WARNING: THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE CONTAINS CONTENT THAT SOME PEOPLE MAY DEEM SENSITIVE, IMAGES CONTAIN PARTIAL NUDITY. ALL IMAGES PROVIDED COURTESY OF MONOKOQUE LLC.
TA: Ok so I'm sitting down with Dedra Adams & Jasmine Nicole of the erotic design brand Monokoque LLC and I have to begin by telling you ladies how iconic your photograph of the mother breastfeeding her baby mid-street on Hollywood Beach is. Where did the idea for that image even come from?
JN: Well other than being born it's literally the most natural thing a human can do so the fact that it was illegal to breastfeed in public until just recently, needed to be challenged further. We wanted to be a part of the force that helps break down those types of barriers. The model is wearing "The Ankh" design to symbolize returning to natural parts of life previously cast away. The ankh symbol in Egyptian philosophies represents the unity of male & female as the key to creating eternal life. We actually caught hell for doing that shoot & the cops literally tried to stop us at every corner but our ultimate goal is to use design to push boundaries & explore the synergies of sensual & woke, sexy yet grounded, the symbolic while purposeful dichotomies. We aim to help remove the mental chains of other people's judgements over women's rights using design as a force to be reckoned with.
TA: Wow what a bold & provocative mission then. So let's back up a bit, tell me how did Monokoque come into being this type of brand?
DA: Well Jasmine Nicole is my niece & a natural born designer so as her Aunt I always wanted to help nurture that talent. I mean, she literally designed her first piece when she was 8 years old so it was evident to me that her aptitude would take her far. As she matured I also witnessed how following her heart into the fashion industry left a bad taste in her mouth, so she stepped away from designing for some time. I know first hand how daunting the industry can be & I also knew that when the timing was right I was going to convince her to give fashion another try.
TA: Why the push towards fashion? Is that your career path as well or were you just being a cheerleader for your niece?
DA: Well actually I do have intensive experience working in the fashion industry in New York City. I'm an FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) graduate after which I worked for Liz Claiborne in construction & management for their duty free shops. From there I was recruited by Salvatore Ferragamo in merchandising & buying which I quit after 6 months due to some bad experiences. There is a totally rigid female persona involved in gaining status and becoming a leader in the fashion world and although dealing with those personalities was at times off-putting & horrendous, it taught me something important about knowing how to carry myself. Then I worked at Tommy Hilfiger for 3.5 years doing visual design work & finance. I then took all of those experiences & with the hard push of an industry insider, trusted colleague & friend, started my own line.
TA: Now that sounds like a really calculated move given your design, finance & buying experiences. Like starting your own line is seemingly the obvious next step.
DA: Honestly I thought so too but I started struggling with burnout. I mean, I designed an entire line including men's, women's, children, athletic, & evening wear. I was really doing too much. And then in 2003 I relocated from NYC to South Florida where there were no opportunities to work in fashion at that time. I decided to go back to school & earned my Bachelor of Science in Interior Design & Marketing.
TA: Ok so fast forward now, how did all of that exposure lead you to Monokoque?
DA: Jasmine Nicole is also a painter, writer & model so when she also relocated to South Florida from New York with her super creative mind & blank canvas for a fresh start, I just knew the timing was right.
JN: It's true she approached me in March 2017 when I came down here with the idea to create an erotic line which I was altogether hesitant about. The idea of designing clothes for sex workers actually made me feel really uncomfortable at first so then all of these questions of why I felt that way lead me down a path of continuous self-discovery. Like why was I ashamed about sensuality in general?
DA: I saw an opportunity in the strip club market & becoming successful in fashion is about finding your niche in unconventional spaces. We seized the moment when it presented itself, cloaked in the unfamiliar. It's actually the easiest way into any marketplace.
TA: Being brand new at intimate wear, how did you approach your first completed design?
JN: The very first design was our Lotus jumper, inspired by the Egyptian culture. It deliberately makes the wearer stand tall with their head held high & screams "I should be confident in my own skin!" We decided from the impetus that the ladies we designed for were going to wear intentionally conscious pieces. Taking risks was very important to us however equally important were the mechanics of the outfits. They had to be easily danced off.
DA: And we purposely work with materials that are both strong & feminine like leather, latex, velvet, mesh, lace seeking only sensual & empowering textiles.
TA: That is such an enticing description! What other epic symbolism has inspired the direction of Monokoque?
JN: We are in the process of designing our Chakra Line. Sex & sensuality resonate on the lower chakras so we started there, and just as a disclaimer lower chakra does not mean bad, it refers to their physical location on our bodies. As the design influence travels up the chakras, so does the enlightenment factor. We explore the use of fashion elements to remind each wearer of what they can think about pertaining to the uplifting & balancing of that particular chakra. The bridge between sensual & spiritual is present in every design as we strive to put feeling into fashion.
TA: Lastly, I need to ask about your name. How do we pronounce it & what does it mean?
DA: It is pronounced MO-NO-KO, 3 syllables & has French origin but is used in various cultures globally. It at it's core, represents an infinite circle, a protection covering, something that surrounds us bearing the weight of our lives. We want people to remember that just because you're a sex worker it doesn't mean you're mentally not there or have a bad heart. You too have value & our pieces will never let you forget it.
TA: Where can readers go to learn more?