The young female fashion label pushing sex positivity with their SFW genital prints
Walking around the streets of your neighborhood, you just don't see a lot of balls on clothing.
Or vulvas. Or penis tips. Or even nipples for that matter.
After all, we're taught these things are gross. They're private and embarrassing; too imperfect and smelly and lopsided to be considered as wearable by the pedantic world of fashion.
But, if San Francisco-based fashion brand AS IS has their way, that'll all change soon. They've just come out with a line of tops bearing an endearingly crude genital print, something they're hoping will shift the conversation about sexual organs as nasty little flesh sacks plagued by puritanical taboo to one that works to increase both sex and body positivity.
AS IS began when artists Alex Steele and Samantha Ives met at the giant craft fair West Coast Craft. They'd been huge fans of each other's work on Instagram, but had never met. Once they were stationed next to each other at the fair though, they realized their mutual love of all things corporeal would make a great collaborative fashion project.
They got together and started drawing and doodling an assortment of body parts, hoping something would speak to them from the din.
And it did: male genitalia. In amongst the ears and hairlines and noses went the parts of men rarely seen, creating an interesting juxtaposition of parts both private and public. This, they felt, created standardization. No one part was more private, nor more taboo than any other.
"Both of us use a lot of body part motifs in our own designs," Alex says. "So, that was a natural way to merge our styles and to come up with a theme we could collaborate and expand on. We wanted to come up with a design and concept that abstracted the body into parts, sexual and not."
The finished product boasts boobs, penis heads, vulvas and 12 other distinct body parts make their way onto the unisex tanks and tunics. And with each organ being hand-drawn by Sam and Alex, no two pieces are the same. You might wind up with no balls on your tank-top, or you might hit the jackpot and score more bubblegum than you can chew.
This random assortment of flying body parts is actual intentional though; something that's central to Sam and Alex's message.
"None of this is intended to be sexual, though we do appreciate the conversations it starts because it addresses stigma," explains Alex. "Rather, it's anatomical. By placing the genitals within the general jumble of eyes and lips and other parts, we're essentially saying it's all the same stuff. All body parts hold the same weight. We hope that helps correct the taboo aspect — if you think about it from an anatomical standpoint, a ball is really no more outrageous than a finger." All body parts can be equally sexual or non-sexual, the print seems to say.
Ask anyone with a foot or hair fetish, and they'll tend to agree.
Also integral to the print's message of sex and body positivity is that it's surprisingly SFW — the intentional crudeness of the line drawings successfully dilutes any sense of the obscene. This helps AS IS make the assertion that body parts — regardless of how they look — aren't gross or taboo; they're simple and they're beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that you can wear proudly them on a shirt to your social media marketing job or to the store to pick up 16 rutabagas without any sense of shame or embarrassment. They just are what they are.
"It's not so much about wearing balls on your shirt, or wearing a penis tip on your shirt," says Sam. "It's more about saying that, from an aesthetic standpoint, this looks interesting. There's aesthetic value in it even if it's imperfect. Body parts aren't something to be ashamed about, they're something to be celebrated."
The print also takes aim at the relative abundance of feminine nudity in fashion compared to that of men; breasts and feminine curves are plastered everywhere from billboards to perfume bottles, yet the male form is rarely depicted as a casual, wearable object. In the rare cases that it is, it's usually presented as either humorous or threatening, neither of which give male organs a chance to considered as beautiful from a purely aesthetic standpoint. That's why the AS IS print pushes boundaries — not a lot of people walk around rocking a dick just for the sake of dick.
"Everyone has genitals. They all look weird," Alex says. "It's the most normal thing."
Both girls agree that fashion, while traditionally an avenue for body shame, can be reworked into a system of body positivity. In our strange little society today, we're held to a certain unattainable standard when it comes to fashion; told we have to fit into impossible dresses, keep our thighs a certain distance apart or downplay our natural asymmetries in the hopes of giving off some untrue sense of perfection. They hope their line, which is intentionally cut to fit all shapes and sizes of figure, will help people celebrate, not be ashamed of the massive meat sack attached to their heads. You can, as their print proves, have an imperfection or an anatomical idiosyncrasy, and represent that with pride through fashion.
Scroll down to see AS IS' print in action, and check out their Instagram here to see what else they've been working on.