Self Love or Self Loathe: The Social Responsibility of a 3 Trillion Dollar Industry

Fashion is a powerful thing. It can either make you feel really beautiful and confident or it can make you feel regretful about every piece of cake you have ever eaten! Whether that is from trying on clothes in a fitting room and needing the next size up or seeing an airbrushed model in a magazine; fashion seems to have the tendency to make us feel bad about ourselves.

Unrealistic “beauty standards” have become our #goals. We seem to feel the need to conform to these inaccurate reflects of 'beauty' because of what society has deemed as attractive.

However, there is not only one beauty ideal. Beauty can come in all shapes and sizes and fashion is finally beginning to respond to this. There has been a significant change in recent years to the way brands are tackling the set beauty standards. The rise in the number of curvier models and untouched photos on websites are naming a couple. Although there is still a way to go before fashion can say it is 100% inclusive, the progress that is being made is making the future look hopeful.

It can be argued that the starting point to the changes we are seeing in fashion today stem from the rise of body positive models who actively promote diversity for people of all shapes and sizes. An example of a body positive activist is Ashley Graham, a curvy role model who shows that being healthy is not determined by how skinny you are. Her inspirational posts on Instagram and Facebook feature her working out, eating healthily all whilst being curvy and strong. Her fun, energetic spirit encourages people to be happy in the body they are in and that bigger girls are as beautiful as smaller girls. In 2014, Graham launched her first lingerie collection for plus-size women at New York Fashion Week. The sexy lingerie sets were modelled on stunning plus-sized models, including Ashley Graham herself, which created an incredibly empowering show and gave confidence to millions of women worldwide. 

Another activist is Iskra Lawrence who gained millions of followers on Instagram for making a stance against photo-shopped models. Her hard work in promoting body diversity landed her in the BBC’s Top 100 Influential Women and more importantly given confidence to people all over the world. She is an ambassador for the brand Aerie who never airbrushes their models’ pictures and uses real women to advertise their lingerie and swimwear. 

So how has fashion responded to the power of the body positivity movement? Firstly, ASOS have been praised for their body positive advancements by showing models with stretchmarks. The untouched images were noticed thousands of times on Twitter and promoted the normalisation of stretch marks. It was estimated by the Huffington Post that 80% of people have stretch marks, yet people are still embarrassed about them! But you shouldn’t be! An inspirational page on Instagram @LoveYourLines has 150,000 followers and shows beautiful people with “tiger stripes” and intends to celebrate all bodies regardless of your age, gender, marks and shape. 

Monki’s recent swimwear campaign was the body positive movement fashion really needs! Their 2018 Swimwear Collection was modelled on women, all of whom were different sizes, heights and skin colour. The idea was to represent more than one type of body in a world where there is a countless number of different bodies. By keeping the images untouched and using non-traditional models, it is another step forward in making all women feel confident in a bathing suit.  

However, there are still some major players in the fashion industry that have some catching up to do in regards to body positivity. Victoria’s Secret has recently been called out for advertising “like it’s still 1999,” according to Business of Fashion. The company seems to have been slow to recognise the cultural changes in society and failed to adapt to the times. More increasingly, consumers and brands understand that the term “sexy” is not only for those with less than 10% body fat. It is no longer a tall, skinny model with long hair and flawless skin. Today, it is anyone with a body! Yet, Victoria’s Secret still only portrays one type of sexiness in their advertising, which is proving to be off-putting with consumers as sales have dropped in each one of the past six quarters!

Photo Credit: Business Insider

Photo Credit: Business Insider

Similarly, are lacking in the body positivity department by their idea of a “plus-size” model. The online retailer has faced a lot of backlash for their choice of a size 12 model for their plus size range. The range itself starts from a size 14 and goes up to a size 26, so consumers were left astounded that brand chose to use a size 12 model to represent plus-sized women. The question everyone was left asking was, “Why didn’t use one of the many beautiful, plus-size models that are dominating the industry?” I can’t say for certain myself, but it does demonstrate the lack of consideration for plus-size consumers who obviously want to see what the garments would look like on someone of a similar size to them!

Overall, it is clear that Body Positivity in fashion is progressing. The explosion in popularity of body positive activists and the increasing number of untouched images on the internet show the importance of celebrating all shapes and sizes.  Although there is still some way to go, it is a leap in the right direction. By embracing people who are slim, curvy, short and tall, it is encouraging us to be confident in the body we are in, instead of picking at all the flaws we believe we have. Untouched photos are proving that there is nothing wrong with having stretch marks, instead, it is completely normal and you should still buy that bikini and rock it! Just remember that beauty standards set by an old-fashioned society are no longer relevant and there is not one single beauty ideal. So if you only take one thing away from this article, let it be this…You Are Beautiful!