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Me and You x Lorde Inc body positive model agency diverse
Me and You x Lorde IncPhotography Monica Moraru

Two models talk body positivity, politics and empowerment

For this shoot, agency Lorde Inc team up with label Me and You – they pass the mic to models Azha and Rewina

With the rise of social media, the DIY energy that kick-started the riot grrl zine movement of the 90s has been granted a new lease of life. Photocopiers may have been swapped out for the world of reblogs and regrams, but that rebellious spirit remains the same – as digital natives log online, they’re forging a space for their work and their voices to be heard. Crucially, those voices are more diverse than ever before, and are unafraid to challenge everything from representation in fashion to police brutality.

Model agency Lorde Inc is a powerful symbol of that spirit: discontented with the homogenous portrayals of beauty put forward by our current media culture, founder Nafisa Kaptownwala decided to take matters into her own hands, street and internet casting talents with character – whatever their measurements. Also championing this push for body positivity is clothing label Me and You, started by fashion school grads Mayan Toledano and Julia Baylis, whose feminist panties have been credited with kickstarting an underwear revolution.

What connects both brands is a passion about challenging the lack of representation in fashion, promoting diversity, and female collaboration. In that spirit, they joined forces, and with photographer Monica Moraru shot two Lorde Inc models in LA, dressed only in Me and You. Now, Kaptownwala, Toledano and Baylis hand the mic over to the shoot’s stars – Azha, co-founder of the Bay Area based Shade zine and visual artist Rewina – to talk fashion, visibility and the importance of creative collaboration. 

Azha, what ideas were you and your co-founder Apryl hoping to put forward with Shade magazine?

Azha: Before we came up with Shade we were pretty young and unsure that our voices and creations were necessarily important; artists like us weren’t something we commonly saw represented. Now, Shade represents ideas of fearlessness, community, identity, and confidence in one’s own creative abilities. We just had to go for it. We want to encourage everyone involved to create the work they want to see without allowing mainstream media to hold them back. Shade magazine is a symbol of that perseverance and it’s amazing to see the community that has been created through our aspirations. We are constantly all evolving, innovating, and learning.

Rewina, you’re a visual artist. What ideas do you try to convey through your work?

Rewina: Every time I create and produce art, its purpose and meaning spontaneously surfaces from different moods, interests, obsessions, or curiosity I’m feeling at that moment. I guess what I am trying to say is that my art emulates my personality. There isn’t necessarily a specific message that I am trying to convey unless I’m feeling the need to convey one. The best way to explain it is that I am simply making my thoughts physically visible for you to see and experience with me.

You’re both the new faces at Lorde Inc. What made you interested in involving yourself with this particular agency?

Azha: Nafisa is a person I’ve always admired. Lorde Inc is an important agency because of how they promote PoC visibility in the print, media and fashion world; the opportunity to have this collaborative effort between Rewina, myself, Lorde Inc and Me and You is honestly a dream come true.

Rewina: Collaborating with Lorde Inc is such a cool experience, the whole concept of Lorde Inc is honestly something so great and inspiring. The vibe of the agency is very mellow. I’m always so grateful to work and collaborate with them because I respect and support their views on our modern culture. Embracing diversity in ethnicity, size, shape, etc. is so important. Lorde Inc radiates the concept of "comfort in your own skin".

What are your thoughts on Me and You? What is it about Julia and Mayan’s message do you guys feel like you can or can’t connect to?

Azha: I really like that Me and You is all about body positivity. I also admire how Julia and Mayan have been hustling and really doing something positive that promotes female empowerment. It’s super exciting to be working with this brand as a black girl who’s a womanist!

Rewina: Julia and Mayan are doing something so inspiring and amazing for the young girls of our generation. I can extremely relate to their body positive message. Almost every girl, including myself, struggles with body issues due to unrealistic views on women’s bodies in the media. It’s refreshing to see girls wear comfortable underwear and look great in it! I love how the brand emphasises natural curves and diversity. It’s so rare (at least for me) to see women be outwardly open and comfortable in their own skin no matter what size, shape, and figure. 

“We want to encourage everyone involved to create the work they want to see without allowing mainstream media to hold them back” – Azha, Lorde Inc model and Shade zine founder

This series was all about collaboration – how important is working together with friends and like-minded individuals in the projects you’re involved in?

Azha: Working with like-minded individuals is super fun and can make me feel more productive. When I work with my squad or with my best friend Apryl not only am I growing, but we’re all bonding and forming our own support system and sense of community. Connecting with folks through my online platforms such as Tumblr and Instagram has taught me that.

Rewina: I love tuning into other people’s creative perspectives. Collaboration is extremely important because it builds a creative connection between people in the same or different communities; it allows me to understand and submerge myself into different creative viewpoints. It’s important to have a good insight into contrasting individual’s creative processes, and how they interpret things based on their culture, community, knowledge, aesthetic, etc. Working with my friends or like-minded individuals is a give and take experience. Through collaboration, not only are we linking ourselves together to create to the best of our abilities, but we also teach and learn from one another about our own creative perspectives. Plus working with your friends is hella fun and empowering!

How do internet movements such as Tumblr’s #blackout day and Instagram’s #arthoe movement help encourage spaces for POC intersectionality and activism?

Rewina: The internet is a very powerful and influential device. Seeing movements such as #Blackoutday and Art Hoe Collective surface is very important and inspirational. As a young Ethiopian-American girl, I’ve always had a hard time finding space for myself and my art in society (especially on the internet). These movements form a space for young black and brown youths like myself to creatively and radically express themselves. It also serves as a platform for us to radiate positivity and empowerment for ourselves. It’s a great way to utilise the internet as a teaching tool to spread cultural awareness and confidence to the world. Whether it’s body positivity, cultural awareness, self-empowerment, etc, these movements create a new wave of radical youths offering knowledge to teach and ears to listen.

Azha: The Black Out hashtag and Art Hoe Collective amaze me and I am so happy to see youth of colour uplift themselves and carve out space we otherwise wouldn’t have had. I remember 2 years ago when I first began to notice lack of representation in online art worlds and formed Shade zine. I couldn’t have imagined that these positive movements and racial representations could thrive like they have. It’s so nice to see myself in these kids everywhere – we’re finally filling that void.

“Embracing diversity in ethnicity, size, shape, etc. is so important. Lorde Inc radiates the concept of ‘comfort in your own skin’” – Rewina, Lorde Inc model and artist

You two both have pretty big social media presence. How important has social media been to developing your creative voices?

Azha: Tumblr has played an important role for me especially with Shade magazine and my photography. I have met so many artists and friends from Tumblr and Instagram and am constantly in awe by the sense of community and support. Rewina and I met on Instagram. We used to lurk each other and we confused photos of San Francisco muni for NYC subways. We finally realised we both live in SF and have been homies ever since. You can connect and get your voice out to so many people through social media.

Rewina: Utilising social media is very helpful when it comes to sharing my creative voice. I’m generally a shy person, especially when it comes to my art, so sharing anything on social media is automatically a challenge. But recently I’ve been more open to sharing my work and the outcome has presented me with opportunities to design and creatively direct with other people. I strongly encourage people (especially young artists) to put themselves out there positively on social media and not be afraid to create a platform for yourself.