With the name Scarlett Rose, this lovely lady was destined to be a celebrator of the female form. She is the founder of FIGS underwear, a minimalist loungewear and intimates brand designed to show off women’s bodies as simply as possible. Along with running her own business, this London-to-L.A. transplant is also an actor. Her dream role is to portray Lynne Reid Banks’ protagonist Jane, a determined, beautiful and soon-to-be mother, from the novel The L-Shaped Room. Scarlett describes herself as sensitive, playful and creative and we don’t disagree. This ambitious Cancerian starts her days off by cuddling with her lover and their dog, followed by some deep stretching. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking and tending to her “plant babies”. Scarlett makes time to meditate daily using the apps Calm and Simple Habit, but her favorite meditation is Isha Kriya guided by Sadhguru. Scarlett’s best ideas come to her while she’s taking a bath—which she treats herself to often. Scarlett Rose is a deep believer in loving thyself and encouraging other women to do the same.
Astrology sign: Cancer
Your brand celebrates women and the female form. Who are a few women who have inspired you to do what you do?
My mother, for starters. She is very beautiful and glamorous. Mum has always been my biggest inspiration. She has a great sense of style and love for fashion. She’s very comfortable in her own skin and isn’t afraid to be silly. She is also the strongest woman I know. One example of her strength was when my sister was born three months premature and had to stay in an incubator for months. The doctors weren’t sure she would make it, but Mum kept believing that she would. She’d get the train every morning to sit by her baby’s bedside. She wasn’t allowed to touch her and I didn’t meet her ‘til she was home nearly a year later. Molly has special needs and struggles with things you and I might find easy, but my Mum has always been incredibly positive, patient and believed each one of her children—including Molly—can do anything.
Mum has taught me to be resilient even in the face of pain, dust myself off and stand up for myself. She also has a great sense of humor. Even when shit has really hit the fan, she still manages to laugh whatever it is off—which is truly a gift.
My grandmother was also a big inspiration to me. Granny was such a babe and a terrific cook. She made these beautiful pastries and desserts. My favorites were these little tarts filled with jam. She also made the best roast potatoes, perfectly crisp on the outside and warm and fluffy on the inside. She always had perfectly painted red nails and this bright copper hair. She’s the one who taught me how to put on eyeliner, too.
And finally, I say Isabelle Huppert, whose beauty and work I admire greatly. Isabelle is always so human when she portrays these women. She creates these beautifully layered characters, almost as if she’s holding a mirror up to the audience, which I think is the best kind of experience.
Femininity is being able to be strong but soft, being connected to the heart and unafraid to follow it.
Why did you decide FIGS would be minimalistic? What draws you to minimalism?
I’ve always loved a minimal aesthetic when it comes to design and fashion—designers like Jil Sander and Calvin Klein. Classic staples and lines allow the beauty of the female form to show through.
Describe the process of launching your brand. What questions did you ask yourself and what were you trying to accomplish?
I decided to start a brand in August 2016 after some big life things happened. My husband had passed away in an accident a few months earlier. His death was an incredible shock to say the least. In an instant, all that I knew was gone and I had to do whatever it took to survive and rebuild my life. And staying creative and busy was my lifeline to staying sane.
So, I started designing this line and was really unsure where it would go. I spent many evenings creating mood boards, drawing up plans and dreaming about a women-run lingerie business that celebrated the female form. Among other things, his death made me realize how precious and short life is and how I wasn’t content with just waiting around for an audition to come up. I needed to take control of something in my life and building a business seemed like a good place to start. Before he died, he was actually in the process of starting his own business. So, perhaps, in some way I wanted to carry on his hard work and legacy by starting my own.
I have my own long list of body issues and insecurities, like many women, but I have always loved lingerie and wanted to make something that would make women feel beautiful and sexy. I was also so fed up with all the underwear brands that exploit and alienate women. It’s such a messed up industry and it made me mad how their advertisements portrayed this “ perfect” body shape which usually only included size zero, tall models. I wanted to create something beautiful that allowed all women to feel comfortable in their bodies no matter what race, shape or size—while at the same time healing my own heart.
Where do you draw inspiration for your brand?
Sarah Moon’s photographs, early 90s-era Vivienne Westwood, that iconic 1992 Kate Moss Calvin shoot, Jeanloup Sieff’s photographs, Botticelli paintings, babes—like Monica Bellucci— and renaissance sculpture.
Why the name “figs”?
The fig is such a sumptuous, delicate and sweet fruit. The shape of the fruit is very feminine with all its curves and teardrop silhouette. When you squeeze it, it’s soft like a boobie! Biting into a fig reveals all its flesh and jewel like colors. There is something quite erotic about a fig. It’s the symbol of fertility: the leaf is masculine and the fruit feminine—and let’s be honest, it looks a little like a vagina. Right?
You’re not wrong, there. Speaking of the vagina, in another interview, you talked about how you didn’t look at yourself, more specifically your vagina, until you were 25. Talk more about that experience and why it is important for women to see and look at themselves.
It took me a long time to be able to look at my own body—to face some of my past traumas. I realized that the things I had bottled up and tried to forget about had been stored and held in my body as shame. They were actually still hurting me and stopped me from growing, causing anger and, in the end, more shame. I felt closed up, like a clam.
In order to move forward, I had to lean into the discomfort and explore myself on my own. I had to begin the journey to love myself. I had to forgive myself and start to love all the different parts of me, which was hard and uncomfortable at times. I think we are so conditioned to think our bodies are these vessels for male pleasure and for birthing a baby—and that our pleasure or loving ourselves is wrong or icky. I think it’s important to have a practice of loving ourselves, exploring what we like and don’t. There’s no use in feeling ashamed by our desires or pressured to do something we don’t want to or be something that we’re not.
I designed the paddle and tickler for women to be able to use and investigate the different sensations that they may enjoy, whether its with themselves or their lover. The mirror came about because I realized I wasn’t alone in my feelings and fears. Looking at our bodies shouldn’t bring about shame. Taking ourselves in with love and compassion is a practice that takes time. I am still learning how to be nice to myself. The mean self-talk may always be there, but I think the more you do it, try to love yourself, the quieter that mean voice gets. Some days are harder than others, but beginning the path to practicing self-love and care has been my first step to healing.
How have your experiences acting played a role in how you see yourself, other women and your brand?
Acting has given me a way to channel some of my pain through portraying someone else’s story. Exploring their journey means exploring their challenges, conflicts or trauma. It’s such a beautiful gift to be given the opportunity to tell someone else’s story and to try to do so without judgment.
How do you prepare for your roles?
I always look at where we are similar. I ask myself, “What part of the character or their story can I relate to?” Once you find that connection—that’s a pretty good way in I suppose. There is always something that you can identify with no matter how different they may be from you. We are all a lot more alike than we think.
Is there a character you've always wanted to play?
I have always been drawn to dynamic, intense characters. Women with a bit of grit or edge to them. There is a book called The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks. It was adapted into a film in the early 60s. I’ve read the book probably seven times. It’s my go-to comfort book that I reach for whenever I’m having the blues. I have always secretly dreamt of playing the protagonist Jane. I always felt connected to her, for some reason. It’s exciting, as I get older, the roles I audition for get more and more juicy. There are great shifts happening within the industry and amazing women leading the way for more interesting strong female roles. Roles in which we are not just playing the damsel in distress, waiting for the man to come save us. It is an exciting time to be an actress.
What actors inspire you?
Annette Bening, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bette Davis and Isabelle Huppert.
What keeps you up at night?
My anxiety. Anxiety is my constant companion. It always creeps up as soon as I put my head down on the pillow. Reading is the only thing that can soothe my monkey mind.
How do you want to be different by living in this world?
I’d like to be more curious, more patient and have the ability to stay present. I would also like to be able to travel the world and eat all the foods!
How do you want this world to be different because you lived in it?
I hope by sharing my story I can help inspire someone else to begin the journey to self-love, to heal ones heart, to go for their dreams no matter how many hurdles might pop up, and to be brave and fearless and not afraid to be seen. I think it’s important to share our stories however hard they may be and to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is such a courageous thing in a world like ours and it’s something I hope to keep exploring. I like that quote by Maggie Kuhn [American social-activist who fought ageism] : “Leave safety behind. Put your body on the line. Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind—even if your voice shakes. When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say. Well aimed slingshots can topple giants.”
Scarlett's fave books:
The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Henry And June By Anaïs Nin