What I learnt from stripping down to my underwear to pose in an anti-casting shoot

A lack of diverse models remains a problem in the fashion industry, but one brand is working to change that. Kate Ng discovers there is power in being the representation you want to see.

I am standing in a small, softly lit studio, following the gentle instructions of a photographer who has never seen me before today. I am dressed in a mesh and velvet lingerie set and nothing else – not even a lick of mascara or a hint of blusher. It’s the most exposed I’ve ever been in the company of strangers. I feel oddly uninhibited.

I sway to the music playing in the background, point my feet and smile. The photographer, Manon Ouimet, has a confident but unintimidating presence and directs me into different poses and angles while telling me I’m a “natural”.

Of course, I’m not. I’ve never done any modelling work before, and neither have the three other women waiting their turn to be photographed for this lingerie campaign.

This is an “anti-casting” shoot for lingerie brand The Underargument. Dreamt up by founder Maina Cisse, anti-casting is essentially blind casting, that sees her promote her products by crowdsourcing models, asking women from all walks of life to send in, not a photograph of themselves, but a written personal piece about their relationship with their body.

Cisse landed on the idea after being fed up with seeing endless perfect models advertising lingerie that didn’t reflect any women she knew. Her collections are designed to make women feel empowered, with names like “For identity//Against stereotypes”, “For sexy//Against sexism” and “For loving//against conforming”. The Underargument’s pieces are not your average cotton bras and pants – Cisse uses lace and mesh so delicate, it hardly feels like anything on the skin. The garments fit well without digging or pinching, and take to different body types with ease...

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