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Kiran Chahal

The designers putting rappers and memes on your lingerie

Pantyhoez is a London-based underwear brand built by two women inspired by the bangers that empower them in the club, in the bedroom and beyond

Pantyhoez can be described in a sentence by its creator Sophie Burge: “Basically we make panties and put rappers on them”. It’s perhaps an oversimplified description for those who’ve never heard of the underwear brand, and in reality, the collection is injecting a fresh sense of sexuality to panties, particularly for women of colour. After all, high profile mainstream lingerie brands rarely fairly represent minority women, but after Maria Borges made headlines last year for wearing her natural hair on the runway, maybe the tide is changing.

Burge and her team think so. Launched this year, herself and co-creator co-creator Liza Wonga are reclaiming stereotypes targeted at women of colour – on one end of the spectrum, meek and silent, and on the other, feisty and aggressive – and turning them on their head. In fact, there is a brazen, uncompromising sexuality about the way Pantyhoez are empowered by pop culture, and they make their point with slogans like “Benz Punani”, a take on Vybz Kartel’s ode to a woman’s ‘sex’ reaching Mercedes Benz levels, or the now infamous Jheine Aiko lyric on “Post To Be” which relays her demand that, he “gotta eat the booty like groceries”.

Their Instagram is awash with hip hop memes and critical side-eyes at anyone or anything daring enough to challenge their brand of feminism. Drake-decorated bedrooms, DJ Khaled memes and the Nicki Minaj declaration “I’m never gonna let anyone pull me down and make me feel small”, all act as insights into the girls’ motivation. They’re inspired by the elements of hip hop that empower them in the car, on the dance floor, in the bedroom, and beyond. We talk to Burge about the collection, the importance of using diverse models, and hiding pants from your mum.

What is Pantyhoez reacting to?

Sophie Burge: I’d say it was less of a reaction against anything and more of just a channel for us to express our creativity. While I was at university, I hated feeling so emotionally and creatively stifled, so Pantyhoez was a fun side project for me to channel my energy and some frustrations into. I guess it was a reaction to the environment I was placed in. It’s good to have a clothing brand that features celebrities, made by people who actually listen to and are invested in those celebrities. 

What was the significance of people like Vybz and Drake to you in this context?

Sophie Burge: I genuinely think my initial inspiration for Pantyhoez was seeing a meme of a woman with a Mercedes Benz sign and “benz punani”. I wish I was brave enough to get that tattoo but for now I’ll just stick with my Vybz Kartel pants. The lyrics and people we put on the pants are simply reflective of the music we listen to and the culture that we are invested in. We have as a brand discussed the possible issues behind putting some questionable humans on our clothes, (Vybz's Kartel’s murder charge, Rick Ross’s date rape lyrics etc), but I feel comfortable being able to engage with cultures that have clearly problematic elements. 

Why is it important to only use predominantly POC models?

Sophie Burge: Our models at the moment are friends, who are all mad beautiful inside and out, so I guess we use more POC models than the average brand would. But only models of colour are so painfully unrepresented. Pantyhoez is run, owned and managed by three black women so of course that influences who we use to model and shoot. I did the creative direction for our most recent shoot and it was almost all WOC both on and off camera, and all women on set; which is cool – it’s a shame its such a rarity. But I feel like its just an accurate representation of the women behind Pantyhoez, the city in which we're based and also our clientele. Most of the pictures on our Instagram are buyer submitted – so we are just reflecting who our customers are. 

“It’s frustrating in a way that our Drake pants are known as "drake pants" as it’s Nicki who raps the lyrics ‘My man full he just ate’. Nicki Minaj is one of my biggest inspirations, a truly flawless modern woman”

Who designs the pants?

Sophie Burge: Myself and my co-founder usually talk through ideas, decide on a couple and then I draw a horrendous design that has to be annotated to make any sense and then we send to Kirby, the design behind pantyhoez and she makes it into something that people might actually want to wear. I now can’t listen to a song or scroll past a meme without thinking how I could stick it on some pants! 

How much is Pantyhoez about reclaiming your sexuality?

Sophie Burge: In every aspect of my life I attempt to uplift women and particularly women of colour. I guess being in charge of my sexuality is a basic standard so of course it seeps into my work in some way. It’s frustrating in a way that our Drake pants are known as "drake pants"; as its Nicki who raps the lyrics "My man full he just ate". Nicki Minaj is one of my biggest inspirations, a truly flawless modern woman.

What is selling the best and who is your favourite?

Sophie Burge: The best sellers are the Nicki and Drake ones by far; probably because anything ChampagnePapi touches turns to gold. We had to do a massive rerun of them! He sadly hasn’t bought any for his current squeeze, but hit me up Drizzy we’d love to send you some! My favorite are probably the "No Fuckboys" which we just released, they’re super cute and I’ve been a huge fan of the brown emojis ever since Apple finally released them. I was so embarrassed to show my mum, I thought she’d be horrified, but she loved them. I gave my best friend the “all you can eat” ones for Christmas and she’s been hiding them from her mum when she does a wash. When it comes to buyers I was shocked at how quickly we became global; I love writing addresses to places I dream to visit! There are so many men! Which is amazing; your girl deserves fancy panties – buy her them.

What’s next for you?

Sophie Burge: Expanding Pantyhoez definitely, our Valentine’s cards are out this week, along with our matching heart panties! I have so many ideas for new pants and since day one we’ve been receiving requests for boxers, so we need to get that sorted. Also, we’re hoping to have our swimwear range released by summer.

Check out Pantyhoez here

Creative Direction: Sophie Burge

Models: Gemma Chu Foon, Sophie Burge, Nadine Artois, Skye Cooper Barr, Kesang Ball

Photography: Kiran Chahal

Hair and makeup: Ruqaiya Haris

Thanks to: Sydenham Ink