Playful Promises is a London designed lingerie brand, which mixes quirky, directional design with truly diverse casting and representation throughout their campaigns. Playful Promises was the first lingerie brand to cast a gender fluid drag queen as the face of their collection in 2017 with Violet Chackhi and has since continued to cast trans models – notably Dani St James for this year’s Valentine’s Day campaign. As part of #GurlsTalkGender we spoke to founder Emma Parker about the brand’s stance on inclusivity, why she chose such a huge moment in the consumer calendar to champion the trans community and why her brand creates safe spaces online.
Why do you feel representation in lingerie is important – do you think the industry is becoming more inclusive?
When I started Playful Promises I wanted to create something that women wanted to wear and could express themselves in. I never liked fashion, but I always loved dressing up. Fashion is often reductive, and a huge percentage of the fashion industry exists on making women feel inadequate but what I wanted to do is the complete opposite. I wanted to create something that was about fashion being fun, feeling good and self-expression. This is originally started with me doing more sizes (we are up to 78 bra sizes and will have 85 by this September) and then the more I was exposed to new voices on social media the more I realised how many women felt excluded from the fun of fashion and that their sexuality and self-expression was as valid and needed to be seen. There is not just sizeism in the fashion industry but a lot of racism, ageism and other exclusion. I realised then that I wanted to broaden my brand to be inclusive regardless of race, gender, age and size.
I think great strides have been made in the last ten years – one group of people where we don’t see enough images of them in the main stream to realise that their desire to express themselves and to engage in their own sexuality is the same as everyone else is with ‘disabled’ people. I love the fashion photography that Pansy St Battie is doing in this regard – she is pushing boundaries. Viktoria Modesta is another person –she does some brilliant work.
What inspired you to cast Violet and Danni as your models for PP’s campaigns?
We were inspired to cast Violet for three reasons, firstly Violet is gorgeous, but also drag is such an expressive art form and our brand is also all about people feeling that they are accepted as they are and comfortable to express themselves and/or their sexuality as is true to them. The third reason is that the campaign was for our Bettie Page by Playful Promises line and we really wanted to turn some of the outdated and misogynistic 50s concepts around female sexuality on its head. We felt by working with Violet it was able to give a future facing outlook onto a 50s aesthetic.
Danni we cast as she is beautiful and has a sex positive attitude which aligns with our brand. Also we are continually working with a broad range of models so she was on our radar as someone we wanted to work with.
As the first lingerie brand to cast trans models, what made you make this decision and how did you convince the rest of your team to understand your vision and the need to do this
I didn’t need to convince my team at all – our whole brand is built on inclusivity so everyone was really excited about broadening this and well who wouldn’t be excited about working with Violet?
Why was Valentine’s Day the right time to make such a statement?
Valentine’s Day is a load of bollocks…. but being a lingerie brand it’s a time of year when people are looking at us so a good time to create some beautiful images that will get seen and offer people a more inclusive image of Valentines.
What is it about the collection you love most?
My favourite bit of my job is when I see people actually wearing the designs – so on the photoshoot is the first time I really get to see the vision come to life and then when we see photos of customers who have bought our stuff and they are out there rocking the look – feeling comfortable in their own skin. We also often get nice email notes from people that thought sexy underwear wasn’t for them as no one had catered for them before and they are super happy to find sexy fashion lingerie in their size and how good it’s made them feel.
What was the initial reaction from the industry to the campaign? As well as the reaction from existing customers, and now the trans community?
Overall well received. Because Violet is such a star in her own right she had enough fans to drown out the noise from negative people. The trans community have also been very positive and after the awful remarks that Victoria’s Secrets senior management made about trans models and plus size models I am really happy that we have a brand that is inclusive as VS was way out of line. We are really careful to not just make sure that our images are includes but that our social media space is as inclusive as possible too; Showing a wide range of people and that we offer them some protection and defence against internet trolls – so we interact with and moderate anyone who starts personally attacking anyone. We also have a members (Women and Femme identifying) only Face book group so that people can post photos there and chat about lingerie without having to worry about internet trolls.
Have you made any further steps since the release of the collection to ensure the trans community feel represented within your brand?
It’s our 15 year anniversary in June and we’ve actually just got back from NY from shooting our anniversary campaign with Leyna Bloom and cast of 5 models of varying sizes who are all WOC. She was pretty vocal about Victoria’s Secret and their lack of trans representation so we were really happy to step in here and Playful Promises will be her first ever lingerie campaign. So excited about this. She was incredible. https://www.instagram.com/leynabloom/?hl=en
Who else would you love to model your designs, and why?
My dream would be Naomi Campbell as she was my favourite super model when I was growing up but I am spotting people all the time on Instagram I want to work with. I would also love to work with Viktoria Modesta and we’re going to shoot with Pansy St Battie when she comes over to the UK later in the year.
Playful Promises Lingerie can be found at – https://www.playfulpromises.com