Megan Grassell‘s very good year just got a lot more awesome.
The Wyoming teen entrepreneur behind the youth bra label Yellowberry reached a new peak yesterday when she was named to Time Magazine‘s list of the 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014. She is part of a roster of celebrated young people that includes Nobel Peace Prize co-winner Malala Yousafzai, Sasha and Malia Obama, athlete Mo’ne Davis, singer Lorde, blogger Bethany Mota and Rookie editor Tavi Gevinson.
For Megan, who turned 19 in August, the Time recognition comes on the heels of a six-month blizzard of international publicity following the launch of Yellowberry, the crowdfunded underwear label that makes age-appropriate training bras for girls aged 11-15. She came up with the idea when she took her younger sister, then 13, to a mall to shop for her first bra and was outraged by the sexualized nature of most styles available to girls.
“This morning brought with it tears of joy,” Megan wrote on her company blog yesterday after hearing of the honor. “The teens on this list are incredible in every way I can think of. From athletes, scientists, and social activists to fashionistas and musicians. There is incredible passion, talent and drive from each and every person. I am completely humbled.”
When Time first notified Megan of her selection by e-mail last week, she “wasn’t sure it was even real” and wasn’t convinced until the magazine article appeared online yesterday, Megan told Lingerie Talk. “I didn’t think I would have ever been thought of as truly influential. I was in disbelief. So honored to be included on a list with Lorde and Malala!”
Yellowberry became one of America’s most talked-about new fashion brands earlier this year when Megan’s inspiring startup success was featured in Forbes, The New York Times, Good Morning America, The Today Show, Today’s Parent — and countless other news outlets.
Readers of Lingerie Talk are certainly already familiar with Yellowberry and its dynamic founder. Our profile of Megan in April was one of the brand’s first press mentions and has been viewed by nearly 2 million Lingerie Talk readers — making it the most-read story in our site’s history.
The company — launched while Megan was still a high school senior, and with a mission to “change the bra industry” — sells stretch cotton bralettes with style names like Ladybug, Snowflake, Sugar Cookie and Tweetheart. It also uses its blog and social media to promote adolescent girls and profile role models.
“I think that what people realize is that Yellowberry is so much more than just a bra company for girls,” Megan said. “It is a social movement for change. It is also something that is needed by moms and daughters in the marketplace, so it fills a niche that has been somewhat ignored. The story is real, and it is one that every other mother/daughter and sister/sister relationship has encountered.”
Since its launch in April, Yellowberry has attracted a large, passionate community of followers — affectionately called Berry Girls — and their parents who appreciate the company’s vision of celebrating childhood and promoting self-confidence in girls. Megan in particular has become an advocate for girls’ empowerment and was recently invited to participate in the annual Dove Self-Esteem Weekend at the United Nations.
And being named one of the world’s most influential young people has made her aware of the responsibility that goes along with that distinction.
“I hope I can show someone what it’s like to find your passion and find your own self-confidence,” she said. “My passion, my drive and my ambition make me feel confident, and if that could influence another girl to chase after her own passions, drives and ambitions, then I think that would be pretty great.”
The Time magazine list also serves as a powerful rebuttal to anyone who underestimates the capabilities of young people, she noted.
“I know that my age has been my biggest obstacle with Yellowberry. I think that adults often think that people who are young are not capable of really doing something productive with their time. But I completely disagree. For me personally, I have a new perspective of the world and my own thoughts as to how things should happen. I’m not old enough to think to ask permission if I can do something, or if I can make something happen, because that’s not my mentality.”
Megan is slated to begin college next spring, and plans to juggle school and run Yellowberry with the help of family and co-workers. The busy company currently sells through its webshop but is aiming for a retail presence in the near future.
Starting a business while still in school has been “very real and very challenging,” Megan admits, adding: “But I like that it is hard. I like that it’s like problem solving each and every day.
“Plus, spreading the Yellowberry message makes me happy.”
NOTE: Yellowberry is donating $2 from every pink bra sold in October to breast cancer research.
When Laura Dodsworth started taking pictures of women’s breasts for a personal art project two years ago, she wasn’t trying to insert herself into a feminist debate or make a political statement. She was just hoping to understand herself, and her own body, better.
Then people found out about it.
Today, Dodsworth’s project is the subject of Bare Reality, a self-published hardcover book that explores how women feel about their breasts. The book will ship in February but it’s already a runaway success on Kickstarter, raising nearly £30,000 ($48,000 USD) through pre-orders since its unveiling last month.
It’s also stirred up a vigorous public discussion about several overlapping issues: nudity, breastfeeding rights, censorship, airbrushing, sexism, pornography and much more.
Catching most of the attention is Bare Reality‘s cover image — an astonishing grid of thumbnail photos (detail, above) showing the breasts of 100 women aged 19 to 101, with cup sizes from AAA to K. It’s a portrait of human diversity unlike any other, but the photo collage has also constantly run afoul of social media: Facebook has locked the author’s personal account and removed links to Bare Reality from the news feeds of users who share info about the book with their friends.
[NOTE: Because Bare Reality is being self-published based on advance orders, its Kickstarter campaign will likely be the only opportunity to purchase the book. The campaign expires at 7 p.m. Friday GMT.]
Response to the book has “amazed” Dodsworth, a 41-year-old London-based photographer who started the project as a way to reconcile her self-image with the manifestations of femininity in popular culture around her.
“It took me a long time as a woman to understand the disconnect between myself and the mirror around me,” she said in an interview with Lingerie Talk. “I never felt physically that I measure up.
“The way we see women portrayed on the Internet, in movies and on TV is quite two-dimensional and idealized. I felt compelled to burst this fantasy bubble.”
From that starting point, the project took on broader social and political relevance as women — ranging from a nun to a stripper and 98 others from diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds — began telling her about their private relationships with the most primal of human body parts.
“Asking women to talk about their breasts opens up really interesting conversations about key parts of our lives,” Dodsworth said. “It becomes an intimate window into a woman’s world.”
In fact, the most memorable aspect of Bare Reality isn’t the images — each uniquely individual and, in most cases, no more revealing than photos of, say, feet or fingers — but the stories that accompany them. They range from the poignant to the painful and, taken as a whole, capture a wealth of human experience. Some examples:
Breast Cancer UK, which will receive £1 from the sale of each book, sees Bare Reality as an important conversation-starter that will help women feel more comfortable talking openly about their breasts.
“This touching, inspirational book cuts through the sexual objectification of breasts and encapsulates how unique, yet similar, we all are,” the agency said. “Each story provides a beautifully tender insight into the diversity of our emotions about our breasts throughout life’s stages and experiences. We hope this work will become a powerful force for social change.”
Early publicity about Bare Reality implied the book was meant as a call to action against photoshopping and airbrushing in media depictions of women, but that’s just one of many cultural flashpoints that come under scrutiny in this unblinking book. Using women’s breasts — and voices — as a reference, Bare Reality offers context and perspective on subjects as diverse as motherhood, sexuality, health, aging, body image, gender norms and femininity.
“Western culture fetishizes breasts and when people engage with this book, it might change that,” Dodsworth said. “It does deconstruct the fantasy of breasts.”
Other than that broad goal, however, she insists Bare Reality isn’t trying to prove a point. (The book includes a foreword by feminist writer Soraya Chemaly, but Dodsworth deliberately chose to not write a “conclusion” to sum up the project or itemize its many messages.)
“I don’t want to tell people what to take away from it,” she said. “I wanted to move people and inspire them but I don’t want to tell them how to think.”
By coincidence, Bare Reality arrives at time when there is a growing public discussion about how women’s bodies are commodified by marketers and media, and increasing activism by women seeking acceptance and respect for bodies of all descriptions.
Bare Reality echoes the wonderful post-pregnancy photo project 4th Trimester by Chicago photographer Ashlee Wells Jackson, shares some of the anti-censorship bravado of the #FreeTheNipple movement, and even de-sexualizes breast imagery in a manner similar to the provocative breast cancer awareness billboards created by UK charity Coppafeel and photographer Rankin.
“There’s definitely some obvious shared artistic and social goals there,” Dodsworth said. “Women’s bodies are always in the news, but when I started this project there wasn’t much noise about it. Suddenly, there’s a crescendo around women’s bodies and how they are portrayed and body image in general. The time has never been better for something like this.”
Mainstream sensitivity about the issues (and images) involved became clear to her, however, when she tried unsuccessfully to find a commercial publisher for Bare Reality.
“Every (literary) agent I approached told me how much they like it,” she said, “but nobody wanted to touch it.” The enthusiastic response to the project has been “heartening and validating,” she added.
“People relate to different aspects of the stories. Women have told me they now feel okay about their own breasts. I’ve had messages from men saying how important it is because they are worried that boys have unrealistic ideas about women’s bodies from watching porn.
“Some people have said this will transform our relationship with breasts and impact on culture, too. And people are telling me it’s really important for their children to understand these stories. So I hope they will keep it on the coffee table and share with their sons and daughters.”
Not everyone has been as supportive, though, nor as comfortable with the subject.
Before launching her Kickstarter campaign, Dodsworth (above) showed Bare Reality to a close male friend for some honest feedback. He told her the book made him feel “quite sad” and he didn’t want to look at it anymore “because it would destroy the fantasy of breasts.”
“Well, we all need fantasy,” Dodsworth adds, “but we also need a healthy dose of reality.”
[NOTE: Learn more about the book at BareReality.net.]
Some women will wince when they see this image, especially those who have endured breast cancer.
Kate Moss‘s renowned champagne-glass breasts resemble nothing like what women are left with after the ravages of chemo and radiation, surgery and reconstruction. And yet here she is, in all her age-defying radiance, pulling down her bra to expose the familiar pink ribbon that signifies the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The image has an undeniable, almost iconic power, but it comes perilously close to bad taste and a lot of people will have mixed feelings about it. Still, it will be viewed many millions of times by people from every corner of globe — and that’s the whole point.
This photograph might save your life.
Shot by Mert & Marcus, the image comes from Stella McCartney Lingerie, and promotes a special style range that supports breast cancer awareness and funding for the Linda McCartney Centre in Liverpool. Proceeds from a neon pink limited edition of Stella’s Gemma Relaxing bra-and-briefs range will help fund a new mammography suite at the pioneering treatment centre named for Stella’s much-loved musician mom, who died from breast cancer in 1998.
But the purpose of the ensemble, and the photo, isn’t to sell underwear. It’s not even to focus attention on breast cancer. Its aim is to encourage women to stay healthy.
“I wanted to remind women that when they wear this set, the first thing they put on in the morning, to keep on top of their health and visit their doctor regularly,” Stella said in a press release. “I wanted it to be the initial starting point of awareness of this terrible disease.”
Using her pal Kate Moss to convey that message was also a bit risky. She’s one of the world’s most genetically blessed supermodels, but her career has also been checkered by harmful and unhealthy behaviors. Today, however, she’s on the cusp of middle age, glowing with youthful vigor and a somewhat unexpected role model — reminding us all of the immeasurable value of good health.
“Kate is a strong feminine woman with a daughter and a husband — a strong family unit,” Stella said. “For her it was important to bring awareness to this campaign to keep families together. Women are an integral part of the family unit, they keep and hold families together and are a source of strength.”
This kind of button-pushing campaign would probably be considered crass in the hands of anyone other than Stella, who is as well known for her brand’s ethics and integrity as for her unerring fashion instincts. As for Kate, she’s not your typical ambassador for healthy living, but she does reminds us that it’s never too late to start anew.
This month, the world will be awash in images and stories about breast cancer — and all of them are helpful. Fashion retailers everywhere, especially in the lingerie industry, are offering special products and promotions to support breast cancer research efforts — and all of them deserve our patronage and gratitude.
The Stella X Kate collaboration is just one drop in that enormous effort, but it will probably be the mostly widely-seen one and it is, on balance, an excellent use of celebrity starpower for public good.
Print this picture, clip it out, stick it to your dressing mirror. It could save your life.
Below are images from Stella McCartney Lingerie‘s AW 2014 collection. Shop here.
A word of warning to fashionistas everywhere: you’ll want to carry a cozy wrap with you next spring, because it’s going to be a chilly one.
And we’re not talking about the weather. Next spring’s ready-to-wear collections from leading design labels from New York to Milan feature an unprecedented number of daringly sheer and barely-there ensembles, many of them inspired by the lingerie-as-outerwear trend.
If recent fashion seasons have seen designers flirting with that concept with coy layered looks, for SS2015 they are letting it all hang out … so to speak. Forget about teasing glimpses of bra straps and bare backs: it’s time for the big reveal. Get ready to shiver.
A month of fashion weeks in major cities is winding down this week in Paris, and it has yielded a cornucopia of radical new ways to explore and expose the feminine form.
Opaque crepe and tulle were abundant and those revealing lace dresses that houses like Versace and Givenchy popularized in recent years are now a template for bold new interpretations of what is possible, and what’s permissible, in fashion today.
Crop tops, corset dresses and gymwear-influenced designs were evident in dozens of fashion week collections. But that’s just the start. Kimonos, camisoles, negligées and other familiar lingerie staples were also pressed into service as evening dresses or as part of a smart-casual streetwear ensemble.
Among the more creative ideas: Phillip Lim transforming a karate gi into a crop top, complete with an obi belt; Organic by John Patrick utilizing bicycle shorts under see-through pants; and the venerable Aussie swim and clothing brand Zimmermann creating a lavish hybrid of bathing suits and glamorous boudoir fashions (without explaining where one might wear such heavenly outfits).
For some designers, lingerie-themed creations are a nod to tradition and vintage glamour — Jean Paul Gaultier resurrected his corset legacy for his final RTW show in Paris, while Dolce and Gabbana turned Spanish bullfighting costumes into lingerie pieces for their spectacular Milan show.
For younger labels, though, all this overexposure has both a political and feminist resonance. In Paris, Alexis Mabille presented some shocking pieces that leave nothing to the imagination (and no bow ties to hide behind!), as if daring women to show off that inner confidence everyone talks about. In London, meanwhile, rebel fashion collective Fashion East and its former member Ashley Williams used graphic prints (above) that seemed to push back against censorship and creeping conservatism with a Free-The-Nipple message.
And while all this was going on, Italian hipsters Au Jour Le Jour made the whole innerwear-outwear distinction moot. They served up a color-blocked assortment of sheer tops over colored undies that will turn heads on any street in any city. Now, who will be brave enough to wear them?
Below is a selection of our favorite lingerie-inspired looks from SS2015 Ready-To-Wear fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan and Paris. It would be impossible to acknowledge all the sheer and opaque dresses on the runways, so we’ve focused on styles that incorporate lingerie shapes in creative ways. The photo at the top of this article shows (from left) Alexis Mabille (Paris); Dolce and Gabbana (Milan); and Betsey Johnson (New York).
Sophie and Alice Holloway should have no trouble drawing a crowd when they show up at Cambridge University’s “Freshers Week” for first-year students next week.
They won’t be there to learn, but to teach. And their mission? To educate young women about orgasms and encourage them to “think differently about how women are treated in the bedroom.”
The London-based sisters are the founders of Holloway Smith Noir, a line of luxury pleasure accessories (shown above) sold through lingerie retailer Coco De Mer, as well as the diffusion line Gigi Noir sold on ASOS.
And, not surprisingly, they are both fearless and uninhibited when it comes to spreading their gospel of pleasure-based sex and “sexually empowered relationships.”
To do so, they’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign called “Ladies Come First” to help pay for a 10-page “Guide To The Female Orgasm”, a “manifesto for sexual pleasure” aimed at university-age women. They’ll be distributing it at Cambridge next week and at Birmingham and Royal Holloway’s sexual health awareness week in November.
Sophie, 27, and Alice, 29, call themselves “Mistresses of Teasewear” and say they developed the orgasm ed project after listening to customers “calling out for more information and empowerment in their sexuality.”
“They wanted great sex, and all the relationship benefits that come with that,” they wrote in their Indiegogo fundraising pitch.
The Ladies Come First campaign is especially timely, they say, because younger women today are beginning their sexual journeys in an environment poisoned by threats of campus date rape, online bullying, and widespread slut-shaming.
And many women enter college ill-informed about female pleasure, partly because of gaps in school-based education: the national curriculum addresses biology and sexual health, but not pleasure, and parents can withdraw their children from sex-ed classes if they choose. As a result, Sophie said, women are still learning about the intricacies of orgasms the old-fashioned way (from Cosmo and Sex and the City) and are unfamiliar with the feminist principle of “pleasure entitlement.”
“All the hard work done by feminists and scientists to prove that women can, do and should enjoy sex does not seem to be benefitting younger generations,” they said.
“We have Ann Summers parties, which opened up conversations around female masturbation and vibrators, but it’s still fairly taboo to talk openly about sex, unfortunately.”
The sisters plan to republish the Ladies Come First guide yearly, incorporating feedback from students as well as new research information, and eventually to distribute the guide to all UK universities. You can support their campaign here.
Lingerie Talk asked Sophie and Alice to tell us more about Ladies Come First and why women need to be educated about orgasms. Here’s their report:
Why Women Need To Be Educated About Orgasms
By Alice Holloway, Holloway Smith Noir
There are two reasons why women wear lingerie (fine, there are infinite reasons, but give me the benefit of the doubt):
The first and most important is to feel good. Something about the silkiness/laciness/see-throughness, the secretness, the body-enhancing, kaboom-here-I-am-ness of a good pair of pants and a decent thrust-them-up-to-your-chin bra that instantly puts a spring in your step and a little knowing smirk on your face.
The second is more deeply hardwired into our DNA. It’s something we may or may not be totally aware of and it’s a mixture of many wonderful things — relaxation, stress relief, intimacy, physical bliss. It’s an orgasm.
No, not your orgasm, gents. We want one all our very own. We want it to start trembling in our inner thighs, shoot sparks through our lady flower, and then burst into fire all over our body and mind like the death of a star sending shockwaves through an entire galaxy (yes, that’s why we have the Supernova tassels). Putting on lingerie, hopefully at least sometimes, is one of the first steps of anticipation towards this mind-altering event.
But the sad truth is that many women will be disappointed. The number of women who experience orgasm during sexual intercourse sits, according to research, at about 30%. This may well have something to do with the most commonly held idea of sex — ie., that it primarily involves penetration of the woman, which isn’t actually the best idea for stimulating the clitoris. And the clitoris is the key to the female orgasm.
Of course, everyone knows that, right? Well if they do, then the problem is even worse than we thought, because that means that 70% of partners know what to do, and they just aren’t doing it. Perhaps they think the female orgasm is not important, perhaps they tried and didn’t get anywhere (quickly enough) so they gave up.
However we try to explain the problem, the time for speculation has passed. The time for education is here.
Ladies Come First (our sexual responsibility campaign) is printing a ‘Guide to The Female Orgasm’ to distribute at universities during Freshers Week. Getting straight in there during those first few weeks of freedom and discovery, before all the drinking society shenanigans kick in.
The guide isn’t a box-ticking, 5-steps-to-a-female-orgasm kind of affair. Sure, it has some helpful info about what and where the orgasm really is. But mostly it’s a manifesto for female pleasure. It’s a marker in the sand about what women should be able to experience during sexual experiences — relaxation, stress relief, more relaxation, intimacy, physical bliss.
We hope it will give young women permission to expect more than an unwanted grope from their peers, to be part of the exploration and the experience. Eventually we want to build an argument that pleasure-based sex education is necessary in schools, but you’ll have to keep watching to see when we achieve that massive goal.
For the time being you can find our crowdfunding campaign to raise the funds and community to print the guide, with a ton more information on our campaign here.