Ash Hipwood is helping to save your cycle (and the planet while she’s at it).
Ash and co-founder Louis Birks, created period brand – Scarlet - to help change the narrative around menstruation and make it a more positive, comfortable (and in our opinion “cool”) experience.
Touted the Glossier of period products by Fashion Journal, Scarlet has modernised products that were once seen as alternative – like the period cup – bringing it into the mainstream and helping more people ditch the disposables (or at least opt for more eco-friendly options).
But Scarlet is not only about providing more choice, it’s also about providing information and breaking down period stigma. A brand that is relatable, and funnily enough, comfortable having real talk about menstruation. That’s our kind of brand.
We sat down with Ash to talk cycle-tracking, period-tax and her favourite bits.
How did the Scarlet brand come about? We saw the impact that reusable period products could have on the planet and women’s health, if more people used them, but we felt the period category lacked innovation. There was a real need for a period brand for the new generation - a period brand that could make you feel excited for your next period. A period brand you could relate to. We wanted to fill that gap.
Why is changing the conversation around periods important to you? And why do you think it’s taken so long for us to get here?
Period stigma is holding us back. It’s crazy to think that there is STILL stigma around periods. It’s natural! You don’t always feel comfortable when your period hits, but we want everyone to at least be comfortable to talk about how they’re feeling!
The word taboo actually stems from the Polynesian root word tapua, and tapua actually means menstruation. Taboo literally means ‘menstruation’! So it’s no wonder why the stigma has been around for so long. As women, our periods are still interrupting our days. We’ve learned to stay silent and to cope, but it is absolutely crazy that in this day of innovation, the industry has remained largely unchanged for the past 50 years. With Scarlet, we did not want to just create a product that works for people with periods, we also wanted to break through the glass ceiling and push beyond the archaic mindset of the industry.
It’s really important that we build a brand and narrative of positivity around menstruation. We’re taking a stand against the idea that periods are ‘discreet,’ ‘dirty’ and ‘something to feel embarrassed about’ - these ideas have traditionally been used to sell period products and can have a huge negative impact on how the younger generation view their bodies. Rather than creating a product that is intended to be hidden away, Scarlet products are designed to be displayed on your bathroom shelf, alongside your other favourite brands, so that we can finally normalise periods as an everyday element of life - because it is!!
What’s the benefit of tracking and understanding your menstrual cycle. Do you track yours?
YES! I love this topic. I track with M.Cycles and have also tried Flo. My period also lands every New Moon - so I’ve got those heightened emotions on lock.
Personally, learning about my hormone cycle changed everything for me. It helped me to learn that, on the first day of my period, my body starts producing more estrogen, zapping me out of my pre-period fatigue, helping me shed my PMS, boosting my energy, attention and mood for the next two weeks. It’s exciting!
On the other hand, I now dread the estrogen dip that occurs the two weeks after I get my period, and the downward trajectory that follows it. I’m not a nice person to be around at the time.
It’s comforting to know that there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for ‘why’ I feel the way I do week-to-week and that I’m not “crazy” – it’s just hormones!
For anyone wanting to understand their cycle more, I highly recommend following Aussie period coach, Claire Baker. She has an amazing book called ‘50 things you need to know about your period’ - which covers everything from the science behind cycle tracking and how to optimise your routine in flow with your hormones.
Do you think the removal of the “period-tax” in 2019, has played a role in shifting the “period” conversation?
I think this was a positive step in the right direction. The fact that period products were exempt from “important health goods” to begin with - it's a hard one to wrap your head around.
Menstruation is a fact of life for half of the population and access to period products is a necessity - not a luxury. But it’s not the end solution. Accessibility and period poverty remain massive issues. Period poverty affects women across the world, and in Australia, who don't have access to sanitary products, along with safe, hygienic places to use them.
Change is happening and it’s so good to see Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales announce trial programs for free pads and tampons in schools – we need more of this.
Share The Dignity also doing a great deal of work in this space, and we are currently working on our own initiatives to tackle period poverty in Australia, particularly around making sustainable period products more accessible. We would love to dedicate resources at the grassroot level, educating the younger generation on reusable period products and all of the options available to them - something I think we all wish we had growing up.
Pic: @amaani in the Scarlet PeriodWear Boyshort
We know Scarlet has a strong focus on sustainability. In what ways does Scarlet help people to live more sustainably, and why is this important to you?
For so long periods have been approached with a set and forget mindset. I mean, we’ve all flushed a tampon in our time just to avoid dealing with it. The reality of it is we will use around 10,000-12,000 disposable period products in our lifetime, and considering the fact we will bleed for around 40 years of our life… well that’s just a shit tonne of waste.
At Scarlet, we believe that a reusable period routine is hands down a better period experience - not just for the planet, but for your health. And we want more and more people to experience that. We’re tackling this head on by creating a new era of modern and sustainable period products that make it easier to switch or start a reusable routine. The kind of products that are sleek, innovative and intuitive, look good on your bathroom shelf and the kind of products you can look forward to using each month.
Talking periods day in and day out, we’re guessing you’ve heard a lot of different stories. What’s the biggest reproductive challenge or issue that you are hearing about?
Endometriosis is one of the big ones, with one in 10 period-havers experiencing endo during their ‘reproductive years’ (roughly 176 million people in the world at any given time). Yet, despite the astronomical amount of endo sufferers, there’s very little the medical world knows about it, much less any treatment options. I’m fortunate to not live with reproductive challenges, but I do speak with many people from our community that do.
The stress of living with chronic pain, emotionally and physically, not knowing what-the-fuck is going on with your body or what the solution is. It can take up to 10 years for a proper diagnosis, the surgeries, the recovery and not to mention the costs associated with living with Endo. My heart goes out to anyone living with chronic pain. Dealing with straight-up period pain is hard enough. It hardly seems fair. This Is why our partnership with Endometriosis Australia so important, as it raises desperately needed awareness and funding for a future that endo sufferers can look forward to.
What does body positivity mean to you? Has this played a role in the creation of Scarlet?
I saw a quote recently, “Love your body!” and scribbled beneath it, was a slightly more accessible message: “But it’s okay if you find that hard too”. Body positivity for me, is being at peace with yourself - as hard as that can be sometimes.
As a brand we have a responsibility to set a new standard of body positivity. For us self-expression and representation are key. We share stories of cycle routines, which gives a real insight into our communities journey to feeling comfortable in their own skin. From battling with period acne, wearing the scars of multiple endo surgeries or weight gain associated with PCOS, our menstrual cycle plays a big role in how we feel about our bodies.
We’re all different and as a brand we really want to celebrate that.
Do you remember getting your period? What was the experience like? HA yes. I was in grade seven, and luckily Mum packed me a ‘just in case kit’ – I was so embarrassed! In there was a spare pair of knickers and a maxi pad with big and bulky wings. It was a mixed bag of emotions; shock, fear, shame, excitement...I remember getting it just before P.E class and was too scared to tell my teacher what had happened. So, I just had to push through the pain and the discomfort of running around playing tunnel ball in a maxi pad. Looking back, if I had period underwear packed in that ‘just-in-case-period-kit’ - that P.E class would have been a hell of a lot easier.
Talking other intimate “firsts”. Do you remember your first bra? What was the experience of buying your first bra like?
I remember this well. It wasn’t a proper bra, it was a Bonds bandeau-style crop with the removable straps. I remember it being really ‘cool’ to add bright straps to the plain coloured bandeau as an act of schoolgirl rebellion. My first ‘real bra’ experience was your stock-standard story featuring me and a cranky old lady in the undies department at David Jones. The star? A beige padded bra that felt two sizes too big, I’ve avoided department stores ever since. I still don’t think I’m wearing the right size bra TBH - BITS help! (Ash: we got you!)
What’s the one must-have Scarlet style that everyone should have in their period toolkit?
Don’t make me choose! If I had to choose just one, it would be our Period Cup. My relationship with my period completely changed since making the switch to the period cup. I keep it stored in our new ceramic cup pod, which gives a nice elevated touch to period storage.
I know you said one, but I’m going to throw in a cheeky second, the Period G-String. I love every style in our PeriodWear range, but if you’re a sworn G-string girl, like me, the G-string is It! It’s made from organic cotton and has a really flattering fit. My period isn’t super heavy, so I’ll wear it on the last few days to save my fave undies from pesky period stains - and don’t be fooled by appearances, the G holds up to 2 tampons’ worth of flow. I’ll also wear it to Yoga or the gym under tights (on AND off my period - yes seriously) - they feel like real underwear and the performance-style gusset dries lightning fast so it always delivers on the comfy feels.
Pic: Matilda Dods in the Scarlet PeriodWear G-String
What’s next for Scarlet?
You can expect some new products landing very soon - which is very exciting. You may even see us exploring new categories to help you manage your cycle better. We’re committed to helping people have the best period experience ever, so if it ticks that box - there’s no limit to what we can do.
Discover Scarlet here.