It was May 2020 when I was scrolling my Instagram feed and had an idea.
I saw a social media post from Lux Lucis, one of Forage’s brand ambassadors, discussing body hair, beauty and what it means to “feel feminine.” The post spoke to me about a topic that I hadn't quite put into my own words yet.
I have had my own personal journey with body acceptance, and had to put a fair bit of work in to accept my body for what it is and not to feel “less than” for never having had the flat stomach and toned body so celebrated in my teenage years.
One of the things that helped was being able to design my own clothing which matched my body shape. I have always designed my clothes on my own body, and being curvier: tall with boobs and a tummy, I would pride myself on having clothes that fitted and flattered a curvier body shape.
After having children, my body changed, an experience shared by many mothers. I found that while I had always proudly stated that my clothing looked great on “all sizes,” much of it no longer fitted my new size. This was the first suggestion to me that my brand was possibly not as inclusive as I had once thought.
I continued to design clothes on my own body, mainly because I predominantly wear a mix of thrifted clothes and my own designs. (My more recent collections of jumper dresses and kimonos are pretty much all I wear, interchangeable depending on the weather!)
As my children began to grow, I was becoming more aware of the beauty standards they are exposed to at such a young age and I swore I would never speak negatively about my body in front of my daughter. She deserves to grow up feeling full of self-love and not trying to fit into society’s impossible ideals.
But I had to mean it, not just say it.
I saw that making true peace with my changing body would involve some work on my part.
Unlearning unrealistic body standards
I began a journey of re-education myself, reading books and embarked on a series of life coaching courses.
I realised that there was a point in my teenage years where i had made the decision that "My Body Was Wrong" and from that moment onwards that was my story, regardless of my actual weight.
My dress size went up and down over the years, but that voice never changed. I finally understood that the idea that my body was wrong actually had nothing to do with my body, and was simply a story in my mind that i was now ready to let go of.
I removed weight loss goals from my exercise routine and started to move purely for the joy of it. I continued to enjoy healthy, nutritious foods while removing restrictions and guilt from my diet.
I started by having a look at the social media I was consuming.
I began to curate my own social media feed to represent lots of different shapes, sizes, skin tones, and abilities. I unfollowed accounts that praised weight loss, or that associated only thinness with health. I educated myself about fatphobia and how we can be healthy at any size.
The result of this was finally a feeling of pride in my achievements, who I am and what my body can do, and a sense of peace and body neutrality that I could now authentically share with my children.
Tiktok video link
During this process, I noticed that while I was exposing myself to all this diversity, the content I was creating for Forage did not really reflect that. I have had the honour of working with some incredibly talented and inspiring models and creators. However, there was clearly a focus on one demographic: young, slim, white women. I realised that I was not even representing myself in my own marketing content.
Creating social media content is complicated. Most posts and stories are filtered, we delete the photos we don't like the look of (if it’s from the wrong angle, we spot a tummy roll, or identify any “imperfections”), and we typically present ourselves in a certain, manufactured way.
This also extends beyond aesthetics and into how we present ourselves emotionally. We mostly show one side of ourselves. It's as if we have very uncomplicated lives, but in reality we are so much deeper and richer and more fascinating than that.
We have struggles and stories that add to our beauty and vibrancy.
Hatching a plan to showcase real beauty
I believe that the work I do is what I put into the world, it is my contribution. Now I want to see something different in the world and online, and I want to reflect that in what I’m creating. When I realised this, I knew it was time for me to make a change.
I began to hatch a plan for a project. I was imagining some kind of marketing campaign that would touch, move and inspire my customers, and ensure my followers would feel truly represented and celebrated. Something that would ignite a spark in me and in others. Something that would push my boundaries, get myself out of my comfort zone, require a new level of fearlessness, and ultimately serve to bring my business ever closer to my values.
The plan started to form: Bodies we do not usually see represented in fashion, set in a scene of breathtaking beauty. The jewellery is there, but is not the main focus. The main focus is the people, in all their complexity, sharing their stories and celebrating what makes them uniquely beautiful and powerful.
I designed a jewellery collection specifically for the project using raw irregular crystals finished with 18k gold. It felt like the perfect opportunity to experiment for the first time with gold and gold plating. These stones are rough cut, beautiful and naturally formed. There are discolourations, blemishes and irregularities in the stones themselves.
Each piece in the collection varies ever so slightly, they are not carbon copies of each other, and nor should they be. You should expect to be surprised and charmed by a piece in this collection varying slightly from the image on the website.
It’s not difficult to see the parallels between the jewellery itself and the message I am trying to convey, that we do not need to aspire to be carbon copies of each other, pretty and uncomplicated.
Bringing together a team of powerful contributors
I started the process of organising the project by creating social media posts and sending emails to put together a group of passionate people who wanted to be a part of my vision. Slowly, it all began to come together.
We found an incredible photographer, Rachel Hardwick, who regularly works within alternative, LGBTQ and sex worker communities.
A friend of mine, Emma Peterson, who is an experienced florist, joined as our set designer and we spent time finding some incredible contributors who could share their stories with us.
Noomi Yates, an experienced filmmaker who I knew personally from her side projects of horror movies and the alias of Noomi Spook got involved, and at this point we were well on our way!
We had our crew together and the wonderful Lux Lucis, who had originally sparked the idea in my mind, joined in as an assistant and a friendly ear to share ideas and advice with.
We began to discuss making it more than just a photoshoot, but collecting footage and making a film too, leaning on Noomi Yates and her editing skills, and bringing in Florence Pellacini as our videographer, along with Margherita Fabbro as our wonderful make-up artist. After several weeks of searching and speaking to potential candidates, we found the perfect people to be the contributors to the project.
Cyndi Akbar, who has used her journey and growing out her body and eyebrow hair to convey a powerful message for anti-bullying self-love and self acceptance.
Margie Belle Muise, who uses her social media to promote mental health awareness, body positivity and feminism, shared with us her moving story of mental health diagnosis and what that made available to her.
Read Margie's Story
And Fox Al Rajim, who shared their incredibly moving story of discovering gender fluidity after fleeing Pakistan as a child, and their journey of rediscovering their Muslim faith as a non-binary member of the LGBTQ community.
The people sharing their stories happened to be in plus-sized bodies, but more importantly, the message is about their journeys, their stories, and what advice they would give to their younger selves.
There was something truly remarkable about seeing that breathtaking set, made all the more special by the people placed on it. It disrupts the expectations somehow. As plus-sized women, we are so unused to seeing people like us in that position, we may begin to believe that it's because we are less worthy of that treatment. This will apply to anyone who is marginalised by society as a whole, the underrepresentation can have an impact on self-esteem and self-worth.
Pushing my brand, pushing myself
You know who else got in front of the camera? ME! Something I would never usually have dreamed of doing, I got up and modelled one of the pieces of jewellery myself, on that stunning set surrounded by those incredible, powerful people.
This is a story of self confidence in that sense. I was daunted by the idea of organising such a project, and I'm still scared about not getting it quite right, putting myself out there and doing something bigger than I'm used to.
That's what the whole journey is about, stepping out of my comfort zone - not really in getting in front of the camera, but in pushing myself to do something inspiring and meaningful and showing myself that I can make it happen.
Ultimately, it's all about aligning my business with my values. I’ll reiterate that I believe the work I do is what I put into the world, my contribution. And as the videos get released in the coming weeks, I hope that some contribution is made. To be part of the movement of making people see their own beauty and know their own power, regardless of the body they live in.