Since humanity’s earliest days, people have removed their own hair. For cave women and men this was less of a vanity play and more of a self-preservation tactic – hair gave battle opponents more to grab onto during combat. Ancient Egyptians wilfully shed hair for similar reasons, stripping locks with a sugary substance (possibly beeswax) in a method similar to waxing. Women of the era are believed to have removed all their body hair bar eyebrows, and shaped their pubic hair into triangular shapes.
Experimentation continued through the Ancient Greek and Roman periods, the Elizabethan era and into the early 1900s. The surge of flapper culture in the 1920s, for example, saw hemlines rise and hair-removal brands target women’s legs with ads for razors, waxes and depilatory creams.
More recent years have revealed a surge of young women (approximately one in four under 25, according to a report by research analysists Mintel) have stopped shaving under their arms. The figures echo the body positivity movement of the last decade – relegating body hair removal from a “must-do” to a “you-do-you”.
Still, many Australian men and women continue to reach for the razor, whether for sport or sex or summer or self-care – the model Rebecca Harding being one of them. “I found myself constantly reaching for my boyfriend’s razor,” she recalls. “After some research [I] realised that the only options on the market for women were pink plastic razors that haven’t kept up with society’s changing values and consumer demands, or safety razors which only appealed to a niche audience.”
Harding envisaged a brand of hair removal products, Lui, that felt inclusive, and aesthetically aligned with contemporary values of health and wellness. “After speaking with hundreds of women about their body hair and whether or not they choose to remove it, it was evident that not everyone shaves the same,” she says. “Some shave daily, some shave parts of their body and not others, and some shave once every few months.”
Armed with a vision and motivated by her research, Harding set out to find a partner. “A mutual friend of ours knew about Ingrid [Kesa]’s beauty background, and what I wanted to achieve, so introduced us during COVID in 2020,” says Harding. “We clicked instantly over Zoom and I could tell right away that Ingrid was the perfect person to go into business with.
“I still remember the day that she called me after being at the supermarket. I think that was the moment the penny dropped for her, she realised that the female shaving space was hugely under catered for and outdated.”
The pair didn’t waste time. Despite Melbourne’s strict Covid-19 lockdown regulations and not yet having met in person, Harding and Kesa embarked upon the brand building process – and now think of one another as “not just as business partners but lifelong friends”.
Three years in the making, the pair celebrated the launch of Lui this week – a direct-to- consumer offering of razors, custom-designed to support the way women-identifying individuals shave (think a rotating blade head and weighted handle for maximum control), alongside a pH-balanced antioxidant shave cream that complements the hair removal experience.
If you’re expecting to stumble upon Lui at your local supermarket, think again. Harding and Kesa deliberately adopted a subscription service approach to product distribution – a market-first for the Australian women’s shaving category. “Our customers’ relationship with body hair is not fixed and is ever-changing, so our subscription model reflects this personalised approach,” says Harding of the decision to eschew third-party retailers. “Our customer can update the frequency in which they receive the Refill Blade Set and the Shave Cream based on the cadence in which they shave. We also wanted to offer a female-led subscription service that matches options available to men in the shaving category.”
As for Harding’s hope for Lui? “We hope our consumers respond to our design-led product and reframe shaving as a moment to not just remove body hair, but to take some time out to connect with the self,” she says.
“Our hope for the brand is to disrupt the shaving category by reimagining a product that (up until now) has only been considered functional and utilitarian.
“Why shouldn’t shaving be a more beautiful experience?”