MARY YOUNG Wants You to Love Yourself
The lingerie designer on what self-care actually looks like
Three years ago, Mary Young published a post of herself in her underwear on Instagram. Not totally crazy, given that she was (and still is) at the helm of a blossoming lingerie brand with her namesake, but still -- “It felt a little crazy at the time!” It was also nerve-wracking, cathartic, and empowering -- and meant to encourage other women to feel capable of being similarly authentic.
“I said, ‘I want to open up this [self-love] conversation in the digital space, and I want to do that by showing up. No, I’m not a model, I don’t look like the women that you see on the posters or in the campaigns or on the Victoria’s Secret runway, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not beautiful in my own right,’” she says. “And from there, I really focused on what self-love looks like -- it’s more than just loving your thighs or your hair or embracing your skin -- it’s all areas of your life, and we try to really open up that conversation.”
If you rewind to her brand’s inception five years ago, it might come as a surprise that Young did not want to start this company at all, much less lead a growing community of women both online and off. A recent fashion communications grad, she had just presented a collection of garments that she designed and produced herself, emphasizing that it was “my school thesis, and that’s it.” After the show, though, when requests started coming in for more product, she eventually decided to pull the trigger and write up a business plan, and the brand MARY YOUNG was born.
In retrospect, it’s clear that the brand launched to fill a hole in the intimates industry that Young knew how to cater to: “it’s what I like to call ‘lifestyle lingerie’ -- so it’s made for your life, it fits into your life, versus you trying to adjust to what you’re wearing.” Her instinct and research proved true -- women were hungry for exactly the type of empowering lingerie that she was creating. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the past five years have been an easy ride.
“When you have a business, things don’t always go to plan, life happens, the business world shifts, you have to be agile and move quickly. That’s something I didn’t necessarily know I was really good at doing before, and now I would have to say I’ve almost perfected learning how to go with Plan B, C, D -- you know, all the way down the alphabet. I am very resilient.”
Young’s focus on self-love didn’t stop with a single Instagram post in 2016; she also launched The Self-Love Club a year later, an extension of the company’s ethos that lingerie should make women feel more empowered to love their bodies -- not less. It’s become a key component of why the brand stands apart as uniquely accessible and inclusive.
“A lot of messaging up until this point has been telling women that there’s only one type of beauty, or that, ‘You need to wear this to be considered beautiful.’ Having those conversations [that led to the creation of the Self-Love Club] was a big shift in the brand because that was the mission from when we launched, but it wasn’t necessarily a conversation that was happening within the fashion industry or pop culture at the time.”
So, what does wellness look like for an entrepreneur who is kind of like a virtual cheerleader for other women to live more authentically? To start, she’s a firm believer that a good leader leads by example. That means blocking out time in her calendar to just be, sans obligation, exercising regularly (“endorphins are real!”), and socializing not just for the sake of it, but in order to spend more time with the people who bring her joy.
“I think, for me, what it means to ‘be well’ is to wake up feeling physically strong, mentally strong, and with a positive outlook,” she says. “Wellness can be misconstrued online as working out or drinking enough water or your skincare routine -- and all of that does contribute to feeling well -- but true wellness is when you have those simple moments that carry you through the day, the ones you’re not sharing online, that empower you to be a better version of yourself.”
Young’s brand of openness -- the genuine, no-holds-barred kind that’s rarely seen on the internet these days -- is special, and beyond being simply admirable, also allows the rest of her community to follow suit. To observe the organic growth of MARY YOUNG the brand, its community of women, and their corner of the internet that’s emblematic of everything good and sincere about self-care, leads one back to a single, foundational common thread: authentic connection.
“Success for the brand really has to do with how many customers, women, individuals in our community that we’re able to build connections with,” she says. “The more people that feel a positive effect from our brand, and feel good about themselves and inspired, the better.”