Taking a quick look through Mary Young’s lingerie and loungewear designs, one can tell that it isn’t just a typical undergarment brand. Each piece is sourced and produced in Canada, and Mary has one goal in mind when creating: to make women feel comfortable in their own skin. With her primary focus on comfort and continuously highlighting women of different body types and backgrounds, she empowers all women to embrace their individuality. MISSBISH spoke with Mary about her designs and how to accept past mistakes and grow from them. Read below to find out more about the designer. We've also teamed up with Mary Young to giveaway a lingerie set so you can get your own comfy and sultry set! Head over to @MISSBISH on Instagram to learn how to enter!
Tell us about Mary Young lingerie and its beginnings. Where does your interest in designing lingerie for women come from?
MARY YOUNG was actually formed during my thesis at Ryerson University in Toronto where I studied Fashion Communications. I spent my last year in school studying the theory of pastiche – taking things that have been done before and recreating them into something new – and how that theory was evident in hip-hop and rap. From there I then developed a collection of knit sweaters and lingerie built on the same theory of pastiche. During the time I was developing the collection and studying the lingerie industry I realized that there was a huge gap in the market, most lingerie companies portrayed a certain ideal of sexy and never focused on encouraging women to feel confident in their natural shape. That was what really sparked my interest to grow and challenge the industry on what lingerie should be, rather than garments that are supposed to make a woman look sexy (sexy according to the media), I focus on garments that embrace and celebrate a woman's shape, encouraging her to feel confident and sexy.
Your designs are notably minimalistic - have you always been a fan of simplicity?
I personally have always been a huge fan of simplicity and I wanted to make sure that all the garments I design reflect that and allow women to mix and match pieces to compliment their personal style. Rather than selling specific sets or pieces that can only be worn together, all of the designs are intended to be versatile and complimentary to each other.
Lingerie is typically not seen by anyone other than the individual wearing it, while the body positivity movement focuses on what everyone sees - the body. What role do your designs play in empowering women of all sizes?
When it comes to designing I make sure there is no focus on restructuring or reshaping the body – something that most lingerie styles often do. I think of the woman’s body as something to be celebrated and embraced rather than changed. All of the fabrics I use are super soft and move and shape to the natural figure. The designs are made to allow women to see their body within the design, rather than to feel like the garments are wearing them. When a woman feels comfortable and confident in her shape she’ll naturally exude sexiness.
Traditionally, lingerie is styled to be sexual and suggestive. Mary Young designs - on the other hand - have been styled to showcase comfort and give off a sense of serenity. Where do you find your inspiration to continue to combat the norm?
The fashion industry is extremely saturated with over-sexualized images, especially in lingerie. So I look to the woman's natural body and other areas of designs to find inspiration. I also look at menswear and the ease that is seen in most men’s clothing. Men can wear one outfit for an entire day whereas women’s clothes have to be changed from day to night, so I focus on providing women with options that can be worn all day and night comfortably and that can also be worn to show their partner.
“I think of the woman’s body as something to be celebrated and embraced rather than changed. "
You have featured a range of unique women throughout your online journal. How do you choose your muses?
I really focus on featuring "real women" – I also hate that term, all women are real – but most of these women I feature as muses are not models. They are women that I find beautiful both inside and out, that are relatable to all women and embody a confident and positive attitude. I love when these women feel comfortable enough to open up about themselves and their lives allowing our community to get to know them and subsequently fall for them just like I did.
What advice can you give women trying to run their own businesses? Anything you wish someone had told you before diving into this world?
My advice would be to plan things out, it’s important to have a big picture of what you want to accomplish and then work backward into how to break that down in order to achieve it. These plans will also change, a good deal of them most likely, but having a rough plan and roadmap is so important when you’re starting something from scratch. People always told me that if it were easy then everyone would be doing it, which is probably the truest thing I’ve heard. Being an entrepreneur is often glamorized, so remember it will be a lot of hard work but it will always pay off. I wish someone would have told me earlier on to be easier on myself, which is something I still need to be told. We are always our own worst critics, especially as entrepreneurs.
Looking back would you have done anything differently?
To be honest, I don’t think so. There were a lot of mistakes I made early on but those mistakes taught me so much, not even about how to run a business but also about myself. Making mistakes and bouncing back teaches you strength, patience, and perseverance; it’s truly amazing how resilient you become as an entrepreneur.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
My biggest accomplishment would be empowering women through the brand. Every time I get an email or message or meet someone and they explain how wearing the designs has made them feel empowered and confident is truly my motivation to keep going. Without knowing I’m able to make a difference I honestly don’t think I’d still be doing this.
Your mission is to encourage every woman to love herself and feel confident in her own skin. What makes you feel the most confident?
I personally feel the most confident when my life is balanced. Making time for work, friends, and myself is often out of balance but when I’ve been able to check everything off my list I feel really confident in my abilities as a person and my ability to define my own happiness. Working for yourself is very demanding so spending time with friends, having time alone, and working out is when I’m able to have a well-rounded life and wake up with energy and excitement each day.
Okay - be honest: How many pairs of lingerie do you own? Which are your favorite pieces?
In my opinion, I have far too many sets, but I’m also working on being more minimal with my personal possessions. I have 14 sets and then handfuls of bras, and even more handfuls of panties. My current favorites that are on rotation are the Logan Bra or Dawn Bra with the High Waist Thong or the Easy Fit Thong.
What are three hidden gems in Toronto?
Toronto has so many hidden gems that quickly get uncovered. My favorite ones are Tokyo Smoke for matcha lattes, Barton Snacks for on-the-go tacos, and Loveless Café for late night drinks.
Who is your MISSBISH? Tell us who she is and why she’s an inspiration.
I would hands down say my mom is my MISSBISH and my second would be my close friend Babette. My mom has so much to do with who I am as a person, she was the breadwinner in my family so growing up seeing my mom work and provide for my family taught me that women are truly equal to men – in fact I never once questioned our equality because my family never subscribed to gender roles. She has been through so much personally, most recently beating breast cancer, and has accomplished everything with such a positive and warm attitude all while giving back to others.
Babette was my first female boss when I was in high school. Again she taught me what it looks like to be an entrepreneur and how to achieve so much all while being such a warm, funny, and encouraging person. She also has gone through so many trials in her life and has made it through with her head held high and a smile on her face. I look up to both of these women not only for how they’ve helped shape me but for how they’ve shown me to act and handle life when it gets tough – those are truly the moments that really define each of us as people.
What does MISSBISH mean to you?
MISSBISH to me means being someone who isn’t afraid of going after their dreams and especially not afraid of what others will think. While achieving their own goals they’re also benefiting those around them. Being selfless and giving in today’s society is rare, so to be driven and successful all while giving back is the true definition of being a MISSBISH.
Photos by: Paolo Azarraga