The tagged photo section on the Instagram page for Parade, an underwear start-up founded in fall 2019, shows a surfeit of images of young women modeling brightly colored briefs and bikinis. Many of them pose in studio apartments, stretched out on velvet couches and propped up on dressers. Some press against vinyl shower curtains, donning the neon underwear in mirror selfies. All of them look effortless.
It’s not unusual these days for a brand to take over social media like this — seemingly overnight and all at once, in nonprofessional photos posted by nonprofessional models. But these campaigns nearly always leave viewers wondering: Where did this start?
For Mariah Williams, 21, it was a direct message from Parade’s Instagram account, offering her free samples. When the products arrived, she took the day off from her job as a barbershop receptionist to curate a photo shoot to show off her new burnt-orange underwear; in the photo she posted, a bamboo planter sits next to her bottom half, and her face is just out of the frame.
“Taking these pictures really made me feel good about myself and my body. Especially with seasonal depression, I was in a mood,” she said.
Ms. Williams, who has only 2,000 followers on Instagram, is one of more than 6,000 women and nonbinary Instagrammers who received messages from Parade offering free gifts, ideally in exchange for social posts.
In addition to mailing samples, the company also sent along digital mood boards and a Google Drive of creative direction, in the hopes that the recipients would use it as inspiration for their own posts. The gift boxes yielded hundreds of posts across social media and drove interest in Parade’s
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