Where did the name “We are the pants project” come from?
“The Pants Project” is our official name and domain, but “We are the pants project” is actually just our Instagram handle because VERY annoyingly, someone had sneakily taken “The Pants Project” already. I suppose that’s one of social media’s major downfalls!
“The Pants Project” came from when I was in Hospital getting treatment for MRKH, so that I could lose my virginity to my boyfriend (3 years on and he’s still a saint). MRKH affects one in 50,000 women, it is formally known as Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome (my dad likes to call it Marrakech), and it basically means I was born without a womb. I’ll never have a period. I’ll never give birth to my own child. When I wanted to have sex, I had to undergo invasive long-term treatment that meant creating myself an internal vagina; women with MRKH have to have an operation and/or stretch their vaginas with ‘dilators’ (basically glorified medical dildos). I remember when I was diagnosed, the words took a long time to actually sink in – I’d never really expected something to actually be wrong, an actual expectation for why I never had a period.
I spent the last full day of treatment, creating myself this all singing, all dancing vagina so that I could have sex, in floods of tears with my nurse. I was feeling incredibly unconfident, abnormal and imperfect in every sense – I felt broken and as though I was missing something. My nurse told me that one of the best things a woman can do for her body confidence is to "buy some lingerie that makes you feel like the super woman that you are”. I’d never really bought myself underwear and usually made do with M&S multipacks, but I was pretty desperate so I followed her advice and bought myself my first pair of power pants. Every time I put them on I felt invincible and whole; something I had totally forgotten how to feel. The more I wore them, the more my confidence grew. In committing myself to an act of self love that meant not changing the way I was, and merely adorning myself with a badge of acceptance, I grew above and beyond the syndrome that I had let define me… who knew a pair of pants could do all of that! After a year of harbouring pants power as my deepest darkest secret, I realised the stupidity in not sharing the gift I was given. I never wanted women to feel the way I did, and I wanted to share the self-love I had for myself, so I thought up a way of being able to do that. I started a non-profit organisation that used social media to raise awareness for infertility and promote self-love and acceptance, whilst selling pants to raise money for Fertility Network UK, Britain’s leading infertility charity. I wanted to create a safe space for women to talk about their issues with infertility, and to feel like it’s a topic that is okay to talk about – it doesn’t have to be brushed under the rug. If I was to summarise The Pants Project into five words, it would sound something like this: ‘All-powerful female underwear, fighting infertility.’
How do you envision the pants project 10 years from now
I’ll let you in on a secret and tell you that next year (2018) we are (fingers crossed) launching our first, very own Pants Project underwear line that will be non-profit and hopefully inspire women to wear underwear for themselves, to empower themselves, whilst also buying into a consumerism that gives back. Yes, you are buying yourself something new, but you’re doing it for you and you’re also helping raise awareness and funds for women’s issues. In my book, that’s a win win. 10 years from now, I envisage The Pants Project as it’s own underwear empire. However, it will not be a Victoria’s Secret or Agent Provocateur, it will be a community of women that hold each other up, empower each other, give back to issues like infertility, rape, genital mutilation, period poverty, mental health etc, and looks fucking great in Pants Project underwear whilst doing it. I want The Pants Project to grow so that it can help more people, as many as possible, and inspire others to start projects of their own so that we can start chipping away at the bad in the world and replace it with #PowerPants.
If you could have a chat over a cup of tea with anyone, dead or alive, real or imagery who would it be and why?
There are some incredible people, dead and alive, that I of course dream of meeting and are continually inspired by aka Malala Yousafzai, Amal Clooney, The Queen, Gloria Steinem, Barack and Michelle Obama, Frida Kahlo etc etc, but the person I would choose for a chat over a cup of tea is my mum. She has helped myself and my family through incredible difficulty, and done so with consistent grace and kindness and I really look up to her more than anyone else in the world. She’s not perfect, no one is, but what she has achieved in her life is remarkable. Your mother is the first woman you meet in your life, arguably the one who shapes it the most, and mine just so happens to be my best friend, inspiration and all- round life guru. She’s a goddess. I also miss her a lot at Uni and she makes a mean cup of Earl Grey.
Describe a perfect day for you?
A perfect day for me would be waking up (always a good start), putting on my favourite pair of #PowerPants (they’re tatty and white and are covered in moth-holes, but they make me feel supreme), eating my dad’s Eggy bread for breakfast, taking my dogs for a walk, having copious amounts of tea, reading my favourite book (Lolita) and then going out to the pub with my boyfriend and all the people I love but haven’t seen in forever. It would also not involve my phone in any capacity. My life is such a chaotic mess of continuous submersion in people and places and things, my perfect day would just be simple and one to one and tangible, instead of through a screen. That probably makes no sense haha!
Do you feel you will see totally equality in your lifetime.
Honestly, sadly, I don’t. We have just seen America (supposed leader of the free world) reject their potential first female president and instead opt for a grossly bigoted, sexually harassing, racist, regressive, idiotic, tweeting, wotsit (English cheeto) coloured moron, who has taken America backwards about 30 years. It seems to be a one step forward 15 steps back scenario at the moment, so although I can feel change, I can’t see much manifestation of it yet and I’m almost a quarter of the way through my lifetime! But I do believe, at some stage, the world will see total equality. Whether that’s our children’s time or our children’s children’s time… I just know so many of us are so full of hope that it would be impossible not to manifest it eventually… we’d probably all explode otherwise.
What song makes you feel the most sexy?
‘I Just Want to Make Love To You’ by Etta James. Man, I love that song so much. It’s just pure, unbridled, unapologetic female passion way before it’s time. We women owe Etta a lot.
What’s your life motto?
All you need is pants. Obviously. By that I mean you already have everything inside you to succeed, you just need to believe in yourself. Pants are my way of believing in myself.
Photography: Nastassja Anne Thompson
Interview and Styling: Safiya Yekwai