Recently I've been shopping for a new bikini for my up-coming honeymoon (eeek!)
For a girl making strides in the world of body equality, this is a fairly sobering experience.
Regarding this campaign, where I would like to see ALL body shapes reflected in advertising and branding, I hear "Things are changing", a lot. And they are, like if snails were in change. I do know there is fear... the bold move is, well it's for the bold and a mistake on this level could cost a business big! And make key marketing folks look pretty silly in the process, maybe even cost them their jobs! Any Marketing Exec willing to stick their neck out and re-write the rules about how to sell clothes, is gonna have to be an epic individual with almost super-human capabilities. This is one of the reasons why diversity in ads should be made law. Did I mention my petition?
ASOS is by far the market leader, trailblazer and enlightened thinker in this department. Last week model Vivian Eyo-Ephraim lit up social media with this shoot she did for ASOS. The have also stopped airbrushing their photos as of last year and their clear commitment to moving forward on this issue is truly commendable. Top Marks!
John Lewis I liked because they nonchalantly just dropped the curves in there, no pomp and circumstance, not ta da - here's a the big girls clothes! I found diverse bodies just moseying on around with the 'real' models.
Very, actually perform much like ASOS, the curves are there, but you have to search for them.
Debenhams did O.K.... and I found Curvy Kate on page one. I mean it's by no means enough but a nod to progress, I wonder if it slipped in in error because there wasn't another plus size model until page six...
New Look's Curves also featured fairly early on.
National treasure, M&S came out badly in this, no diversity at all on their bikini page. Which surprises me as they showed their commitment to diversity through the launch of their Curve range earlier this year. No swimwear though.
Next - You literally have to scroll through hundreds of images of idealised bodies to reach the section for Curvy Kate and Pour Moi. They are there, way down, no keep going, out the back, behind the bins.... The images are also the most contrived in terms of posing. Those girls aren't breathing...
Primark do something different. They remove the bodies all together. I've noticed H&M do this and M&S doing it in some of their other ranges too. I like it, makes it purely about the product!
Adidas - no diversity - but not the traditional idealised body, the models were all athletic. Different, not better.
Zara, I think are trying to be racially diverse, if possibly overshooting that a bit, nut not diverse at all on body shape.
Looking at other online companies I've previously used: Hush, The White Company, don't even go there... no diversity, in shape, ethnicity, poses more contrived. They are definitely the underdogs at this game and to my eyes anyway, this kind of branding is starting to look really dated.
In summary yes, things are changing, but piecemeal and slower than a sloth on a hot day. The idealised body accounts for the natural body shape of five percent of the population. With these forward moves maybe seven per cent are now covered, maybe even ten.
But what about the others? And where are the bikinis for older ladies? Nowhere. What none of these brands have is a beautiful range of different kinds of bodies, reflecting reality. That's what Body Equality would mean. Not having to scroll through reams and reams of images of what, for 95 % of us, is an unattainable body.
My next job is to find out if any research has been done on what that does to a person's self esteem, their mental wellbeing. I'm glad I'm nearly 40 and have some perspective on this issue and am no longer an impressionable teenager in the 95%.
The reaction to ASOS's frequent pushing of the boundaries always light up social media, I among many posted about this non-airbrushed image in July last year as it was just so ground-breaking. Stretch marks! On a model. Reality? Whaaaaat?
What it shows us is that the world is ready for this change, even if Marketing Execs aren't. In the words of model Vivian for the Insider, "It just highlights now more than ever that we want to see a wider representation of women and men on the high street and we are going to champion the brands that listen to us."
I for one have a total shop-crush on ASOS and will be taking my business there as much as I can.