Pansy Is the Ethical Underwear Brand You Should Know About
by Abby McIntosh
Valentine’s Day can conjure up some pretty divergent thoughts depending on how you feel about the holiday. For some, it’s a festive day filled with (too much) candy and (just enough) love (whether that be with an S/O, friends, or family). For others, Valentine’s Day exists as a negative reminder of what you might not have. At Milk Makeup, we’re taking the positive parts of V-Day and running with them. Whether you choose to acknowledge the Hallmark aspects of the day or not, we think it can be a great time to shoutout your crew, gift people who make your life a bit better and take a moment or two for yourself. The Milk Fam got together to share who makes them glow, but we also linked up with rad people who have shaken up their respective V-Day-related industries to get their perspectives on the saccharine-filled 24 hours. As it turns out, V-Day has evolved in a pretty cool way. Meet Bay Area-based designer Laura Schoorl.
Milk Makeup: How did you start Pansy/get the idea to turn your industry on its head?
Laura Schoorl: After college, I moved to LA and started working, but I was really bored working at an office, so I started taking creative classes — woodworking, shoe-making — and then I decided I just wanted to pursue that. I saved up money, moved back to the Bay, and was just working random retail jobs, but I started making shoes and bags, traveling a bunch, and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. At the time, all the clothes I wore were thrifted, but I would still make my mom buy me underwear and bras because I couldn’t thrift that. So I was thinking, wouldn’t it be awesome to have underwear that was made entirely ethically, from domestic cotton, and made in California? My best friend and I were on a road trip, and we were like, “Let’s just do it! Let’s make ‘em!” There was a local fiber industry starting in California at that time, so I just wrote an email and asked, “Do you have any good cotton that you can point me towards?” and that was the beginning of it. We knew a handful of women in the Bay that had clothing lines and were producing here and they really helped us and shepherded us through the process when we started.
MMU: What has been your biggest career milestone?
Laura: Being able to make a profit was huge. Realizing that I could make money doing something I loved was so crazy. And then I was making a movie last year, and we were editing the movie to Solange’s new album and we were like, “How are we going to get [the rights to] this song? We’re going to have to pay so much money for it.” And she follows us on Instagram, so I DM’ed her and didn’t hear back, and was like “Ok, we’ll just have to find something in the public domain,” and then she writes me back! She was like, “Totally! You can use it. I love the video, it’s so great.” And I was blown away.
MMU: How did you convince people you were doing something different?
Laura: For me, how we make things is just as important as what we’re making. Beauty is huge, and I want to feel inspired every day, but the product itself has to be up to my really high standards or else I won’t make it. It’s not worth it to me to have things exist in the world that are trash. For me, at the end of the day, people feel all of that energy and love I put into it when they wear the garments. And I think that that’s the difference.
MMU: Was there ever a time when you thought you fucked your career up or felt scared about the direction of your future?
Laura: I remember when I was 22, 23, 24, that was the most challenging, like the most depressed I’ve ever been. I just didn’t really know my place, and where to put my energy, and how to exist in the world. I felt like I didn’t have support from my family, and all of my friends were moving to New York, and I felt like they were doing stuff. I didn’t even know what I wanted to do. It just took all of my 20s to get to a place where I felt secure, and I had no idea that I would get to where I am now. Allowing myself the space to dream up this path was the best thing I ever did.
MMU: What does Valentine’s Day mean to you?
Laura: Honestly, I’ve never really celebrated it. I guess in elementary school we gave out Valentines, and it was sweet and it felt like more of a community in that way, and I like that. I like that everyone got a Valentine. I kind of wish that that was what it still was, that it felt more like a holiday where everyone was celebrating love together.
MMU: How do you celebrate?
Laura: Honestly, it’s gonna look like any other day for me. I might wear red or pink for fun, though!
MMU: So what are you giving your people for Valentine’s this year?
Laura: I don’t think we’re doing anything…
MMU: What does self-love mean to you? How do you practice self-love?
Laura: I’ve never looked in the mirror and not seen something that I couldn’t love. I’ve always had a good sense of confidence and felt really lucky in that way. A lot of that is avoiding negative self-talk and forgiving yourself for things, and setting down all the things in your brain that are constantly telling you that you’re saying the wrong thing, or that you’re acting crazy for feeling the way that you do. I think it is so important for women to just exist, you know? So many people are trying to make themselves smaller, and I feel like I’m always trying to make myself bigger. I eat fruit every day, I eat dessert — I’m fully enjoying every moment and not allowing myself to feel non-existent. The last year has been super hard because I’ve been hustling so much and I lost a lot of the slowness and the self-care that I created for myself before I started Pansy. So this year, I’ve been slowly creating that again — it’s been a lot of chilling out, cooking, watching TV. You know, hanging out with my friends, gardening, going to the farmer’s market every week. Just creating that slow rhythm again.
MMU: How does your business stand out/be fresh for V-Day?
Laura: I feel like we definitely have people that buy stuff for their partners for Valentine’s Day, but we don’t advertise it. We never do any shoots around it, but maybe I’ll post something red on Instagram for fun.
MMU: What does it mean to you to be a woman business owner?
Laura: I feel super lucky, first of all, to have a business that has any success, and as a woman, a lot of it is about supporting other women. So, I don’t work with any male photographers, at all. Our team, our staff, is all female, and a lot of it is about diversity, too. So having as much diversity in our photographers, in our staff, and the people we work with, so we’re supporting many different types of voices. And that’s just huge because I think if women aren’t supporting other women, then no one is. It’s not just hiring women, it’s respecting them, appreciating them, giving them the tools to have a successful life and career. Especially women in their 20s — that’s like most of my staff. It’s about giving them the love and attention they need to grow. It’s really important to me because I love mentoring. The mentors I’ve had in my life have really helped me grow immensely and so I know what it feels like to have that guidance and be like, ‘It’s gonna be okay, you’re gonna get there.’