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JULY 16, 2019 11:16 AM

Rachel Cuccia has always been obsessed with underpinnings. Her curiosity was first sparked when she was a little kid, rummaging through her mom’s things. The New York City–born Cuccia and her sisters would dress up in her ’80s-era underpinnings and leotards, dance around the room, and, as she says, “laugh while creating our own imaginary world that these pieces inspired.”

Cuccia later became a photographer and began to focus her work on herself and other women wearing underwear. “This practice is what has helped me to reclaim my body, express my sexuality, and strengthen the relationship I have with myself,” she says. “When I started photographing other women this way, they always thanked me and told me how elevated they felt and how therapeutic the experience was, just to be seen and celebrated.” Eventually, Cuccia decided to create her own collection of underwear, which she could sell to other women in the hopes that they too would find empowerment through the fit and the photographs representing the brand ethos. Her namesake label of high-cut thongs was officially launched this spring.

“I initially started Cuccia to merge my passion for photographing women with a tangible, timeless garment,” Cuccia notes. “I often would take pictures of women in underwear but I could never find the shapes that I felt could accentuate their bodies the way I wanted and the way they wanted.” She adds, “I also noticed a lot of women on social media lifting up their underwear on the sides of their hips to make them look high-cut when they weren’t.” Cuccia studied the lingerie that she and her sister used to play dress up in⁠: the French-cut styles popular in the 1980s, which she sourced through vintage shops and on eBay for inspiration. She eventually landed on thongs in three colors—black, white, and red—and fabrics including cotton, lace, and nylon. The Cuccia collection is available direct-to-consumer for between $24 and $55.

“I’m focusing on basic thongs because they’re timeless,” Cuccia says. “It’s also the least amount of fabric you can possibly wear without being fully nude.” She chose her palette, she says, because, “a lot of underwear companies only offer pieces in soft, muted color schemes, which are marketed with a gentle, ethereal aesthetic.” Cuccia adds, “I just don’t relate to the softness, at least not 100 percent of the time. I wanted to create an intimates brand that represents a wider variety of moods and the dualities of being a woman. I wanted color schemes that were attention-grabbing and that said, ‘I’m not always soft and muted, I’m here and fully present.’”