Representing the creative future

Marieyat: Challenging gender distinctions

*This article originally appeared on Dazed as a part of our collaborative series.

In a recent Q&A with Rick Owens on Dazed Digital, Owens expressed in one of his answers that he’s “ALWAYS FELT THAT WHAT YOU WEAR IS THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS BEING THE PERSON YOU WANT TO BE.”

The concept of gender neutrality isn’t entirely unfamiliar in terms of dress and the fashion industry. A most notable contemporary example of this is when London department store Selfridges unveiled their radical gender neutral retail space Agender (defined as “Without a gender (nongendered, genderless, agender; neutrois); moving between genders or with a fluctuating gender identity)” – which aimed to provide its consumers the opportunity to shop without any preconceptions. In addition, questions are being raised as to whether or not there continues to be the need for gendered fashion weeks – with designers such as Craig GreenVetements, and Prada making their runways co-ed in their recent collections, and McQueen who pioneered such a concept since the 90’s.

“IT WILL BE REFRESHING TO SEE LESS ABOUT CHANGING ONE’S FORM, AND MORE ABOUT EMBRACING ONE’S MOTHER-NATURE.”

When it comes to underwear, on the other hand, rarely has the notion of gender neutrality been discussed. Sure, women’s boxers remain to be a style present in the market, while brands such as Calvin Klein, Armani, and most recently Acne Studios play with the concept of unisexuality – although their designs hue towards resembling more traditionally ‘masculine’ underwear. How then, do we resolve the tension between comfort and femininity and will the notion of unisexuality continue to apply once we do?

In comes MARIEYAT, an underwear and loungewear label for women “seeking to co-create uncompromised style” that’s “blending the lines between lingerie and unisex underwear.” Born and raised in Hong Kong, Marie’s interest in fashion grew from a young age and for her, it represents “an expression of one’s character and state of mind.” She moved to London after securing a place on the BA Fashion Design course at Central Saint Martins and has been living in London ever since. “Growing up in Hong Kong we are very lucky to be surrounded by the latest fashion and trends, however, it can turn out to be an over consumption of brand names and repetitive style soullessly” she tells us. “This made me question and I had a desire to look deeper into fashion as a form of self expression and assurance.” 

On a day to day basis, Marie takes inspiration from the amazing women around her, which include her mother and her friends. “In terms of research, I have been exploring Women in Chinese Erotic Art and images of women that show the truth about our bodies i.e stretch marks, scars and bruises which I find intriguing and beautiful.” This clearly reflects in Marie’s editorials as her models don’t appear to be retouched. “I have also explored a lot of Asian youth and internet culture – in particular among women who will lead into the coming collection. What interests me in particular is the strong community of the virtual world via internet. To me it seems like they (Asian youth) are in search of something they could not find in the reality.”

MARIEYAT SS16 Lookbook

“WE’D LIKE TO CREATE A BALANCE BETWEEN COMFORTABILITY AND SENSUALITY. “UNCOMPROMISED” MEANS THAT OUR CUSTOMERS WILL NOT COMPROMISE APPEARANCE OVER COMFORTABILITY OR VICE VERSA.”

Having interned at the studio of Hussein Chalayan and the atelier of Yang Li, both of whom she admires, Yat received the opportunity to see the other, more practical side of the industry. “It is so important to have a strong team around you, in addition to the amount of hard work and organisation that goes into creating a collection each season at that level.”

The idea of MARIEYAT was initiated during her second year at the college, and upon graduating, she began to work on building the label immediately. “I have always been quite detail oriented since I was at college. I was learning pattern cutting for lingerie and swimwear during my own time and it had inspired me to start something related in the future.” She adds that “designing lingerie mainly comes from my personal needs. I have an interest in all kinds of lingerie, but I realised that I can rarely find underwear that is interesting unconventionally and comfortable to wear everyday.”

Looking at MARIEYAT’s designs, its soft, pastel palettes and its focus on seamless knitwear made from natural cottons and silks offers the MARIEYAT woman the comfort of male or ‘unisex’ underwear without having to compromise any level of femininity. “We’d like to create a balance between comfortability and sensuality. “Uncompromised” means that our customers will not compromise appearance over comfortability or vice versa.” Yat believes that when it comes to underwear, it’s all about being comfortable and confident about yourself. While that seems rather evident, it can be difficult to do so in an age where marketing in lingerie – much like the rest of the fashion industry – have long portrayed an ideal framework of one’s form, and that’s precisely what Yat would like to see less of in marketing around lingerie. “It will be refreshing to see less about changing one’s form, and more about embracing one’s mother-nature.”

Research and references for the SS16 collection

“WE ARE DESIGNING FOR WOMEN WHO IDENTIFY THEMSELVES OUTSIDE OF THE MAINSTREAM CHARACTERISTICS OF LINGERIE.”

The homogenization of lingerie design can often restrict its buyers from feeling a unique sense of individuality. Yat’s collection diverts slightly from the mainstream perception of women’s lingerie, but she believes that “the mainstream perception of ‘women’s lingerie’ has limited the market’s choice”, with a lot more possibilities and boundaries to be pushed. “Instead of seeing it as a challenge it is actually quite exciting to shake things up a little bit” she tells us. “The most important aspect to consider is that the designs have to go around the nature of the circular knitting machine. The fabric is knitted without any side seams, so with every design, you have to consider how to put the creativity in subtly without changing the original function of the product.” The label is also open to using all materials, “as long as they are friendly to the body, mainly focusing on natural fibres.” Should they decide to incorporate more archetypal materials such as lace or sheer in the future, it will be a different take on the material.

Whilst the label is in theory one that’s designed for women, it does in fact play with the notion of unisexuality. Does this then mean that the label isn’t restricted to being genre-specific? “We are designing for women who identify themselves outside of the mainstream characteristics of lingerie. One of the core ideas of the label is to combine the delicate details of lingerie and the relaxing feel of a piece of unisex underwear. Whether it should be restricted to being genre-specific or not, it is entirely up to the perceiver.” Does she have any plans in mind for a potential collaboration? “Not at the moment but if we do, it would be interesting to collaborate with Comme Des Garçons.” As for that question regarding unisexuality: perhaps it will, and it should – if only we opened our hearts and minds and cease attributing certain design characteristics to a specific gender; and MARIEYAT’s collection could be the stepping stone in heading us towards that direction. “It is always a love story for MARIEYAT.” 

Currently, MARIEYAT are preparing the launch of their online shop in November and are simultaneously beginning to work on their Autumn/Winter 2016 collection – which they are with all due reason very excited about.

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