Carne Bollente is the pro-sex fashion label giving a platform to eroticism – without forgetting a sense of humour. Its no-holds barred embroidery puts historical couples at the centre of the action, turning up the heat in the name of positivity and acceptance. Co-founders Hijiri Endo, Théodore Famery and Agoston Palinko share the story and philosophy that shape their cult designs, proving just why sex sells in a socially-conscious age.
How did Carne Bollente begin?
It started as a stupid joke, one night talking about creating something we had never seen before, creating a contrast between creativity, technique and a strong theme. We quickly came up with the idea of sex as the main subject, mixed with embroidery. We all loved talking about sex as passion, so it was quite organic and spontaneous. We were looking for a name that could embody our sexual appetite and came across it by chance. It was stupid enough, so we liked it immediately. It comes from this legendary porn movie ‘The Rise of the Roman Empress’ – the original title is ‘Carne Bollente’. Our idol, Cicciolina is the lead actress and she embodies, for us, a positive and uninhibited vision of sexuality. Carne Bollente means “boiled meat” in Italian: we found it super sexy and funny.
Why is sex positivity such an important message for you?
Sex is often seen as taboo or perceived in a negative way. We believe talking about sex and sexuality should be more open and we should all have a sense of freedom. Our sex positive statement encourages people to embrace their own sexuality and kinks. We think this is our job to offer a simpler and more positive vision of the clichés, archetypes and ideas of sex we see everywhere. Sex and humour are rarely topics we see together but we believe it's a shame. That's why we try to laugh about sex too. Through our creations, we seek to positively change cultural attitudes and norms around sexuality and are hoping to promote the recognition of different sexual identities.
“Talking about sex and sexuality should be more open. We seek to positively change cultural attitudes and norms, and promote the recognition of different sexual identities.”
Is there anywhere you draw the line when it comes to explicit material?
Despite the fact that violence and sex are often connected psychologically, we never enjoy drawing something too violent. We are first and foremost about creating illustrations that are rather positive with a sense of humour!
Where do you find inspiration?
Our inspirations come from everywhere, including vintage porn, different forms of art, movies, music and of course, personal experience. Vintage porn, especially, brings a lot of ideas, and as a team we always talk about funny stories from our personal lives! As we develop seasonal collections based on different themes, we also look at something outside the subject of Sex. For instance, our SS20 collection, Island of Desires, is about Japan, therefore, we took lots of ideas from traditional and modern arts and cultural aspects.
Do you think the fashion industry takes itself too seriously?
Yes, absolutely. Especially how fast the fashion industry moves – it’s completely crazy. We spend four to five months creating a collection, then we deliver to retailers. Only a few months later sale starts, and the new collection must arrive. We create products that last for a long time but this industrial schedule limits everyone’s creativity and also brings a negative impact to sustainability. Even though we are a very small brand, we feel responsible. We definitely want to find a realistic way of producing our garments sustainably and explore the different ways of being sustainable.
What’s the best thing anyone has ever said about your designs?
We receive a lot of positive messages from our customers and followers, but the happiest message we have ever received was from this young customer who lives in Berlin. He told us that he wore our gay T-shirt when we came out to his mum. He told her he was so confident about who he was and could even wear his sexuality on a T-shirt! When we saw his post, we were so touched and discovered we could make a great impact, we were really surprised actually! So, our creation is really making a sex positive statement, hopefully!
How has Paris shaped the brand?
Paris has shaped us and helped us grown as a creative collective. Firstly, this is where we live, and we get inspired by our everyday life. Also, Paris is with full of unique energy created by amazing art and fashion people.
How does working as a collective affect your approach?
We are a creative collective with completely different backgrounds and talents. We believe this is how we make our project so unique and special. Theo is from Paris, leading art direction, and Agoston is from Hungary, making most of the illustrations. Business and collection merchandising are led by Hijiri with Japanese sensibility. We are really good friends, but our personalities and backgrounds are so different. It’s so great as we learn new things from each other every day.
How has the industry changed since you started out?
We believe that the fashion industry literally changes day by day. New trends are born then die so fast, as well as changes in consumer behaviour and communication tools. Consumers value brands and products more carefully than before; being able to shop online brings more choices, so purchase decision is taken in a more selective way. They compare the price, but they also look at important things such as transparency and sustainability. It is great that everyone is becoming more conscious about what they wear so it is our job to look at the changes and act accordingly.
Why is clothing the best way to communicate your message?
This is simply because we wear clothes every day and this is how we present our identity and who we are! Most importantly, we love fashion!
Why is it important for you to stay independent as a brand?
We like to feel free and have full control in what we do and what we make.
What most concerns you about the fashion industry today?
Definitely sustainability. Honestly, we are not a sustainable brand yet and are still very far away from being sustainable. We try to create clothes which can be worn for a long time and we aim to use eco-friendly materials such as organic cotton and certified materials – over 60% of our SS20 collection is made of 100% organic cotton. In addition to our practice in sustainable sourcing, we try to centralise our production and logistic operation. Today, almost all of our fabrics are sourced from Portuguese suppliers and all our products are manufactured at factories that respect their workers in north Portugal. Since 2019, we moved our logistic operation to the same region, which allows us to significantly reduce our carbon footprint. We want to take responsibility for our activities for generations to come.
What’s next for Carne Bollente?
We never stop! We are already working on the new collection as well as some exciting collaborations!