who were selling products that reinforced the paradigm of women as nothing more than sexual objects for men’s consumption.
“The women who work at these brands, they’re go-getters, they’re driven, they’re savvy and quick. But when they want to advertise their products, they’re being a bit hypocritical,” she said. “We need to bring the industry up a notch, so women know they are not just there for the male gaze.
“Girls need a brand that encompasses the idea that they should love their body,” Hayat said. “Neon Moon is all about you and your accomplishments, and being able to empower yourself to feel like a whole being in order to take on the world.”
The company got startup help from the Prince’s Trust, a UK charity fronted by the Prince of Wales that provides mentoring and grants to young entrepreneurs.
Neon Moon‘s debut collection is called ‘Mon Dieu’. And the reason for that?
“I want people to say, ‘Oh my god, what’s going on here?'” Hayat said.
Below are more images from Neon Moon‘s first promo campaign, shot by Michelle Long and Fitria Tjandra. The models are Paulina Maria (red hair) and Adobuere Ebiama.