For years lingerie has been vexed by vague promises of empowerment and inclusivity. Yet no amount of marketing speak – all body positivity, femininity, and loving your curves – can compensate for a complete lack of innovation. But where mass market lingerie still relies on homogenising individual bodies into symmetrical hourglass shapes, Michaela Stark, the Beyoncé approved Aussie designer, does the opposite, contorting the figure into wholly unrecognisable yet wildly romantic silhouettes.
Now based in London, Stark’s lingerie subverts the traditional dichotomy of reveal and conceal by pulling the torso into bulbous, doughy mounds while flesh balloons out of corset peepholes or spills over sinuous straps and bits of string. The couturier sausages the body into threadbare hosiery and off-kilter bodice work, enveloping folds of skin in chiffon, lace, and tangled ribbons. “I want to elevate plus size voices,” Stark says. “Regardless of how much I have morphed their bodies, the way that they look in my garments is always within their control.”
While Stark has mostly used her own body as muse, with the Dazed100 grant, she’d now like to extend this practice beyond herself, forging a 10 piece couture collection. “Body positivity is not a ‘one size fits all’ idea,” she says. “It needs to be catered towards different individuals to have cultural impact.” Spanning the spectrum of size and gender, this body of work would become the subject of a photo series or a catwalk show – something the designer describes as her “biggest aspiration”.
Text Daniel Rodgers