The pressures of body-image have an outstanding effect on young women and men as they are forced to conform to unrealistic beauty standards. In Asia specifically, the inability to speak up about the negative impacts created an overall stigma around the issue. However, Stella Moon, a company that designs ethical and sustainable handmade intimates is slowly paving the path toward creating a body-positive society in Hong Kong. We spoke with the founder, Monique Welsh, to get real about body-image and women empowerment. With Asia being so far behind in the body positive movement, Stella Moon defies the traditional stereotypes of how beauty is defined in Asian culture.
From Australia to Hong Kong
As the youngest of four, Monique Welsh grew up in a big family in Brisbane, Australia. With a seamstress mother, Welsh had been around fabrics and sewing machines from a young age. From the spare room turned sewing workshop, Welsh and her older sister would observe as their mother made their uniforms and costumes. “We always loved watching her sew,” Welsh explains. “That’s where my interest in sewing began.”
It’s only fitting that Welsh’s mother wanted her to follow in her footsteps. “She insisted that I get a job at a fabric store … mainly for her,” she jokes. Despite her mother believing she was destined to be a seamstress, Welsh didn’t share the same vision and instead pursued a traditional education by attending university. It wasn’t until she started making hand-sewn gifts for her sister and friends that she realized sewing was her true passion.
These simple yet personal gifts brought tremendous joy. “Just seeing that what I could create could instil that kind of happiness,” she explains inspired her to ultimately create what is now known as Stella Moon.
However, her biggest inspiration yet is herself. “I’ve always been a spontaneous person … a conventional pathway, working 9 to 5 wasn’t going to work for me,” she reveals. By choosing to abandon the traditional way and trusting her spontaneity, Welsh proved that her love for sewing would lead to her goal.
This isn’t the only area in her life where spontaneity proved to be an advantage in pointing her in the right direction. Her decision to move to Hong Kong was anything but planned. While waiting for a flight to finally begin their vacation, the idea arose as Welsh’s partner mentioned, “I think I’m going to apply for this job in Hong Kong.”
Bearing in mind that neither Welsh nor her partner had ever been to Hong Kong, she thought, “are you serious? That’s crazy!” Welsh laughed at the idea initially, but was quickly turned around by a visit to the city. “I absolutely fell in love with it,” she says. The hustle and bustle drew Welsh to city life. “Everyone’s always going somewhere,” she explains. This is when she realized that Hong Kong was the right place to launch Stella Moon.
Running the company on her own, Welsh always has her hands full. Welsh admits that managing her time between her personal and business life hasn’t been easy. Working from a room in her apartment which she converted into her studio, Welsh must find a balance. Despite scheduling herself certain days off, Welsh confesses that she finds herself “on Instagram, on social media … interacting with followers and doing all the digital marketing side of things, so that it’s always hard to switch off.”
Downtime during the quarantine has also helped Welsh discover other passions. “I’ve actually started painting,” she laughs. “We needed something to fill our walls.”
Addressing the issue of body image
Stella Moon was built with the focus of getting real about body image, especially in Hong Kong. “I want Stella Moon to be seen as a body-positive brand,” she shares. “I pride my brand on empowering women and accepting them for exactly who they are.”
Social media can contribute to body dysmorphia and other harmful mental illnesses. “It’s really easy to swipe through our feed and see how successful someone is or how good that girl’s body looks,” Welsh points out. This ultimately leads to women doubting their own capabilities and potential.
Welsh wanted to go against these unreachable standards and portray a realistic body by using everyday real women as her models. By reaching out to her followers and people interested in modeling, Welsh is able to make her brand more relatable. “I could very well just create lingerie that uses the models that you see in magazines,” she says. But, this wasn’t the direction she wanted to take. “I wanted all real bodies.”
Welsh considers it her “personal mission” to address the issue and empower women. “It’s so important in our society for young women, all women, every woman growing up thinking that their body needs to look a certain way.” Welsh explains, “growing up … I was always the chubby one.” She continues, “I didn’t have a platform that I could turn to that would say, ‘hey you are normal; this is what a woman’s body looks like.’”
Stella Moon’s vision
When asked about the future, Welsh laughs, “I can dream big!” Moving forward, Welsh envisions herself expanding her platform and continuing to encourage women. Although she currently works out of her apartment, Welsh would jump at the opportunity to have her own studio in Hong Kong where she can dedicate the space to her business.
Welsh and Stella Moon have opened up the conversation regarding body positivity in Hong Kong. “There is a stigma around bigger bodies and even average sized bodies and even any slight ‘imperfection’ like stretch marks or cellulite,” Welsh points out.
Through handmade lace lingerie, Stella Moon is highlighting that “these are normal women’s bodies.” Welsh believes that every single body is unique, and it’s time we accept that and embrace the bodies that we’re in. “I’m on a mission to normalize normal bodies, and I really hope that I can make a positive and lasting impact on body image in Hong Kong.”
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