Mar 11th, 2021, 07:47 PM

Young Lingerie Designer Helps ReSisters Champion Body Empowerment

By Emily Spennato
Image Credit: Thomas Scheffer
Thomas Scheffer is helping ReSisters champion female and body empowerment beyond the AUP community.

In a year that’s been anything but, the ReSisters are making room for a celebration. On Friday, March 5, AUP’s club for open dialogue on feminist issues and empowerment kicked off the first of ten events that will follow this month’s theme of “My Body”. 

ReSisters was founded in 2020 by AUP seniors Chloe Denelsbeck and Alex Lane.

“I had the idea to start a club after reading “Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies” by Scarlett Curtis last February during spring break,” recalls Denelsbeck. “I really didn’t call myself a feminist before reading that book. I wasn’t interrogating my surroundings in the way that I do now.”

Upon returning to classes, Denelsbeck called on Lane for help. “We were best friends in high school and we have experience working together and building ideas off of each other,” says Lane of Denelsbeck. “Over the summer, we started brainstorming ideas and thinking about monthly themes.” 

The young club’s beginning was not without its challenges, however, because soon after Denelsbeck and Lane began putting ideas into motion, the pandemic hit. Despite this, they powered on. 

“It’s really hard to start a club during COVID because it’s hard to make those personal connections with people. But as the year has gone on our community has become really strong and I think it’s a really positive thing for us, but also everyone who’s been a part of it,” says Lane. “When you realize that you’re an identity and that identity is really special, you can be empowered by that identity.” 

Now with a strong following and 20-30 people at each event, ReSisters is ready to take their community — and their mission — even further. 

“Calling out sexism in every aspect of life -- that’s the idea behind the themes. We’re trying to look at different disciplines and see where sexism and intersectional feminism are proved to be really relevant,” says Denelsbeck. 

For each event, ReSisters tries to have an even mixture of experienced academics, as well as young people with fresh ideas to highlight new voices and create spaces for others to share their research and passions. 

One of those young, idealistic voices is Thomas Scheffer, the designer behind Eugéne Lingerie, a brand that aims to empower individuals through inclusion and sexuality. A graduate of ESMOD International, Scheffer studied design in Paris and Tokyo. Although he is now permanently settled in Paris with his brand underway and an internship, his road to fashion, specifically lingerie design, wasn’t always straight and narrow. 

“I took all of my classes in high school to become a cosmetic dermatologist. I was taking calculus and advanced chemistry and all of these classes that are completely useless to me now,” Scheffer says with a laugh. 

Upon high school graduation, Scheffer realized he wanted to move to Europe and pursue a career in fashion, and his journey at ESMOD began soon after. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to specialize in and then my second year it just kind of hit me,” he says. “I was really inspired by sex, sexuality and bodies; very carnal things. It just kind of clicked for me to do lingerie. It just made sense to me. So I did it, and I didn’t regret it.”

After graduating from ESMOD with his bachelor's degree, Scheffer’s professors and peers encouraged him to begin his own lingerie brand. At first he was hesitant, not sure if he had enough experience to launch his own brand. Ultimately, he decided to go for it, motivated by his love for creating corsets and the stimulating juxtaposition of sex and innocence that is lingerie. 

“I finished an internship and I wasn’t really doing anything so I thought, ‘Why not try it? If it doesn’t work, whatever. What’s the worst that can happen?’ I started making this one design, the corset top that I’ve been posting. I’ve been focused on that because I wanted to make sure it fit and that I got all of the gradations down so it fit nicely on all different sizes.”

Besides being a male in a female dominated sector of the industry, Scheffer’s focus on gender neutrality and size inclusion also set his work apart from typically feminine lingerie designs. “I’ve made men’s lingerie before, and I’ve made unisex collections that have a female form and a male form that mirror each other in similar design. I focus mainly on women’s lingerie at the moment, but I enjoy making men’s lingerie too. I think there’s a lot to explore and there’s so much that can be done.”

As for his inspiration, Scheffer credits his inner circle and the people he surrounds himself with and uses it as encouragement to create inclusive pieces. As for his aesthetic inspiration, it’s the empowerment that is sex. “I really just love the aesthetic of sexuality and sex because I think it’s just such a human thing. It’s so powerful to be a sexual being and I think it’s so fascinating.” 

For Denelsbeck and Lane, having Scheffer as a speaker to kick-off March’s “My Body” theme was unquestionable. Scheffer did more than speak about his gender inclusive designs and working in a predominantly female dominated industry, he is donating two lingerie pieces in support of the causes ReSisters are championing. 

“I thought, ‘We have this platform and we have this community. I’m sure they would love to receive one of Thomas’ pieces,” says Denelsbeck. “We submitted a budget to do a giveaway-style fundraiser. So, people donate and we will enter their names into a name shuffle and pick two winners and they get a set from Thomas.”For this specific event it was important to ReSisters to offer three types of designs to match the population of AUP students and their body types: one unisex, one feminine, and one masculine.

The month-long fundraiser will support one American organization and one French organization; Women With a Vision New Orleans supports sex worker rights, drug policy reform, HIV positive women’s advocacy, and reproductive justice outreach; En Avant Toute(s) advocates for women of the LGBTQIA + community who are victims of violence. To enter the raffle for a chance to win a Eugène Lingerie design, donate to Women With a Vision New Orleans, En Avant Toute(s), or both and take a screenshot of your receipt and upload it here

The raffle closes March 26 the winners of the raffle will be announced on March 27. If you are not selected as a winner of the raffle but would still like to purchase one of Scheffer’s designs, visit his Instagram page and send him a message. March’s “My Body” theme was inspired by Women’s History Month and explores “a diverse range of topics from promoting sexual pleasure, racism in gynecology, destigmatizing sex work to the intersections of feminism and religion. We also have great activities in store, like a community walk to get us moving, and a fundraiser to get us involved,” wrote Katie Taylor in the ReSisters newsletter. 

To learn more about upcoming ReSister events, visit the events page on Engage, and to get involved contact theresisters@aup.edu, or visit their Instagram page

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