by Annabelle Schimitt
In less than half a decade, Teca Pasqua has started her own lingerie company with her own stores in Brazil, been nominated a Black Sheep member, begun planning a store opening in New York, and made plans to showcase her distinctive lingerie at a fashion show in Scotland. Beyond working as the CEO and Creative Director, Teca is the heart and soul behind Cisô, a lingerie brand empowering women to love their bodies and embrace their sexuality. She emanates self-confidence, creativity, and positive energy. Her brand, Ciso, is infused with the same characteristics.
Q: Can you tell me about yourself and how Ciso got started and your role in that?
A: I’m a fashion designer here in Sao Paolo. I did some certificate courses at FIT and Sotheby’s in New York where I lived for a while. I moved there twice for a short period of time, almost six months. After I graduated, I started working as a cultural producer. I think, fashion in Brazil, we don’t have a real nice fashion culture, you don’t find fashion museums and there’s just a few books about fashion, so I started working on it, doing exhibitions and books.
I love to create, it’s what I do best in my life. But I always thought Brazilians never got what I was doing. If I showed my work in New York, for example, people loved it. But here, for example, people would ask me “Who’s gonna wear it?” I was always ahead of people here, so that’s why I started to work as a cultural producer. But I always did my own clothes, and people started asking me for the clothes I was wearing. So then I said, “Ok, it’s time for me to start my own brand.”
I spent 2012 thinking about what I was supposed to do; the idea, kinda. I created Cisō, the name, the logo, website, everything, by myself. I spent a year doing research, asking people “What do you think? What you can find outside Brazil that you don’t find here? What do you want that you cannot find at the mall or stores or whatever?” I started the brand doing custom-made clothes, but I always liked nice shapes, and I never found lingerie to wear with the clothes that I made. I hate uncomfortable panties, so it’s really hard for me to find panties that are sexy, feminine, and comfortable. So then I changed my idea to create lingerie. I never really did much research on it. I don’t sew lingerie, I sew clothes, so for me, it was easier to create clothes instead of lingerie. Lingerie is like a whole new universe. The materials, things, strings, everything is totally different compared with clothes. I started with three different sets, I started with these strap things in 2013 when no one was doing it, and it was a huge success. I always worked with visual photographs, visual things.
Social media was always a really strong thing of Cisō’s, so I got attention from all around the world because of my photos and the way I posted on Instagram, etc. Instagram is the strongest social media that I have. And then, at the beginning of 2014, I had just one collection, these three different sets. I created two more, so I had five at the beginning, and I got the attention of an American who proposed a partnership. So I spent 2014 thinking about what we were gonna do, because he was more interested in lingerie, but at that time, I was still doing more clothes than lingerie. So I said, “Ok, I need to figure out a new brand, a lingerie brand.”
So I moved to New York in 2015 to start this partnership to have the agreement and everything, and I figured out that it was too risky for me. I had just one collection, I didn’t have my base here in Sao Paolo, I worked at home, so my atelier was there, and it wasn’t professional. I had my predictions, but once I there, nothing worked here, and my work was here. Once I came here, nothing was working there, because it’s my brand, and the passion that I have for it, maybe I find someone that gets it, but… it’s different if someone is just interested versus it’s yours. So I decided not to go forward with the partnership, came back to Brazil, and at the beginning of this year, I did everything right.
I found a nice house where I created my atelier, so a place that I can really show my work and get customers, and have my place for research, a place to create with my sewing machines. And then, I launched the collection I created, which was 15 styles of lingerie and 15 styles of clothes, and it was really good. I opened it September 15, and in a month, I was nominated a Black Sheep member by the website Not Just a Label, and my life completely changed. Not Just a Label is a very well-known platform for emerging designers, and a Black Sheep are a selection of designers from the NJAL community that the scouting team have identified as being especially innovative, pioneering and striking in their work. With that, I got some attention all around and magazines, editors, events got in touch with me. I remember saying “Thank you!” because it was crazy!
So in a month, I opened the house, I was invited to do a fashion show in Scotland in February, I have a store I’m gonna open in New York, I have some e-commerce, I opened a market here, now I have my own shop, but I have two others stores here in Sao Paolo, so it was like crazy, and I think the special thing about my work is, it’s unique because I created it. I never researched, figured out what everyone else is doing, but I have this feeling of what I’m supposed to do. Of course with fashion, there’s a mood that everyone is involved with, but it’s very unique, because I think with my clothes, I could inspire what I am, which is a contemporary girl, but feminine, and I thought nowadays, lingerie is more unisex, or very vulgar, it exposes women in a way that’s just like candy. It’s not like that; you need to feel comfortable, you have to wear lingerie daily, and at the same time, it has to be feminine, because panties is like our power. Every woman has those panties that, when they put them on, they know they’re gonna rock the day, you know? So it’s like a thing that gives you power. I want girls to feel that, and I think for now, especially, it’s not like a feminist attitude, but you don’t have to be afraid or ashamed that you like to have sex with your man, and I was talking with a lot of women who were like, not comfortable with that. I was like, “How? You’re the one who has to be involved with yourself!” So I thought like, first of all, especially women, they need to feel comfortable with themselves and especially their bodies, and I think when you wear lingerie, it gives you comfort, empowerment, and you feel stronger if you feel comfortable, so that’s the thing I try to expose with images and the way I speak through Cisō and I think that’s the most basic thing. That’s the one thing I wanna work on. I want women to feel freedom to be a woman, and feel powerful, and feel comfortable, feminine, and all those things. We’re like witches, we have intuition, we’re different from men, we’re unique, we need to not forget those things. We’re real women.
Q: Is that the takeaway, what you want people to get from Cisō?
A: Yeah. First of all, women need to know their own bodies and have freedom with themselves, and to feel confidence with themselves, and to feel ok, like comfortable with themselves. Lingerie is the first piece that you put on, you know? It’s the first thing you dress, the only thing that’s really attached to your skin. It has to be comfortable, and at the same time sexy. I think that’s it.
Q: I think one of the biggest lingerie brands in America is Victoria’s Secret, but looking at them compared to Cisō, it’s completely different. What do you think is the main difference?
A: I decided at first just to use tulle and transparency, not to go with lace, and the basic things that everyone uses on lingerie, especially because I wanted to shape the body, and get all the highlights of the curves of women’s bodies. I think that’s different, because other brands work with lace. Actually, my next collection will use lace but in a different way. For a design, a visual thing, that’s the most important and different thing that I create.
Here in Brazil, we have different shapes of panties. Our bikinis are very small. It’s different and very ridiculous. Last time I went to New York, my bag was lost, and I thought “Oh my God, where am I gonna find different panties?” It was a disaster. I went to Victoria’s Secret and there was like two types of panties, one that was like huge and covered the whole butt and then one that was like a string. And that’s it! There’s no in the middle. It’s so fun for me, because here in Brazil we look like something in the middle, which is… Let me see if I can get one here. Here, like this one. Holds up panties.
This is like a big one for us. It’s different, it fits so well, so good, and it’s so comfortable. Because when I use American panties for example, it feels like I have poo on my panties, because the fabric is so big, it’s like leftover fabric on the butt. So I always feel uncomfortable in it, especially if I wear jeans over panties that have some stretch… I dunno. It’s terrible. And the strings, sometimes people are comfortable with using just a string. It’d be very interesting for me to go inside the American market or around the world. It’s a very Brazilian thing that we used for 100 years, I dunno why anyone didn’t start doing it.
Q: Yeah, I feel like the culture in Brazil is different in terms of how women portray their bodies. I think women in Brazil tend to be more comfortable with their bodies. How do you think that’s influenced your work? And now that you have a store in New York, how do you think it’s gonna do compared to other American lingerie stores?
A: I grew up looking at Giselle Bündchen, the model. So here, during the summer, you wanna go to the beach. You were born with this cultural type of body. Over the holidays, I went to my apartment with a friend, and she’s a model, and I’m short and I’m not that skinny, I’m really curvaceous. And I always look at her and I’m felt so fat, I’m like “Oh my God, I’m so fat, look at her! Look at her body!” We grew up here with this kind of thinking, because we have this culture of sculpted bodies, so everyone during the summer goes to the beach, and here, all bikinis are very small. We don’t do topless because it’s not allowed here, but at the same time, it’s ridiculously tiny.
So you wish and you exercise, provoke yourself to have that special kind of body. If you’re a little normal, you think you’re fat, and this happens with all women, and this is the thing I always work with because I have a lot of people who see my pictures, my photos, and always tell me “You just do lingerie for models, you just create lingerie for people who have nice bodies,” and I say, “No, you didn’t try it on, if you try it on you’ll see. Go the fitting room.” And then everyone comes out saying “Oh my God! It’s so comfortable, it fits so well.” If you see my Instagram, it’s always gorgeous women with a huge nice body, the perfect ones, and everyone gets this “Oh so you just create things for the perfect ones” and I say, “No no no, you must try it on.” And then they figure it out. I always say, with my pieces, if you want to see it, you need to try, it’s completely different.
Q: You mentioned social media, and I did look around, and I noticed it’s very pretty, especially the Instagram. How has that helped grow your brand?
A: I’m actually gonna change my social media to be a bit more commercial. Until now, it was bit more conceptual, so I’m gonna change a bit, but it’s helped me a lot. I think nowadays, everyone is connected through social media, through the internet. Instagram for me, I think I have this background in images because I worked with a lot of photographers for the exhibitions and the books that I did, so I know a lot of them, I have a lot of close friends that are photographers, and once I started creating, it was really nice, because people started looking for me to create editorials, so now I have my own style, and I have a lotta people, women, models, photographers, stylists, who come to me and ask to create work together.
Then I started with my Sexy Tales. I wanted to expose what it is to be a real woman. I did some kind of interview with the women I photographed, who is behind the camera, and I called it “Cisō Sexy Tales”, and it’s really interesting, because sometimes when you create an image, you create a huge bridge between reality and the dream that you created. It doesn’t have to exist, this bridge, because it’s real, you know? Especially the images that I create, I think.
So I started to interview women to see what is to be a woman nowadays, how hard it is, what we pass through, especially the disconnection with your own body. What about love, what about family? I think your life is the main theme about what you are. So social media, it helps me in every possible way because 1 I got attention outside Brazil, and especially outside, they got to know who I am, the concept of my brand. I always say, Cisō is not just a lingerie brand, it’s an attitude, a way of life. When I create a collection, I evolve, like art, music, everything that I’m feeling, I put everything in one collection, so you can find everything. Now I created the studio that I’m working in, I created everything. And everyone that comes here, the first time they come inside they say, “Wow, I can feel your vibe, I think it’s so nice and interesting” and they figure out first on social media and they have this idea, and when they come to this place, they say “Uh huh, now I have this 100% circle.”
At this point, I asked Teca if she would mind showing me around her studio. It was absolutely beautiful, and I could understand why people loved her space so much. The house was very simplistic, but it felt alive and seemed to emanate a calm, yet creative spirit. There were a few plants stationed throughout the house, and even though the house is not yet fully settled into, it’s obvious that she’s taken some thought into how she wants to decorate it. She even points out a particularly beautiful mirror in the dressing room that she designed herself.
She told me that she’s inspired by a certain art movement called “Wiener Werkstätte,” a kind of Viennese workshop. She noted that it has a focus on “organic things shaped in a geometric way,” saying “I try to do it with my own clothes, get like a curvaceous body and shape it with geometric things.” It’s obvious that Teca has a vision. It’s clear through Cisō, and it’s also clear in her studio, even as she continues to finish it.
Q: Can you tell me more about this sentence? I found it in the about section of your website. “Cisô forges its own path through women’s evolution.”
A: I think now we are going through a transient moment in history, because we just started to get our freedom, especially with the He for She. My generation started our sex life earlier, and our kids, who are teenagers now, started earlier than us. With the internet, I remember my first computer, there’s so much technology, all the information that we have. I’m 31 years old, so I lived from nothing to everything in the period of 20 years, and it was too short, so that’s why I think we’re in transit, especially with freedom.
If you can see a lot of Instagram accounts, for example, they’re almost naked ladies with thousands of followers, and so this freedom of exposing yourself all around for the world, this kind of communication, I think we are passing through a women’s evolution, especially the way we think about ourselves, and the way people think about us. Before, everyone wants to get married with a husband, have a life with a family, but now we have women who just wanna do their jobs. For me, for example, I don’t have a dream to have kids. If I do, it’ll be amazing, but it’s not like a wish, I wasn’t born to have kids. This kind of thinking is a huge difference, and the period of time that things change – it’s short. If you look at fashion history, for example, you have decades that it was kinda transitory. Now we’re comparing 2006 to 2016, and it was a huge difference, you can’t figure the fashion in these ten years because everything went back and it was crazy.
When I was a teenager, you have like the hickeys, the punts, the clubbers… Different styles of kind of groups. Now, everyone is unique. It’s not nice for you to be just like everyone else, you have to be yourself. That’s another huge difference that I think happened in a short period of time. So, when I say “Cisō forges its own path through women’s evolution,” I have this feeling of looking around. You’ll see me quiet somewhere, looking around, trying to figure it out. I like to go to a new place, sit in a café, and watch people walk around on the streets, figure out their style, questions, what they are used to doing in their daily life, and this is something that I always like about myself, and I try to put that in my designs.
Q: Going off that, some people view lingerie as something risqué, a way women allow people to objectify themselves. What are your thoughts on that?
A: I think everyone has their own thoughts, and it is hard to say anything. I think people… it’s changing, the way they think about it, but I, for example:
I just did a naked editorial, a friend of mine took photos of me, and I think I have my life before it and my life after it. It is nice because it was for a magazine, and I was just launching Cisō in 2013 and they wanted a photoshoot and I said, “Ok, let’s do it.” I’ve never been on the other side of the camera. I’m not a model, and it was really strange, first of all, because when I saw the pictures, I said, “Wow, I didn’t know I had this body!” You know? Because you’re not used to it.
I started with this kind of thinking after this photoshoot, because it was like, a really unique experience of my life. The other thing was, the idea of a photoshoot for a magazine, they have their own style that you have to do, like you have to take a photo at the bed, you have to take a photo, whatever. It is actually a nice magazine for men and women in Brazil, it’s almost the style of C-Heads, like a natural girl. It’s like a normal girl, almost naked. For me, it was very interesting, especially because the magazine wanted me to be an object and I felt like an object, but at the same time, I wasn’t, and me, it was the first time I was naked in front of people I never thought I’d be naked in front of. And the photographer was a man, so he made me feel really comfortable with it. I think it’s different when a man photoshoots and a woman photoshoots. Women, we have this intuition, this feeling, this sensitivity. And men? Of course they feel more sexual about a girl. His point of view, the girl is not just an object, but she’s a girl, she’s a woman, so that provokes him in some way. Sometimes you can see the difference in the results. He made me feel really comfortable. But if you ask me, can you be a model again? It’s not for me. I can do it, but depends who’s gonna photoshoot, and I dunno.
I dunno what to answer, but it was strange, because the magazine made me feel like an object, but I felt special about myself, so I think it’s strange. It’s just a different about intentions, like everyone can look at a picture and say like she’s an object, it’s vulgar, I think a lot of images of sexy naked ladies can be vulgar, depends on the attitude of her, but also the attitude of who is shooting her. So it’s difficult to tell or to agree or not agree with that kind of thinking. It’s peculiar.
Q: What are you most proud of, in terms of Cisō?
A: I think for me, it was a dream that came true, it’s coming true, because I have much more to do. You, for example, when you say to me, like the words, that you get the feeling, the feeling that you get with Cisō, is the thing that I created. So for me, the thing that I’m most proud of, is the communication, is that it’s clear, that I put on this thing and people get it, because it’s not always that way. Sometimes you create and no one understands and no one gets it, and for me, I’m really being myself. I made a lot of mistakes, but I learn from them, and I got more courage to go forward with it, and as you can see, it was 3 months that I opened the shop, and now I’m talking to you, so I’m really proud of myself of being here, working hard. It wasn’t easy at all, I cried a thousand times, it was really hard, but I am more proud of my courage and to have the courage to show it, to empower women, to have this kind of voice, and especially people getting it, I think that’s the most important thing.
Q: What other projects does Cisō have in store?
A: I have now the next collection which I’m gonna launch in March or April. I’m going to New York in February and then I’m going to Scotland and I’m gonna spend like a month away from here, so I don’t wanna make plans that much.
I want to spread Cisō around, I wanna have it in every corner if I can get it, so people get used to the pieces and try them and love them. Now, my project is not like make a lot of money because we’re just starting, but I want to spread it around, that’s what I wanna do this year, and keep growing, I have a lot to learn, I will make a lot of mistakes, but this time, I’m more like step by step. I wanna create more tutorials, sexy tales, do the interviews, because every woman inspires me with their strength and their power, and I think it’s really nice to know each other, you know? I saw a quote… It was saying something like besides every strong woman is 100 other strong women, because we’re like a team.
Q: What’s your biggest dream for Cisō and where do you see it in ten years?
A: I wanna have success, of course, financially, with concept, and everything. I hope that I can put this freedom on women’s minds, you have to know your body, you have to get used to it, know your body changes, and whatever. And so with that, I wanted to create this, and I wanna be all around, I wanna really have my “kingdom”, you know? Now, I have small stores. One day, I wanna build a nice company.