Anyone who has followed Moot from the very beginning, will know that Moot is Jules.
Jules is Moot.
But you might also know that Jules is still a metalworker and vintage car expert and is needed to keep quite a few projects in the world of vehicle conservation going.
If you have listened into any of Jules’ Friday chats on Instagram, received a note in your package, had an email, read any of the social media posts or enjoyed the many amazing photoshoots Moot has put on to show off the designs, you may have realised that there is always another person in the background helping Jules to bring his Moot ideas to the world.
It’s me! Anna. I am actually Jules’ wife’s friend really, but over years of being around both of them and being brought into the ‘circle of trust’ early on over way too much Calvados when Jules was starting to draw his ideas, he responded to my genuine whole-hearted belief that he was onto something amazing, ground breaking and seriously exciting by eventually offering me a job with him. But how do you go from a 23 year career teaching English in schools, to learning how to get an edgy and emotive start up off the ground?
I have always loved style and fashion, particularly that which is sustainable ( in fact, I was recently featured in a National magazine because I have been buying all my outer wear at charity shops for over 10 years - but underwear, now that MUST be new) and even with the promise of being able to ‘wear whatever I wanted to work’ after more than two decades in smart teacher-stuff, I did have some things to ponder in my first year as Jules’ sidekick. Here’s how it looked:
What will people think?
No one has been negative. People get it that Moot is a niche business, it’s not vanilla, but there are people who want a different choice. Not one person has been openly critical of my decision to step off the career safety net and into the totally unknown with Moot. Even my 75 year old dad always asks how ‘That knicker stuff’ is ticking along. My millennial relatives think it’s amazing, and exactly where the world should be heading. They totally get the push against the gender binary and it’s not shocking for them.
How can you sell something you’re not into yourself?
I think Moot is brilliant. Lingerie for men, why not? I don’t wear Moot because it’s not cut for me, but I do have a few sample products of lines we are trialling which will be gender non-specific. It’s gorgeous stuff. I have become much more aware of underwear brands and designs this past year and get the language of lingerie now. I didn’t ever really think about it before, but now there’s a whole world opening up and I find myself scrolling through the Moot Insta feed and getting inspired and motivated by the fantastic energy in the world of underwear and the self-care and self-acceptance that are key themes for Moot as a brand. I am all about pro-choice, non-judgement, freedom to express yourself without fear when you cause no harm. I work for a man who embodies that in a singularly brave way and that feels right.
Will the customers be weird?
What?! The customers are amazing! Men and women. Older, younger, openly straight, openly gay, trans, married, quiet or sharing- pilots, lecturers, plumbers, dancers (they are just the ones we know about) - just all sorts of people from all sorts of places in the world. We are so lucky to be creating beautiful products that people have not been able to find anywhere else, this means that we get the full force of people’s delight and I often come to work and open wonderful emails telling us that it’s made a real difference to have felt ‘seen’ or to feel the relief of knowing that you’re not the only person who spent years wishing that this was a choice for men.
How can you cope seeing your boss in the nude?
The first time was a challenge. It’s also seeing your best friend’s husband starkers. We had the first sample try on at a friend’s house on New Year’s Eve quite a few years ago now. Jules had to get changed in front of three women nervously necking back prosecco and making small talk to fill the embarrassment that was pulsing through the air like a radar. As soon as he was in the knickers and we were critiquing, we lost the nerves and started drawing lines on him to tweak things and pulling at straps and generally twisting him around and about. It’s now so ‘usual’ that I sometimes apologise to him for yawning as he scoops his package out of one gusset and wrangles it into some open fishnets. It’s just what we do. We have to be reflective, critical and constantly thinking about how we make a simple, small item feel like a Moot item - Jules is the male shape available so it has to work that there’s no issue with him being naked in my presence - plus I have given up all alcohol so prosecco can no longer feature!
What exactly is the role for a woman at Moot?
When I first started running Moot’s day to day operations I was worried that customers would be really disappointed to find that there was a woman there, that somehow I was fraudulently misrepresenting the brand because I am not male, I don’t have a masculine shape, I haven’t ever had problems with feeling under-represented or not catered for in any clothing. But I do feel very strongly that material has no gender - I hashtag with that a lot. I feel that I can use my strengths to support a brand which is pushing the boundaries in a challenging way. We are, thankfully, getting used to seeing brands creating coats, shoes, bags, shirts, jeans, that are gender non-specific, but there is a line people find much harder to cross when it comes to underwear. You really have to challenge yourself not to be shocked, ask yourself why you find it odd, or gross, or funny? Why are you OK with seeing huge billboards of women in lacy undies but it’s incomprehensible to imagine a man being seen in the same? I have not had an issue with any customers at Moot, even the occasional phone call from a nervous man who wants some help in deciding what might be the right size etc - it’s always been fine. The customers are just happy to find us and seem totally cool in dealing with me. If I am advocating for men to be allowed to have the choice of lingerie and saying that gender should not matter, then I need to believe that about my role too and stop worrying that I bring less to Moot by being female. Moot is redressing the imbalance at the moment and creating for male shapes because that's where the gap is, but we want to get to a point where anyone can come to us. Where it's just a garment and you can get it to fit you no matter what gender you identify as. So I'm just as valid as Jules.
How do you see your role in the future with Moot?
I have been with Moot from the start really. Although I was still teaching until Christmas 2019, I have been part of the development process and ideas forum from the very earliest days. I often forget the impact of this, but Jules is very good at reminding me that what I do IS vital. I discuss the designs with Jules and add to the final tweaks, I write all the press releases (pretty proud of getting us into The Observer twice and into Attitude Magazine and King Kong Magazine in fashion editorials) I manage all the social media and keep creating content. I have reached out to some amazing accounts on Instagram and we have seen some brilliant IG stars wearing Moot on our grid. We have a hugely exciting project in the pipeline where Harry Lambert (if you don’t know who he is, LOOK HIM UP!) responded to a message I sent him and he’s asked to use some Moot products in an upcoming exhibition he’s working on. I pack everything and write to you. I respond to customer queries and comments. It’s a big responsibility, but I love it. And I love that Jules is looking into allowing me to get some shares in Moot. I believe in Moot 100% and I am really keen to totally tangle myself up in the brand that I think is worthy of my energy.I have also just realised that if I truly believe in something, I need to be brave enough to take my hand off the edge of the pool, stop 'hiding' behind Jules and push out into the future.