An interview with Neon Moon founder and CEO Hayat Rachi.
It is impossible to live a modern existence and avoid the daily confrontation of advertising. Advertisers find us while we are standing at bus stops, sitting on trains and tubes, checking our social media accounts, relaxing in front of the television, reading magazines… it’s inescapable. It is also a major portal through which women learn of their inadequacies. Advertisers present the slim, young, white, able-bodied, airbrushed model as the female norm. Yet, in reality, few women can identify with her.
The non-stop bombardment of these images can be pretty exhausting, and any relief is welcome. This year, I have been heartened and excited by Sport England’s #thisgirlcan campaign, the coverage of Lorde Inc (a London-based modelling agency who works exclusively with non-white models), and the Guardian’s Fashion for All Ages weekend feature.
Recently, I have been equally enamoured with Neon Moon, an ‘unapologetically body positive’ lingerie brand. They recently hit headlines in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and Buzzfeed, after CEO and founder Hayat Rachi confronted a body-shaming Facebook page who unlawfully used images from a Neon Moon photoshoot and photoshopped the Neon Moon model to look slimmer.
Rachi is a passionate, determined feminist and young businesswoman who has thoughtfully constructed every part of her brand around body positivity and self-love. Rachi’s strong identification with the brand is striking; her answers to my questions portray a sense of purpose and passion, and it definitely feels that Neon Moon is an extension of herself and her beliefs.
“[The creation of] Neon Moon stemmed from [the] sheer frustration I had while lingerie shopping. I genuinely couldn’t affiliate with any brand, as they never represented me, as a Moroccan woman who wants comfortable bras, without being bombarded with sexualising and objectifying images everywhere,” Rachi says. “It’s as if the brands had convinced me that I wasn’t good enough, and they essentially profited off my insecurity.”
The models in Neon Moon’s advertising material certainly do not fit the narrow standards of beauty other lingerie brands are constrained by. These women, in a glorious, exciting and refreshing way, look nothing like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley! We see a model with skin darker than the arbitrary ‘norm’ of advertising world; we see women who are not the slim yet large-breasted shape that is unrealistic for the majority of us; we see stretch marks, scars, body hair, acne and freckles. We also see models looking comfortable, happy and beautiful. Rachi tells me her vision for the shoot was “to not sexualise or objectify the models on beds or on men in suits, but instead to see natural smiles and natural laughs away from the male gaze”.
But it’s not just the advertising for Neon Moon that is feminist. Rachi personally designed the bamboo underwear “with women’s bodies in mind – so they create the shape of the lingerie and not the other way around. Neon Moon’s lingerie is specifically designed to be both supportive and comfortable so that if someone’s body fluctuates in shape or size, the lingerie accommodates it.”
Women’s bodies fluctuate throughout days, weeks and months; comfort-wise; it makes sense that we would want to wear underwear that respects the natural changes of our bodies, rather than squidging and squashing our bodies into articles which restrict movement and comfort.
Neon Moon is exciting, radical and empowering, but it is also completely rational. Women’s underwear should surely be women-centric. After reading about Neon Moon, conversing with Rachi and spending copious amounts of time admiring the brand’s photos, I wonder how the lingerie industry currently exists through putting out advertising material which makes us feel isolated and inadequate. Neon Moon has reimagined lingerie as it always should have been – for the happiness and comfort of women.