Words by Lyndsey Brennan, Contributor. Photos by Thomas Chimney, Contributor.
The first time I met Hana Baran, she was wearing a grey Calvin Klein sports bra, a matching pair of shorts and nothing else.
I do not know why this surprised me. She is, after all, the CEO of a lingerie company. But I was surprised, and pleasantly so, because she did not apologize for being indecent or throw on a T-shirt. She was so unabashedly comfortable in her body that I found myself relaxing too.
Baran, a sophomore fashion merchandising major at #Kent State, founded and ran the eco-friendly, body-positive brand Social Lingerie out of her dorm room her freshman year. Since then, the brand has grown to a creative team of nine and prides itself on being “the first all-inclusive lingerie brand in existence,” its website states. This means the brand accepts anyone who approaches them to model, no matter what they look like or what factors caused them to be turned down for modeling jobs in the past.
“I gravitate toward people who love themselves unapologetically, and I wanted more people represented,” Baran says. “We’re all so fucking sexy.”
The goal of Social Lingerie is to encourage people of all sizes, races, gender expressions and sexual orientations “to share their bodies, even when society doesn’t encourage them to,” Baran says. This was evident at Social Lingerie’s Valentine’s Day fashion show Feb. 14, where a #diverse group of models walked the runway to the thunderous, enthusiastic response of the students in attendance.
As each model strutted past, the audience clapped, whistled and shouted affirmations. The models responded by walking more powerfully, hitting their poses with more emphasis or lifting their chins with confidence. Some of them, taken by surprise at the response, broke character and looked amused. A few even smiled.
Samantha Flucht, a sophomore fashion design major, says modeling for the Valentine’s Day show was a great experience. The audience’s response put her at ease immediately and made her feel safe.
“A lot of fashion shows tend to be silent, which makes me feel self-conscious,” she says. “I’m glad they hyped up the crowd.”
Flucht, who identifies as bisexual, felt the same positive response when she auditioned to model.
“Hana almost made me cry. (She and her team) were so nice, and they were cheering,” Flucht says. “They genuinely wanted to support you and make you feel comfortable.”
Baran’s devotion to creating atmospheres where all people can celebrate their bodies is apparent from the design of her shows.
“I don’t think (all-inclusiveness) should be political, but it is. So I try to make our brand as political as possible,” Baran says. “For instance, the candy hearts we hung for the show. We try to reclaim words like ‘cunt,’ ‘gay’ and ‘slut.’ If someone in our community is hurt, we should all feel hurt.”
Flucht says that with such a diverse model lineup, Social Lingerie does not just preach inclusiveness — it lives it.
“Clubs on campus and school-sanctioned shows want an ideal body type or skin tone,” she says. “Hana has a different perspective. She’s done a really good job educating herself about (inclusivity).”
Body positivity is not the only issue Social Lingerie tackles. The brand also practices environmental consciousness by upcycling.
“We have to,” Baran says. “Clothing consumption is destroying our Earth, and the third-world labor is horrific. Billions of pounds of textiles end up in landfills every year.”
Social Lingerie aims to alleviate some of the strain the fashion industry puts on the environment by reducing clothing waste. Baran and her team take bras, bodysuits, corsets and robes that are “just sitting on the rack” in thrift stores, clean them, restore them and put them back into the world.
The most frequent piece of negative feedback Baran hears is that the brand is just buying and selling lingerie at a higher price. However, the team puts in the labor to thoroughly clean (“five or six times”) and repair the garments they acquire by adding new fabric and bows over stains and adding panels to create plus-size garments.
Social Lingerie is a non-profit company, and Baran considers it a “passion project” for everyone involved.
“(My team and the models) are so willing to donate their time and energy, and more than that, their passion, emotions and souls to Social Lingerie. We are all 100% invested in this and think about it every single day,” Baran says. “Every purchase supports body positivity in the community.”
The night of the Valentine’s Day fashion show, Social Lingerie made $650 and sold most of its inventory. With each garment selling for around $20, Baran considers that a success. When she sees models enjoying and customers purchasing lingerie she worked to restore, that confirms that her vision is important, and the work was worth it.
“That’s how I know what I’m doing is right.”