This Lingerie Brand Simultaneously Empowers Single Moms In Colombia & The Women Who Wear It

naja-lingerie

When you think of lingerie, Victoria’s Secret is often the first brand that comes to mind. Since they dominate 40% of the lingerie market, it’s easy to see why. Every year the brand puts on a major fashion show with some of the biggest names in the modeling world taking part in their runway show, exhibiting the latest VS designs, while celebrity musicians perform on stage alongside them.

Although they are a well-loved brand, they have a very problematic message. They have yet to show a range of body sizes and ages in their major campaigns, but hey at least they are doing ok representing different ethnicities. There are a number of other lingerie brands which claim VS should take better responsibility in this area, given they hold such power in the lingerie market, and lead the way on diversity in their imagery.

Generally speaking, the line between portraying sexy lingerie as an empowering consumer product and flat-out objectifying women’s bodies is often blurred in the industry. But one brand is determined to set themselves apart on this issue alone.

Naja is a San Francisco-based brand launched in 2013 by entrepreneur Catalina Girald. She specifically created Naja to empower women, as an antidote to what she saw as a harmful message being spread by Victoria’s Secret.

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“You can be standing in underwear and be feeling strong and look sexy and beautiful without opening your mouth, leaning forward and looking like you’re going to give somebody a blowjob — which is pretty much what Victoria’s Secret models do most of the time,” Catalina boldly says in an interview with NextShark.

Catalina is no ordinary entrepreneur. She has built her brand off the back of hard work, failure, and a passion to ensure every aspect of her business stays true to her message, not just what you see on the outside. Catalina was born in Colombia and moved to the United States with her family when she was 4.

The former New York City-based lawyer has an MBA from Stanford University, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and infuses her world travel experience into her entrepreneurial ideas. As the founder, CEO and creative director of Naja, Catalina teamed up with Golden Globe Award-winning actress Gina Rodriguez (‘Jane The Virgin’) after both were featured in a Proctor and Gamble series about up-and-coming Latinas, and decided to create a business that had empowerment at its core.

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What that means is the message is found not just in an ad campaign, but is evident in the manufacturing processes, marketing techniques and the final products worn by consumers. Catalina admits it is hard to balance the notion of empowering women for their sexuality without objectifying them in any way.

“A lot of it has to do with when we look at our marketing and how our models pose. We at Naja make sure that your sexuality is also part of your empowerment, but the way that we do it is witty,” she said, calling it “intelligent sexuality”, and using the example of a pair of panties with a picture of an ice cream cone on it.

“If you see a little girl looking at it she’s going to say, ‘Mommy look at the ice cream cone,’ but if you’re older you might think something else…it’s witty, intelligent, but not the spread out your legs and show your cleavage kind of thing,” she said.

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The reason she decided to take on the lingerie market was because she and her friends no longer identified with Victoria’s Secret as a brand that empowered them.

“Their advertising is something that does not at all empower women and the message that it’s sending women is, ‘You must be sexually pleasing to a man in order to be worthy’. Those are the kinds of messages that make women automatically deferential to men. It’s also teaching men that it’s okay to treat women that way,” she pointed out.

She did have a difficult time initially trying to convince investors to invest money in her start-up. Most of the Silicon Valley men didn’t understand her reasoning behind creating a lingerie brand based on female empowerment.

“I got this a couple of times from an investor: ‘Why would I invest in a company that wants to take away Victoria’s Secret marketing — I like Victoria’s Secret’s catalog?’”

She ended up finding an investor, and together with her own money, started out with 100,000 to get her idea off the ground. Now as for infusing female empowerment into every aspect of the brand, this is what makes Naja so cool.

Influenced by the lives of women she met while traveling around the world and learning about the different levels of equality, Catalina made a key decision to help women in Colombia, her homeland, also be empowered by her idea. Her manufacturing facilities are based in Medellin where at-risk single mothers are employed and sew each of the items in the collection.

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But that’s not all. Through the Underwear for Hope program which employs the Colombian women, the brand donates 2% of very Naja purchase to local foundations who employ women. An empowering phrase is sewn into every pair of panties, as somewhat of a poignant message from the women who sewed it all the way to the women who will buy and wear it.

The brand is also conscious of the environment. They use digital and sublimation printing technologies to print the garments, which are the most environmentally friendly processes for creating printed fabric and reduce the need to waste. This way they don’t have to contribute to the billions of gallons of water used each year to dye fabric for the garment industry. Wherever possible, they also use fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles.

This is the kind of brand that we need to see more of in the lingerie market. One that cares about every aspect of the manufacturing and marketing process. Instead of creating campaigns and initiatives to force Victoria’s Secret to be the brand we really want, we encourage more female entrepreneurs who are inspired by Catalina’s story to launch your own idea that seeks to truly empower women.

They may not have Gisele, Adriana or Alessandra modeling their bra and panties in their campaigns, but the fact that single mothers in Colombia are given an opportunity for financial freedom, the product is made specifically to protect the environment whereever possible, and the wearer does not have to buy into the whole objectification thing to feel sexy, we’d much prefer a Naja piece any day.

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One Comment

  1. Pingback: This Entrepreneur's Underwear Line For Women Is A Game-Changer In Adaptable Clothing - GirlTalkHQ

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