When Aerie lingerie burst onto the scene in 2014 under their parent company American Eagle, they sent a bold statement about body positivity right from the outset. They declared they would not be using photoshop, and vowed to portray models in their campaigns of all different body sizes.
After a couple of dismal sales quarters, a closer look at the numbers showed the one American Eagle line of business which increased sales was Aerie Lingerie. Coincidence? We think not. The people spoke (with their wallets) declaring body agnostic campaigns (sure they didn’t represent literally every body on the planet, but it was a great start) were what they wanted to see more of.
The brand doesn’t plan on slowing down their body positive message any time soon and kicked of 2016 with a bang. First came the Aerie Real campaign featuring plus size model Barbie Ferreira. The video was launched in January and has over 1.7 million views and counting.
“We cast Barbie because she’s got nothing to hide, she’s strong and beautiful — she embraces her real self, which is the spirit of the Aerie Real message,” said Jen Foyle, Aerie’s global brand president, in a statement to Refinery29.
“Real and unretouched models are the core of our brand DNA,” she said in a separate interview with the New York Times.
It is clearly a smart move on the brand’s behalf, appealing to a billion dollar plus size clothing market that has never before been catered to in a mainstream way by the greater fashion industry. Before the recent influx of plus size, “in-between” size, super plus size and curvy models thanks to social media and blogs, anything other than mainstream fashion was considered just that – “other”.
The tide is changing rapidly which can be seen by the amount of major brands recognizing the power of appealing to women in an empowering way, rather than that traditional “if she cries, she buys” mantra. The New York Times points out how brands like Dove, Nike, H&M and David’s Bridal have tried do fall in line with the inclusive advertising trend, some more successful than others, namely Dove.
Aerie is most definitely one of the brands getting it right, as their sales in 2015 alone were $350 million. With Victoria’s Secret still the lingerie market’s biggest label by far, NYT points out, if Aerie can successfully muscle their way in and start disrupting the monopoly, it could have a very powerful impact on women’s self esteem.
“Research from the University of Sussex in England, published in 2004 in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, found that ultra-thin models made women feel worse about how they looked, but that women were not more likely to buy products from companies whose ads featured those models,” writes Elizabeth Olson.
Following on the back of the #AerieReal success, to coincide with eating disorder awareness week, the brand launched another campaign called #AerieSupports which featured British size 14 model Iskra Lawrence. The t-shirt they designed displayed a slogan saying “strong, beautiful, me”.
The shirt sold out and 100% of the profits went to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), which is a non-profit that supports individuals and families affected by eating disorders, and serves as a catalyst for prevention, cures and access to quality care.
It is important to see a brand like Aerie, capitalizing on the body positive momentum it is creating, to dive into the foundation of body image problems caused by eating disorders. It is an area that is often overlooked in mainstream fashion and consumerism in general. With eating disorders being the number of killer out of all mental illnesses, we need industry leaders to show they care about the women whose lives they are affecting with their campaigns and images.
In the video below, model Iskra Lawrence tearfully confesses why being chosen for this campaign was a big deal for her.
“I wanted to be part of the campaign so much because I got told I wasn’t good enough and that I would never make it. And then Aerie told me I was beautiful because I was me. You have so much more to give to the world than just your appearance,” she said.
“As a curvy woman, I know young women are constantly being told that they’re not good enough, but we’re trying to change that mind-set,” she said in a separate statement.
It’s the message we wish the industry started with a long, long time ago. Nevertheless, we have finally arrived at a time in history where the voice of consumers actually makes a difference, and it makes us happy to see brands complying. Here’s to the continuation of body positive messages, and the inclusion of even more body types in ad campaigns.