Persil’s “Dirt Is Good” platform is about child development. The brand has been encouraging children –and their parents– to build a free relationship with stains for over two decades. For Persil, stains are a sign of growing, learning and living. And period stains are perhaps one of the most important milestones of all. Girls discover their first blood stain at around 12 years old and that marks the beginning of a whole new cycle. One that can last for over 40 years.

The brand’s research revealed people around the world wanted help to remove period stains. But besides being one of the most common stains along life, 72% of people who bleed feel embarrassed about them. That means women are living around 40 years feeling ashamed and discomfort. It was time to face the toughest stain of all: the taboo.

To wash away the taboo around period stains, we decided to put them upfront. In partnership with photographer Sophie Ebrard, we shot images of people bleeding into their underwear. Live. But not as blood has always been shown (sensationalist and provocative), these are intimate and empowering portrayals of menstruation that show the world how natural period stains are.

The idea was to put the stains out there in an outdoor campaign. But the media was concerned over the content and rejected the campaign. So we had to take the long way. Persil hosted an exhibition with the photographs, which led to people opening up and sharing their personal stories about blood stains. Both the stories and the photographs came together in a book to keep washing away the taboo in the long term.

We invited anyone menstruating on 7, 8, 9 July 2022 to be part of the cast. During the three-day shoot, people were bleeding into the garments guided by a female-led production. All the scenes were captured in film, which added an extra layer of grain to the images. The result was an intimate portrayal of menstruation in all its shapes, flows and contexts. When people saw these images, they started to share their own personal stories with these stains. We selected twenty stories that reflected how unpredictable, inconvenient and natural stains can be, and show different reactions to them: from fear and shame to curiosity and comfort. These stories were written on a typewriter and then scanned to be part of the design of the book, combined with the images. The book cover is made of pink linen, offering the reader a tender welcome to face this old taboo.

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