Two years ago, Mercy Brewer was modelling incontinence underwear on a fashion week runway. But today the former ‘80s supermodel is the star of the latest barrier-busting campaign from one of the world’s top indie lingerie brands.
Now 56, Mercy was chosen to front a portrait series for New Zealand brand Lonely, which just released its spring collection, called Cynthia. The series of 14 unretouched images speaks volumes about authentic women’s beauty and, by inference, the restrictive stereotypes that clutter the world of fashion marketing.
“[We] wanted to create images that celebrate the beauty of growing older,” Lonely CEO Helene Morris said in a press release.
“Having lived such a rich and interesting life, Mercy perfectly embodies the Lonely spirit that celebrates strong, confident women who challenge societal norms and aren’t always represented in mainstream media.”
The Mercy series is the latest project from Lonely that aims to provide a more natural, realistic and relatable alternative to conventional lingerie promotions — even though Lonely’s core market is much younger than its model.
Known around the world for its widely admired Lonely Girls series of customer portraits, the company last fall released its most diverse photo campaign to date, featuring women of different body shapes and skin tones and including transgender model Aurel Haize Odogbo.
Mercy, an Auckland resident and costume designer, was an in-demand supermodel in the 1980s, working alongside industry giants like Naomi Campbell, Jerry Hall, Cindy Crawford and Christy Turlington. She was raised in Scotland by her single mother, was a punk “who lived in squats” in the early 80s and eventually relocated to New Zealand to raise her family in the early 2000s.
Mercy made a surprise return to runway modelling two years ago at New Zealand Fashion Week, sporting fashion-centric incontinence lingerie from UK brand Confitex.
“Perceptions of beauty have and always will change, therefore I think we can conclude its standard is not set in stone, and new beauty is always waiting to be discovered,” Mercy said in Lonely’s press release.
“I believe we are in a moment in time where older women’s beauty has been a startling revelation. If we don’t recognize it, we, every one of us, deny ourselves a future to look forward to.”
The Mercy campaign was shot in an historic NZ homestead by Harry Were, a photographer and celebrated Kiwi knitwear designer. The campaign is noteworthy for its use of use of natural lighting, lack of Photoshopping and its avoidance of the sexualized poses and teasing grins that are so common in lingerie advertising. Instead, Mercy is shown relaxing, unsmiling and apparently comfortable in both her own skin and Lonely’s fashionable undies. And only one image shows her on a bed.
Here’s a look at the rest of the series.