Posted Thursday, April 7, 2011, at 10:14 AM
There’s been some snarky coverage of the contest Kotex is launching to reimagine feminine hygiene products specifically, pads with bright colors and playful designs. The company brought in Patricia Field, the outré costume designer from Sex and the City , to mentor the three finalists whose designs are chosen. At the risk of sounding too gung-ho on a marketing campaign Kotex has plenty of well-paid MBAs to cheerlead already I have to say, this feels like an idea whose time has come.
The design of much feminine hygiene packaging feels straight out of the 1960s. All those pastels , the flowers and the butterflies they are supposed to counteract our deeply embedded cultural sense that menstruation is dirty. Instead, they just wind up reinforcing it. Like the phrase "feminine hygiene" itself, the ultra-dainty aesthetic is a kind of euphemism, reminding the woman grabbing a box of tampons off the shelf that she should feel mildly embarrassed. (Not to mention that words like "hygiene" and "sanitary" reinforce the theme of uncleanliness.)
Last year Kotex launched a line called U by Kotex, with an ad asking the question , "Why are tampon ads so ridiculous?" and lampooning the genre’s staple images women riding horses, dancing, running on the beach. (The New York Times reported that three broadcast networks nixed the word "vagina" from the ad; then two of them rejected the ad with the substitute phrase "down there.") The packaging for U by Kotex is black accented with bright colors, and according to AdAge , the line has sold well enough that it has "helped reverse a generation of declining shares for Kotex."
So, yes to the designs that people are uploading to the Kotex website; yes to stars and fish and cheetah prints on sanitary pads. (Maybe not so much to the image one person uploaded of Robert Pattinson’s face on a pad.) It seems like just a matter of time before the other brands lose the butterflies altogether. In a rambling and somewhat eccentric interview with Fashionista about her role in the contest, Field suggests that everything, even sanitary pads, should be beautiful: "I want my environments to please my eyes, my ears, and make me happy so I can burst out like a supernova."