DIP 027: Political bodies
PLUS: A Marcel Breuer dream home, good design at the dentist, and Simmons for Gen Z
👋 Hi. Taffy Brodesser-Akner wrote a quarantine sequel to her best-selling novel, Fleishman Is In Trouble, for The Cut. It’s a delightful (and depressing) escape that’s rooted in reality, and perhaps a preview of the quarantine-themed lit we’ll see in a few years. As always, reply with questions, comments, or thoughts about anything you read here.
This issue features 19 brands. Sixty-three percent are white-led, 21% are Black-led, and 11% are led by non-Black POCs. You can find the complete Chips + Dips inclusion index here.
The Chips 🍫
Coming Soon and Backdrop partnered on a series of three bold paint colors.
This Marcel Breuer-designed home on the Hudson River is a dream (and can be yours for just $4.2M).
Madison Reed now makes hair dye for men.
The Helm is building an investor community to support early stage female-founded companies.
Philadelphia design shop Yowie is building out a flagship concept space that interweaves hospitality, retail, and design.
Yves Behar made a beach chair.
Marketing consultant Babba Canales is launching Ceremonia, a Latinx hair care company.
OffLimits, which features the first female cereal mascot and a custom typeface by Pentagram, is live.
Design store Lichen is making its own furniture, starting with a coffee table.
The Department of Homeland Security published a guide to decontaminating N95 masks using… an Instant Pot.
Simmons rolled out a made-for-Gen Z rebrand and new boxed mattresses.
Layd makes hats with washable silk linings that reduce breakage.
The Dip 🍭
I’ve probably shaved my legs three times since New York’s safer-at-home guidelines went into effect. I haven’t tweezed or trimmed my eyebrows. I’m wearing eyeliner and showering daily to maintain some semblance of routine, but I’ve stopped doing so much of what I used to do, mostly because I realized that I did those things to alleviate judgment from those around me, not for myself.
Sweating is small stuff
I’ve been keeping an eager eye on Arfa, the digitally native CPG conglomerate co-founded by former Glossier COO Henry Davis. It creates products in partnership with customers and shares a portion of profits with them. After COVID-related delays, its first brand, Hiki, officially launched a few weeks ago.
When I first learned from trademark filings that Hiki was to be a deodorant brand, I was admittedly confused. The natural deodorant space is crowded and hard to keep up with. Differentiation seemed like an uphill battle. But after browsing Hiki’s universe (and buying products out of curiosity), I get it. Hiki makes products for bodies that sweat, not because sweating is something to be ashamed of, but rather because it’s natural and normal and healthy. And that’s a message I haven’t seen from other deodorant labels.
There’s a quote from Davis in the section of Billion Dollar Brand Club that speaks to Glossier and its key to success:
“Glossier was born out of the Into The Gloss community. Its mandate was community. That’s what direct-to-consumer is really about. It’s not about distribution. It’s about connection. Access to and relationship with the customer is the most important, number one factor. How do you listen to customers and work with them? The way you make someone feel you’re listening is you talk back to them.”
Davis is applying this thesis to his work with Arfa, and taking it a step further. Bodies, especially women’s bodies, are highly politicized. We’re taught to be ashamed of and erase things like body odor, menstruation, and leg hair. Hiki (and Arfa) works with customers to identify their shame and creates products that acknowledge it while not trying to solve or erase it. It’s a small but powerful means of reclaiming ownership over one’s body.
In 2019, California signed The CROWN Act into law, prohibiting employers and schools from enforcing grooming policies that discriminate against natural hairstyles. New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Colorado, and Washington have all since followed suit. (For a deeper dive, I recommend this episode of Kimberlé Crenshaw’s “Intersectionality Matters!” podcast.)
When a particular type of maintenance is mandated, stigma takes root. Anything that goes against the rule is viewed as bad or wrong. Forcing Black men and women to style their hair in a particular way can plant seeds of shame and, more importantly, sends the message that their hair is not truly theirs.
While haircare products for Black women are not new (hi, Madam C.J. Walker), a growing cohort of companies is setting out to normalize and celebrate textured natural hair.
Bread Beauty Supply is a newly launched haircare company for curl types 3a–4c. Its first batch of product is designed to make wash day was low-maintenance as possible while also not seeking to "tame" hair (founder Maeva Heim is anti-anti-frizz). Bread takes textured hair at face value — however it looks, however it’s styled — and offers products that celebrate its quirks.
The brand launched in Sephora, which is a massive achievement for a host of reasons. In much the same way that supermarkets aggregate an entire globe into the “ethnic” aisle, mainstream beauty stores tend to allot minimal shelf space to “multicultural” products. Bread’s presence in Sephora marks a big step toward acknowledging the importance of diversified product offerings and allows consumers to more easily access high-quality products tailored to their needs.
This new narrative pattern seeks to put power — and control — back into the hands of women by challenging what’s long been deemed socially acceptable. Billie and Flamingo have created campaigns around body hair; there’s acne neutrality, too. It’s not about masking anything, but rather acknowledging and accepting what’s already there.
Women are expected to shave their legs and armpits in large part because Gillette told them to back in 1915. While it’s often easier to learn new habits than to break old ones, I’m curious to see if this new wave of marketing can facilitate widespread shifts in consciousness. How liberating it is to be given messages that focus on the individual and their power, rather than as society dictates they should be…
DIP 020 looked at how companies are tailoring products to previously overlooked communities.
DIP 026 unpacked the many ways that brands can be vehicles for positive change.
After activist and educator Rachel Cargle had a terrible experience at Drybar, Vogue unpacked the issue of racism in cosmetology.
While the skincare space is crowded, haircare is an adjacent category with room to play. Like beauty, you have products for maintenance and for styling, and it’s not uncommon to purchase something before using it, which makes haircare well suited to digital formats. I’m excited to see things develop.
Real Dip 🍬
Chop equal parts kalamata olives, pickled peppers (I like peppadews), and parsley. Add a spoonful of capers, lemon zest, a few cranks of black pepper, and a big glug of olive oil. Stir it up, taste it, and add whatever it’s missing.
Plays well with grilled zucchini, almost-burnt toast, and smashed potatoes.
Thanks for snacking,
— Emily 🍪