These Boundary-Pushing Campaigns Are Evidence Of The Body Positive Fashion Revolution

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You don’t have to look to the political landscape to find a real revolution lead by the democratic voice of the people – it’s already happening in the fashion world! Over the past few years, as the plus size industry has steadily become a billion dollar a year industry in the US alone, we have seen a dramatic shift in what is seen as standard “fashionable” imagery. Along with the rise of everyday fashion bloggers and vloggers who are disrupting mainstream corporate fashion opinion, all of a sudden the power has now been taken back by consumers in such a powerful way, that brands can’t keep up fast enough with the campaigns to reflect this rapidly changing environment.

The fashion revolution is not the kind of revolution that leaves marginalized voices out, or endangers people, the way, say, a political revolution is known to do. In public life, when a country goes through major upheaval (just look at Egypt, Libya and other nations who were affected by the Arab Spring) there is even more unrest because the very foundation systems that people are used to have to be established all over again, with new leaders.

In the fashion industry, the revolution has been like a dam bursting, and we the people are leading the way. No where is this more evident than when we see brands and companies who are now no longer dictating our tastes with runway shows, magazine editorials, and in-your-face billboards. Instead, showing a range of body shapes, skin colors, genders, and ages is starting to become as normal as the society it is reflected.

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While we still promote brilliant ad campaigns which go against the grain (which still very much exists, albeit on shaky ground) mark our words, there will come a day when the two campaigns we’re about to tell you about are so standard no one bats an eyelid, and no one needs to use words like “game changing” or “diversity”.

Knowing that the economy which has existed for so long on the backs of women’s low self esteem is now on borrowed time, two UK brands have recently released some amazing campaigns that are reflective of the new norms. The first is Evans, a plus size brand which has become a leader in promoting positive messages and pushing the idea that acceptance is a good thing.

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Criticized for their lack of diversity in the #StyleHasNoSize campaign in 2015, they are clearly taking heed of the powerful fashion democracy in action and this time around have launched a much more inclusive line-up of models for the #IAmMe campaign. The women featured include bloggers Callie Thorpe and Nadia Aboulhosn models Hayley Hasselhoff, Alessandra Garcia, and Brielle Anyea who are all signed to MiLK Model Management. Evans also included MiLK Models founder and former model Anna Shillinglaw, marathon runner Mirna Valerio and singer/songwriter Jessica Clemmons.

“This campaign shows that women are strongest when they are united together; and by shooting this collective we can demonstrate the power and confidence fashion can give to people,” said the brand in a press release. In the video below, each woman shares what fashion means to how and how it is part of their individual confidence. The coolest thing about this campaign is that you don’t leave feeling like you need to become a clone of what you see, instead you are empowering to embrace who you are, your own sense of style and level of confidence.

“There are no limits”, says the campaign, when we are given permission to love ourselves and define our own style. The fear that if an industry doesn’t teach people to conform to a standard they won’t spend money has been well and truly debunked over the past few years with brands like Dove, Under Armour and American Eagle who have seen an increase in sales and consumer engagement simply by tapping into the female empowerment movement.

Speaking of which, another UK brand, Selfridges, has gone one step further and delivered a masterful campaign which celebrates individual and diverse bodies as “Incredible Machines” which was made to promote their Body Studio. Channeling the though-prose of visual pieces like Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’, her ‘Flawless’ track, and even to some degree Jennifer Lopez’s ‘Ain’t Your Mama’ music video, Selfridges’ short film shows a series of women of all ages, ethnicies, body types and even religious beliefs all proudly sharing why their bodies are extraordinary, with one very unique important addition: the message that women’s underwear should not necessarily be sold via the male gaze.

When you watch the brilliantly artistic video below, there is no sense of “sex cells”, that the underwear is made to please the opposite sex, or that a woman’s body is in any way a sort of commodity to be bought and sold (along with her self esteem).

The video was directed by Kathryn Ferguson and choreographed by the Royal Ballet’s Wayne McGregor, and features creative collaborator, business partner/muse Michele Lamy of Rick Owens; founder Sharmadean Reid of Wah Nails; model and body activist Naomi Shimada; trans activist and Nail Transphobia founder Charlie Craggs; and Ruqsana Begum, a British Thai Boxing champion and designer of sports hijabs.

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The video begins with this voiceover soundbite from John Berger’s 1972 documentary ‘Ways of Seeing‘ (similar to the style of Beyonce using Malcolm X’s soundbyte in Lemonade):

“Men dream of women. Men look at women, women watch themselves being looked at. Women constantly meet glances, reminding them of how they look, or how they should look. Behind every glance is a judgment. Sometimes the glance they meet is their own.”

That set-up then becomes juxtaposed with the voices of the women in the feature talking about themselves in a way that is empowering, individual, and unfettered by the social and gendered constraints many women are ingrained with from birth.

“I feel powerful like a Ferrari—fast, furious and strong,” says athlete and hijab designer Ruqsana Begum.

“I don’t dress to please other people; I don’t dress to please men. I dress to please myself,” says Charlie Craggs.

“There is not a body and a soul; it is one person. It’s something you owe to yourself and to the world to make it as mobile, and what you think is the way of being beautiful,” says Michele Lamy, the oldest woman in the video.

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Adweek.com reports that the inspiration for the title of the video came from Naomi Shimada, who was previously a “straight” sized model, then gained weight and moved into the plus size market.

“I think we should treat our bodies kindly. They are actually incredible machines that can do so many amazing things very well, and I think we take that for granted,” she said.

With topics like transgenderism, pregnancy, age, race, and identity being challenged in this feature, it is a breath of fresh air to see such an open-ended message from a fashion brand, once again giving permission to the consumer to decide for themselves how they choose to define what their style is and what kind of presence their body has in the world.

Imagine a world where a system designed to profit from our diminished sense of self gets upended and has its own power structure changed by everyday people… That’s what is happening in the fashion industry today. Take a look at the Selfridges video below and be a witness to what a non-political revolution looks like:


 

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