You’ve listened to our chat with Dear Kate founder and chief creative officer, Julie Sygiel, and heard how we fell in love with the different shapes, sizes, and stories of women brave enough to strip down to their underwear to model the different Dear Kate styles on the website. We were lucky enough to speak with two of those models: Ty Alexander, the creator of beauty and lifestyle blog Gorgeous In Grey, and Golly magazine founder and editor-in-chief, Roxanne Fequiere. Here’s what they had to say about representation in media, beauty icons, and of course, underwear.
How did you both get involved with Dear Kate?
RF: I’ve been a fan of the brand for a couple of years, but I first got involved with them when we featured Dear Kate underwear in one of Golly’s fashion editorials. Julie and her team have been so incredibly supportive of Golly from the very beginning, and it’s always a pleasure to sync up with them in any capacity.
TA: Dear Kate reached out to me via email and I thought it would be the perfect collaboration.
You’re both in industries where black women have been underrepresented – beauty, fashion, and print media. Did the lack of black women voices have anything to do with your decision to start Golly and Gorgeous in Grey?
TA: When I first start Gorgeous In Grey, it was just a place for me to share my voice on the things that I loved. I didn’t realize the need or the impact that my blog would have in the black community until much later in blogging. I started to receive emails from women praising me for things I had written and sharing their personal stories with me.
RF: Even as it’s become commonplace to hear about the lack of diversity in women’s interest magazines—and runways and movies and television and boardrooms and so on—it remains frustratingly uncommon to see any actual changes taking place. I spent years waiting patiently to see someone like myself and my peers reflected in the magazines I loved. Eventually, I realized I’d either have to do it myself or wait around forever.
Dear Kate is one of those unfortunately rare brands that seems to view inclusivity as important. The diversity amongst the models is one of the reasons why Black Girls Talking was so excited to link up with them. Do you think this type of representation is important, not just in terms of Dear Kate, but with your own work?
TA: Absolutely! It’s very important for women (especially of color) to be able to feel like they are included. Not just in the conversations we have, but all in our everyday lives. I applaud Dear Kate for taking a stance in making sure that all women are represented in their brand.
RF: In a perfect world, inclusivity wouldn’t be seen as an act worthy of celebration, but rather a general prerequisite for doing business. Until we reach that point, however, it’s definitely a central component of my work and a huge part of the reason Golly exists.
As an editor-in-chief and curator, you’re both very much in control of your work. What are some things that go into your decision of selecting partnerships and who to collaborate with?
RF: I’m learning about these things as I go, but if there’s a brand or company that I’m excited about before the prospect of a collaboration is on the table, then it’s probably going to make for a great partnership. That rule of thumb has worked out well so far.
TA: Women look to me to tell the truth. They look to me for an authentic voice. So while this is my full-time job and bills are due, I have to make sure it’s a brand I believe in. I have to make I collaborate with brands who have our best interests in mind. Especially with beauty. I am starting to distance myself from brands who do not cater to darker skins tones. Ultimately, my reader is the most important person to me.
Who were your beauty/fashion/culture inspirations, if any?
RF: Françoise Hardy, Sade, Patti McGee, Eartha Kitt, Katharine Hepburn, Rhoda Morgenstern, Faye Dunaway in The Eyes of Laura Mars, Parker Posey in Party Girl…I could go on forever.
TA: My mother was my biggest influence growing up. She’s still the prettiest woman in my eyes. She was my first example of beauty. If I have to look to Hollywood for that example I would say I like simple girls like Nia Long, Sanna Lathan and Kerry Washington. Women who are flawless with out the makeup.
What is your fave item of clothing/beauty product?
TA: ASOS. They are the best for curvy women and I stay in the “for sale” section.
RF: I have such vivid teenage memories of struggling in department store fitting rooms with skirts and pants that would perform feats of awkwardness on me—bagging at the waist, strained at the hips, hems that would take flight at my backside. As a result, I have such a deep appreciation for my small collection of black pants, usually high-waisted and altered by a tailor to fit like a glove. They’re very rare.
How would you compare the atmosphere working with a “diversity first” company like Dear Kate to more traditional brands (if you’ve experienced working with another company)?
TA: A lot brands are trying to change women and tell them what they should be wearing. Dear Kate is one of the few brands that is saying, “if you are like this, you might like this!” That’s important to me. It’s means you’ve done your research and you’re working towards my end goal, not yours.
RF: I’m not a fan of having my picture taken in general, so posing in my underwear is something that I probably only would have done for Dear Kate. I assumed I’d be a nervous wreck the entire time, but the entire experience was surprisingly relaxed and low-key. As for more traditional brands, my experiences with them are limited, but I did once participate in a photo shoot where I had about a pound of cosmetics spackled onto my face—I don’t wear makeup and had asked for the bare minimum—and was told to just tend to my own hair, which I wear natural. Never again.
Why would you recommend Dear Kates?
RF: For the vast majority of my clothes-conscious years, I mistakenly thought of underwear as an unseen and therefore unimportant component of my wardrobe. Although I’ve since realized the error of my ways, I still tend to balk at paying a ton of money for a whisper-thin sliver of fabric. Dear Kate occupies an awesome and all too narrow realm of underwear that blends form, function, and affordability.
Dear Kate names their styles after notable women in history/pop culture, who do you think should make an appearance?
TA: Maybe Nina. After Nina Simone. She was such a gorgeous soul.
RF: Alma Woodsey Thomas. Helen Frankenthaler. How beautiful would those be?
What new styles/idea would you like to see in upcoming seasons for Dear Kate?
RF: Tough call. They’ve been doing such a great job with each new collection that I’m just looking forward to seeing what comes next! But seriously, some Alma Woodsey Thomas and Helen Frankenthaler-inspired prints would be so good.
TA: Definitely a bra that fits us women with more than a handful to hold.
What are your favorite pair of Dear Kates?
RF: The Margot set. The shade of blue is so rich even after approximately umpteen washes, and the high-waist brief has a just-right rise.
TA: Too hard to choose. They all feel like heaven and unicorn hairs.
Photos via Dear Kate
**Don’t forget to use code “blackgirlstalking” at checkout for 25% off your first purchase from Dear Kate!