Brandstorm is a series featuring the most notable brands in the worlds of fashion, beauty, and retail in China. From edgy jewelry designers to the country’s most coveted influencers, these are some of the industry’s most talked-about names.
As China’s urban youth turn away from foreign labels, the esthetics of ‘made in China’ fashion is simultaneously gaining momentum, reflecting the values of a new generation and their desire to break the boundaries of gender and sexuality.
Apparel brand Fabric Porn, for instance, is stirring the sexual debate while driving youngsters to value their heritage. Meanwhile, China-born, New York-based LYAN supports the LGBTQ+ cause with a creative nod to gym bunnies and ballroom drama, and edgy footwear brand untitlab takes foot fetishes to a whole other level.
Orgasm is the new queer kid on the block, a brand reinventing lingerie as an unrestrained form of self-expression.
“Intimate clothing is the closest to the skin. We focus on material innovation, comfort, and unique visual concepts that break with established boundaries and encourage diverse personalities,” says Elvis Hwang, a designer from Guangzhou who founded Orgasm with his partner and fellow designer Leon Wu.
Hwang was always an avid consumer of underwear, so when the idea of starting a business came to him, this was the most natural segment in which to venture.
As for the brand’s unholy name, he says he “saw the word ‘orgasm’ in a book by chance, and immediately thought it was it; we had to use it as a brand name.”
When asked about their age, Hwang and Wu say they are ‘forever 18.’ (We get a sense that their actual age is probably closer to the early 30s.)
As they both design and market their products, this might be an effort to win over their target audience — China’s ebullient Gen Z, always firmly leading behavioral and cultural shifts.
“This young generation is more open and willing to accept diverse elements and different esthetics,” Hwang says. He adds that this goes well with the brand’s ethos, since Orgasm aims to break stereotypes and old-fashioned traditions while promoting more inclusive products and visual concepts.
Minimal but resonant, Orgasm’s debut collection came out about a year ago. ‘Flash and Spirit,’ as it is called, includes classic briefs, trunks, and boxers with their name and logo, as well as more playful items that add a jolt of fetishism to the mix — we’re talking jockstraps, thongs, and strings.
The most provocative piece is a thin crystal underwear chain, which, in the campaign, is worn by a male model, exposing his groin lines and body hair with gusto.
The collection also featured several cotton tank tops with a fresh detail: diagonal bra straps in black and white. These items emphasize the genderless character of Orgasm.
As Hwang explains, the brand aims to abandon all normative conventions and explore the relationship between body and mind.
“China has a very traditional culture; gender here is pre-established,” he explains. “We try using more neutral elements on products and give birth to entirely new concepts and esthetics to break these conventional views.”
‘Mimosa,’ the subsequent collection, introduced the themes of martial arts and boxing wear to the lineup, with pieces like silk satin purple shorts and a brilliant, intensely dark blue robe.
Most pieces in this collection — including a flowy mesh apron — double as unique and provocative wildcards to be worn on a night out, something Hwang and Wu always consider when designing.
“Consumers want comfortable, stylish, and sexy pieces; something that when they put on, it’ll make them bloom. And if they can also wear it out, they’ll want it even more,” Hwang says. According to Hwang, ‘alive,’ ‘hot,’ and ‘wild’ were the keywords for this campaign — terms that also apply to the brand as a whole.
In its short lifespan, Orgasm already has two pocket collections. The first consists of two basic shirts in white and pink with the discrete-yet-salacious caption “Daddy’s Boy.”
The other, a New Year’s celebratory set, features two briefs, one in white and one in scarlet red, both with a waist chain crossing through an ancient-looking Chinese coin with a square hole in the middle.
Paradoxically, nods to tradition and heritage like this one are recurrent themes in the works of emerging Chinese fashion designers.
Orgasm’s marketing approach meets the demands of Gen Z, which in China, like elsewhere, values diversity. Many of the images they use for promotion on their official Instagram and Weibo accounts come from consumers’ content.
More often than not, these are playful bedroom shoots with a lot of sex appeal. Their marketing tactics also count on independent photographers, like Qiumao, to display their products in provocative photoshoots.
Hwang and Wu avoid the typical mannequin look and source their models online for official campaigns. They look for faces and bodies representing ordinary people with the right attitude.
“We want to see all shapes and sizes wearing our products. Orgasm is for people who are confident in showing their true selves,” Hwang says. “That makes the brand sexy. Sexiness emanates from within and always presents new possibilities in the concept of intimate clothing,” he adds.
Given the still very conservative nature of Chinese society, Hwang admits that his work with Orgasm can be challenging and uncertain. Still, overall, he is pleased with the creative scene surrounding him.
“China is full of excellent designers, artists, and creative people,” he says.
But what makes him most excited is the attitude of his young consumers, who are eager to pursue and explore their sexuality unrestrained by societal pressure. While his goal is not to solve any specific problems, he thinks his brand plays a role in this positive behavior.
“Through comfortable and diverse wear, Orgasm gives everyone a sense of self-awareness beyond gender,” he says.
Additional reporting by Lucas Tinoco
All images courtesy of Orgasm
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