Talking to the designer of Janelle Monáe’s instantly iconic ‘vagina pants’

‘I googled vaginas and started designing’

Janelle Monáe described her video for “PYNK” as a “brash celebration of creation, self love, sexuality, and pussy power” in a statement accompanying its release earlier this week. The song is Monáe’s second collaboration with Grimes following 2015’s “Venus Fly”, and sees her sing about the vagina over a soft electro-funk beat, a celebration of both femininity and queer sexuality: “Pink like the inside of your, baby / Pink behind all of the doors, crazy / Pink like the tongue that goes down, maybe / Pink like the paradise found.”

The video carries those themes over with imagery like a peeled citrus fruit, a pink hover car, and, most notably, the giant trousers that Monáe and her backing dancers wear, which the internet was quick to dub ‘vagina pants’. The pants were created by designer Duran Lantink, who was enlisted by the film’s director Emma Westenberg (the two had previously studied together in Amsterdam). Given a very direct brief of “vaginas” and seven days to make them, he enlisted a small team to help create the yonic looks in time for the shoot in LA.

“It was a 24/7 job,” Lantink tells us. “We had seven days in total to finish the outfits. We made a micro factory, where one person was in charge of cutting, another for sewing, and another for pleating.” The result? Puffy, pink silk pants with tulle layering, that look just like a vagina. Naturally, people are obsessed. And if that weren’t enough to make you smile, Tessa Thompson – Monáe’s friend and rumoured partner – popping out of them with a huge grin on her face, is enough to make your day.

Here, we speak with Lantink on creating the looks for Monáe’s video.

How did the creating the look for Janelle's video come about?

Duran Lantink: The director, Emma Westenberg, called me and asked me to pitch seven outfits for Janelle Monáe and her backing dancers which needed to have a vagina look and feel. Janelle wanted to see the sketches too, so I had around 24 hours to come up with the idea. I googled vaginas and started designing, it was crazy.

Did she come to you with the idea already, or did you collaborate on the pieces?

Duran Lantink: They already had some sketches of fabrics draped around the neck, turning it into a vagina, but I decided to pitch something different. I really loved the idea of a giant vagina as legs. Janelle loved it, so we tweaked it into something we both loved.

Were there any vaginal artworks that inspired the pieces?

Duran Lantink: I love the work of Marlene Dumas, especially “Mandy” and “Dorothy”, but to be honest, I just googled vaginas and went to the market to find the perfect colours and materials. So all the inspiration came from that.

“I googled vaginas and started designing” – Duran Lantink

How did you create them?

Duran Lantink: The base is made of stretch cotton, the inside part of the vagina is pleated silk. There’s also tulle and silk to give it a soft and cosy feeling. We didn’t know Janelle’s size, so we just had to guess. Obviously we guessed wrong… they were for a model size, so were way too long.

In the end, my assistant and I had to fly from Amsterdam to LA to give us some extra time to finish the looks. It was crazy! My assistant was hand sewing in the airport and on the plane. Luckily, the fittings went well when we were on location and Janelle was super happy with the outfits.

Is there a political message behind the pants?

Duran Lantink: It’s about embracing your sexuality; PUSSY POWER!