Naarm-based label Sexiaz creates lingerie that champions sex workers, queerness and your inner icon
“Sexiaz is not for the cishet-male gaze, ever.”
At an undefinable point in the last year, I realised that everywhere I went, a fluorescent bikini seemed to follow. As a firm believer in the law of attraction, I thought I’d finally manifested a bunch of lycra-clad hotties into my life (that’s how it works, right?). I figured it was either that or hallucinations brought on by an excessive amount of Love Island and MSG consumption.
Believe it or not, I was wrong. I’ve now realised it was the work of self-appointed ‘bikini dealer’ family – Arielle, Kallista and their mum Vee Richards, ringleader of the über-cool operation. Since their label Sexiaz blew up on Instagram in early 2020, they’ve been decking out Melbourne’s sexiest in made-to-order bikini sets, tops and other custom creations.
Looking for more ways to procrastinate? We’re with you. Come on over to our Fashion section.
After locating the source of the ’kinis, I needed one too. I ordered my very own ruched crop – handmade by Vee – and, like the nosy person I am, quizzed Kallista and Arielle while debating cup sizes and colour options.
So lovely to chat with you Arielle and Kallista! Your mum Veronica started Sexiaz Lingerie in 2005, designing primarily for people in the sex work industry. Can you tell us a little about how the brand has evolved over the years?
Kallista: Hi Izzy, it’s a pleasure! That’s right, our mum Vee started Sexiaz in 2005, wholesaling bikinis, lingerie and costumes – made for sex workers – to sexy stores around the country and doing all the Sexpo shows. The business remained pretty much the same until 2019, when I made us an Instagram account and began my life as a part-time bikini dealer … literally meeting up with people in the city to exchange cash for ’kinis.
Arielle: Kali would DM local icons we saw on Instagram wearing our items they’d bought at lingerie stores – not knowing they were handmade in Naarm by our mum – asking whether we could post their photos on our feed. I was offering a discount to my meagre Instagram following if they ordered a set through me, desperately trying to generate hype!
Our goal for 2020 was to try and reach 1000 followers, which felt huge at the time. Then, about a year ago, we got really lucky when our friend Kat of Rosepure put us on to Saqua Studio, who asked us to be included in a giveaway with a bunch of iconic designers, including Karla Laidlaw, Kick in the Eye, Madonna Whore Complex and ACAB Sav. That was hot and really the catalyst for Sexiaz’s growth on Instagram.
K: Now we use our newfound home on Instagram to create made-to-order custom bikinis and sexy tops, for everybody.
Sexiaz is all about body positivity, inclusivity and celebrating sexuality. How does this translate to your customers and the community the brand has built?
A: The Sexiaz community is so special. It’s full of incredibly talented, creative and inventive individuals, who all have their own interpretation of what body positivity, inclusivity and sexuality mean to them … we proudly celebrate that with our garments and our platform.
It’s a real privilege to be able to use our page to gas up the work of the community! We try to share everything we can, especially artworks made by customers and content from fellow local designers.
K: We are about creating a space where people can have a dialogue around what they need from us and from our pieces! We allow them to be in the driver’s seat to help them create their perfect vision and something that’s uniquely them – and that’s very sexy.
I love that Sexiaz is a family business! What’s it like for you two to work alongside your mum?
K: It’s fucking sick, but it’s also really difficult. When it comes to working with family it can be hard to set boundaries, especially when your mum’s a workaholic.
A: Absolutely, both of us are juggling various other jobs in addition to Sexiaz and mum is so hardworking, it’s hard to keep up a lot of the time. That being said, it’s really special because we’ve always been so proud of mum’s work … seeing her get recognition for her skills brings a lot of joy.
Mum comes from a long line of seamstresses. She learned the trade from her grandmother and our nanna and started her first label with her sister in the 90s … so I guess it’s kind of like a continuation of tradition!
The Sexiaz aesthetic is pretty unmissable. Where do you find the inspiration for the designs and aesthetic?
A & K: The ‘aesthetic’ was created by sex workers. Sexiaz has always and will always be ‘stripper wear’, which has its own historic origins amongst sex workers, especially Black women and within the LGBTQIA+ scene in the US.
Inextricably linked to these garments is an important history of marginalisation, discrimination and stigma against sex workers continuing to this day – despite sex work being the oldest profession. Contemporary fashion has a tendency to appropriate aesthetics from sex work culture, whilst distancing itself from the workers who have always been the blueprint. You can’t be pro-Sexiaz if you’re not pro-sex work.
The beautiful and wild colour combinations you’ll see on our Instagram feed are dreamed up by our customers, who never cease to amaze and inspire us. As for the designs, Vee has been designing since she was a teenager and we often look into her backlog of patterns. For example, the ruched crop was originally a skirt pattern of mum’s from the early 2000s, before we adapted it for 2020.
The brand has obviously always been super sex-positive. What role do you feel like queerness plays in your brand identity?
A & K: Sexiaz is incredibly gay, just the way we like it! Queerness is central and celebrated in our community. Our platform is a place for people to express themselves freely, and we really want the spaces we operate in to allow everyone to be as individual, imaginative and subversive as they feel.
Sexiaz is not for the cishet-male gaze, ever. It’s for ourselves, our hot friends and our even sexier community. On that, sexy is a state of mind, it’s a lifestyle … it’s being unapologetically yourself and being celebrated, seen and embraced for that. Hot!
You’ve gained so much momentum in the last few years – what’s next for Sexiaz?
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A & K: We’ve been intending to set up a website for a long time now and it’s finally kicking into gear. We hope we can continue the community vibe of our Instagram on the site, with collaborations with other artists and special releases. Look out for that!
We’ve got a new range of even sexier designs coming out this year, which is exciting! Can’t give a date for that yet, but we’ll definitely be doing some pop-ups and fun stuff in the interim.