To learn more about Louis Yupanqui, the non-binary trans afro activist that helped and guided Archetype Lingerie in creating Argentina’s first underwear collection for trans women, check out her Instagram page. And if you’re able, we encourage you to donate to any organization that helps, assists, and protects trans people and trans rights — here’s a great one to check out if you don’t know where to start.
It can be hard to truly understand the issues that people from different backgrounds, social access, gender, race, economic status (and a long etcetera) go through. In general, when we think about these concepts we tend to think of the big picture: discrimination, lack of representation, lack of access, etc. It’s rare to focus on smaller (yet important) issues when things like travesticides, people going to jail for kissing their partners, femicides, and good old discrimination appear in newspapers every day. If they’re murdering people for existing, is it right to complain about representation?
The answer is yes. And yes, I recognize myself drowning in my privilege as I type these sentences.
My first contact with Archetype Lingerie was through an old fashion marketing campaign: an amazing painting on the side of a house, which you can see above. It made me curious enough to log into Instagram and look for the handle, which in turn made me learn more about this brand: an inclusive lingerie brand that covers many sizes, that work with a variety of models and, to my surprise, lingerie made specifically for trans women.
I’m the first to say that I had never thought about the needs trans women have in regards to underwear: as I said before, my privilege allows me to simply not think about it. That’s precisely the reason why Archetype Lingerie called my attention: it made me think about something I had simply never thought before. It also made me realize, once again, how much more work I have yet to do to deconstruct things I’ve taken as a given my whole life. I reached out to them to learn more, here’s their story.
How did Archetype Lingerie start?
Archetype was born from a conversation at a New Year’s party in 2017, after I had decided to drop out of what I was studying back them (surgical instrumentation) to fully dedicate myself to this world that I knew very little about. When Archetype started, we only had four sizes. We offered the chance for clients to ask for custom sizes since I was doing everything myself from home. I was tired of not feeling represented by the campaigns I saw from other brands: I wanted to create a brand that felt different. I had always loved tattoos, for example, and I wanted them to play a key role in Archetype’s identity.
From the moment we started doing custom sizes, we realized that we had a huge demand for lingerie in bigger sizes (over 100 cm for bust or hips), and that’s when we realized that there was a huge amount of people that were being left out by most brands simply due to the market’s size offerings. As time went by, size variety became a key part of the brand: the social impact the brand can have is one of the most satisfying aspects of this endeavor.
Who’s behind Archetype Lingerie?
Well, for starters, Ger (my boyfriend) and myself (Agus). We’ve been together pretty much since the beginning of Archetype. Aside from the brand, Ger owns an advertising and technology company that’s over 10 years old, so he’s in charge of crafting Archetype’s brand and marketing strategy as well as the business projection. If he hadn’t joined the brand, Archetype would definitely not be what it is today — I’m very grateful that we get to work together on this.
Meanwhile, I handle all the operational tasks that are needed for the brand to function: assisting customers, packaging, production, and quality control. I’m also in charge of designing all the products — my true passion. Lastly, there’s a lot of other people involved in Archetype on different levels: from seamstresses, people who cut the fabric, photographers, models, suppliers, delivery companies, etc. All in all, there’s quite a few of us!
How did you guys decide to start making underwear for trans women?
This July we reached out to Louis Yupanqui to send her our products to try out and share on Instagram. She very generously agreed to our proposal and took that opportunity to mention that it would be great for us to create underwear for trans women since no brands sold something like that in Argentina. She told me about what trans women go through because they can’t find underwear that’s truly made for their bodies. Listening to her, I started to feel really bad just by realizing how long had I gone without even thinking about this. That’s when we decided to do our part to try and spark a change.
How was the process of creating these pieces of underwear? What were your biggest challenges?
Developing the product wasn’t easy. Due to the pandemic, the design process happened without us being able to meet in person. In addition, it was difficult for me to design a product without having a physical reference at hand with us that we could analyze. It took us almost three months to achieve this, and this included many trips of us sending and getting back samples and products. It was only possible thanks to Louis, who aside from starting this conversation, was the model that was able to test our clothing as we moved forward in the development process. When we were finally able to create a garment with the right fit, it felt like a massive achievement.
What type of responses did you receive from people in general?
Our Instagram followers were super supportive, and cis-gendered people wrote to us telling us who they were unaware of this issue — just like we had been. It’s amazing how often this happens, and it only highlights how important it is to continue to listen to the voices of activists to make change happen.
The first sets of underwear started reaching our clients this week, and so far we’ve received a lot of great feedback. We had people tell us that they’re feeling comfortable and sexy for the first time, and to be honest, every single one of these messages makes our heart jump up with joy.
Do you think you’ll continue growing this side of the brand? What are the next steps?
Yes, for sure. This is what we like the most about Archetype — it’s much more than just a lingerie brand; it’s a way of creating change. Right now, there’s still a lot of work to be done around this collection of underwear for transwomen. We’re working on new models and we’d like to add other types of garments. We want all women to be able to find a variety of options at Archetype.
What do you see when you think about Archetype’s future?
I have a hard time thinking about the future because I’m very focused on the now, but I think it will all be around inclusion: creating campaigns that are more and more inclusive, with diverse bodies and identities. We want every single person that doesn’t feel represented by today’s fashion industry to be able to come to Archetype. We want everyone to enjoy the same possibilities when it comes to getting dressed so that using a specific garment isn’t just a privilege enjoyed by a few.
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