ALLY (Pt.8): BLACK BEAN AND SILK
I read a few of my older posts this week and realised I said 'hey, hey, hey' waaay more than I thought I did in my intros. Twenty-five. The year of painful self-discovery.
So, this post has been sitting in the backend (the blog's, not mine) for literal months. I've wanted to write this a hundred times, but I always felt it deserved much more time than I had on me to spare. And so it sat.
The reason this post was so important to me is because is marries some of the things I care about the most: women's issues, women-run businesses, and sustainability.
Now, I suspect at this point everyone who came here for the sole purpose of seeing me in my knickers are feeling a bit deflated. Begging all pardons (but also, HA!).
I know 'sustainability' isn't a very sexy concept - far too many consonants, earth imagery, and dubious recycling bins for that.
But if the hyper-sexualisation fairies have to sprinkle their magic somewhere, why not on local, ethically-made lingerie that's BFFs with your vagina, or that of your S/O?
Which describes exactly the goods made by the next ally in our series, Black Bean and Silk. They're a really special bunch. When I first made contact with them over Toofufu, Black Bean owner, Irene de Beer, told me that she didn't enjoy traditional blogger-business relations, partly because they often became one-sided (I agree). She then told me that despite this, she would like to move forward with me because she had read what I had to say about my vulvodynia.
I had just had, or was about to have my vestibulectomy, and Irene wanted to help where she thought her beautiful lingerie could. You see, the materials that make up common forms of lingerie are a straight-up promise of intense pain for women with vulvodynia, a lesser-known pain condition that manifests in the vulva.
The synthetic stuff that even high-end lingerie brands use to make their underwear pulls, tugs, and otherwise irritates this already-inflamed area, making already-painful sex even more so.
This is why, after being a big lingerie fan before having vuvlvodynia, I had since learnt to resent lingerie outlets, and for a long time I frowned upon people who showed a healthy interest in it.
Lingerie was just a receptacle of bad memories, pain, and sacrifice to me, and if I wasn't going to enjoy it I didn't really want anyone else to enjoy it either. Kind of like those kids who were so not into Harry Potter but actually you knew their parents just wouldn't let them watch it? I was that person.
Anyway, as I'm healing and things are getting better, I'm starting to feel the vibey vibe again, you guys. I started this year being forced to go naked from the waist down for the majority of my day, and now I wear underwear like, all the time. You see, when you have vuvlodynia you can set yourself life goals that others had to have down as small children. A perk of being a gynecological wonder.
But for real, Black Bean and Silk has been a big reason why I get to feel sexy in lingerie, again. Aaand that's my cue to shut up about me and talk a lot more about these babes.
Black Bean and Silk are a small company based an hour outside of Cape Town, in a small town called Stellenbosch. The company is made up of two talented designers: Irene, and Lindikhaya Madasa. Together they use organic materials (like cotton, bamboo, and ahimsa silk) to make lingerie that doesn't harm the planet, and doesn't irritate your bits (although some have reservations on bamboo, and again some others, too, and I have my own on ahimsa silk).
Although vaginal irritation from synthetic fibers is common to many women without a diagnosis, it's a big thing for women who experience regular discomfort or pain. One of the first things the vulvodynia association preaches is the need to replace everything you were wearing before with white cotton undies - presumably the least irritating, mass-produced item they know you can access and is viable for your vaheen.
The trouble is that regular cotton is super taxing on the environment, and a lot of it is grown in a way that is harmful to the farmer's who have to produce it, and their families.
The materials employed by Black Bean aren't fussed about these issues. Organic cotton costs the earth less of its water than bang-average cotton, and bamboo has the potential to do similar (though the jury seems out on production as far as bamboo goes).
Black Bean also assures that it gets its textiles from reputable suppliers, and while I think I know Irene well enough to trust her judgment, you can also ask her for more info directly via Etsy. Bamboo and ahimsa silk are also much softer than the undies you get in in regular shops,and wearing them feels like you're being caressed by a very thin cloud. I don't see myself making much money as a romance novelist, do you?
Do go have a look at the full Black Bean and Silk range here. There's something for everyone. If you've had a look and thought 'everyone very wealthy, you mean', I get you. But so does Irene. If you're from South Africa, get in touch with her to discuss this directly. She's a queen, I tell you.
As far as social media goes, Black Bean are a little elusive. You can though, get them on Facebook, and if you're not au fait with all things Etsy you can also buy them from Toofufu-favourite, Faithful to Nature.
Before I leave, I'd like to chat to you about a few things. Firstly, I know that some of you may have picked up that this posts sounds a lot like a review, and I've gone on and on about how much I'm not keen on those.
You're right. I think this is more like a review than any of the other 'Ally' posts. I'm okay with this for a number of reasons. One, because much of the underwear you see I bought, although Black Bean and Silk gifted me another three pairs. Two, I figured that because this post was always going to involve emotional investment , it was best - for the sake of my writing - to write about it in a way I felt comfortable and appropriate. And three, because I feel like I've done enough to disclose the kind of business relationship I have with Irene and Black Bean, and have to trust that in this case you'll forgive the partiality, and factor it into your informed opinion.It's not a decision made lightly and I'm willing to stand corrected, yo.
Secondly, what the actual hell is up with bamboo? I thought we were friends like, WTF? The issues raised about bamboo are new to me, which is unfortunate because I've already written an 'Ally' post featuring bamboo clothing. I'll investigate the legitimacy of the claims I made in that post and update it accordingly, but in the mean time, you can have a look here and here to get a good overall picture of the problems with bamboo's claim to sustainability.
Thirdly, more as a test to see if he reads this far than anything else, I'd like to give a big shout out and squeeze to G, who is everything that is good about the world. This post, as well as this whole blog, would not be possible without your support and unrelenting patience in the face of early-morning, half-asleep demands for coffee.