TRUE RAD GIRL
Free, fierce and gloriously unapologetic, Silent Arrow is the edgy lingerie brand we’ve been pining for. Their bold designs and stylish cuts may look too sexy to be comfortable. However, the brand boasts snug underwear with soft, flexible fabrics. Silent Arrow uses fashion as a platform to promote diversity and body confidence; plus-size women with body hair, tattoos, and shaved heads model their underwear (and look badass whilst doing it.) Even more impressively, Silent Arrow donates a pair of underwear to women in need with each purchase.
The Melbourne Critique caught up with the founder and creative director of Silent Arrow, Kelly Barrett, to discuss how she used her skills to help women in need, and how we can find empowerment through sexy self-expression.
Tell us about your background in fashion and what inspired you to start Silent Arrow?
I studied at the London College of Fashion and then worked at various large companies for about 10 years. I decided it was time to do my own business in private label (developing for other brands) product, that was about 10 years ago. My youngest child was 3 and I felt like it was time to have 100% creative control and do something that is me. It has been really liberating not having to edit what I want to say and do both creatively and as a woman.
What sets your brand apart from the crowd?
Lingerie is a funny business, overall it is super old-fashioned. There are 2 polar messages – seduction or practical and ugly. Silent Arrow doesn’t sit totally in either; I make lingerie that is hot, yes, but not just for the male gaze. It is also comfortable and well fitting, without compromising expression.
Where do you draw inspiration for your designs?
Everywhere. I do look at clothing a lot. Right now, I am obsessed with oversized androgynous clothing which actually makes me want to do more feminine lingerie to juxtapose that look. I think women will want that – I do. I also am conscious of what a woman needs from a practical perspective. If you are wearing high-waisted lightweight trousers you don’t want lines across your bum, so definitely high-waisted knickers.
All your models are so unique. Why is it important to promote diversity and body confidence in fashion?
Let’s face it, we look at .01% of the population when we see a typical model. Even the model doesn’t look like that, a lot of work goes into creating that image of so called perfection.
We are heavily influenced by what we see. We only have to see one image that represents us in the media and we feel better about ourselves. It is really powerful stuff. You can say you aren’t influenced, but we all are. I really want to represent women for how we actually look and have a positive instead of negative effect.
How can fashion be used as a tool for empowerment?
A lot of women that buy Silent Arrow share photos on Instagram, they are showing their body to the world on their terms and claiming their right to self-expression without fear of attack and judgement. I really love that. I feel like that is a game changer. Being sexy for your own empowerment is so rad.
So, tell us a bit about your underwear donation initiative. How does it work, and what motivated you to do it?
I always felt that my job didn’t help society at all and wished I could do more. For my private label business, we would have overstocks or deleted lines and I would donate them to women’s shelters, rape crisis centers (Pacific), Fiji, and foster teenage girls. I didn’t think much of it until I got some really incredible feedback once about how much it meant to the women and how there is dignity in a new pair of clean undies. I had an epiphany that my job could be helpful, I could use my skills to help.
The product I had to donate wasn’t always very practical, and I wanted to make a pair of comfy cotton undies that I would be proud to give. I wasn’t sure how I would fund it to be an ongoing resource, so when I started Silent Arrow, I realized I had the perfect vehicle. I knew that other women also wanted to help, so integrating it into each purchase was a no brainer.
The way it works is that every item purchased donates a pair of undies to a woman in need. If one order has 3 items, 3 pairs are donated. So far, we have worked with homeless women, domestic abuse shelters, period packs for overseas, and an Aboriginal women’s health center.
What are your goals and visions for the future?
I am really loving what I am doing, I feel like I have come home to myself; so more of what I am doing now.