Brands Promoting Body Diversity In Response To Victoria’s Secret “Perfect Body” Campaign

Victorias-Secret-Perfect-Body-Campaign

You’ve all seen it, read about it, and probably rage-tweeted about it. The Victoria’s Secret ‘perfect body’ campaign and accompanying imagery has angered a lot of women online. Just when we thought we were making progress with body diversity in fashion, the lingerie brand pulls this out of their arsenal.

But can they be blamed? After all, they are known for models that look like the above, and have rarely deviated from their norm, except in the case of trailblazing women who turned the fashion world upside down like former angel Tyra Banks. Well we’re not here to point the fingers, because clearly someone, or many someones, are buying a lot of what VS is selling because they are hugely popular and successful.

However, in an age where body positivity and body diversity is driving the conversation, more than fantasies and unrealistic imagery, should Victoria’s Secret also start listening in and participating in that convo? We say yes, and so do many others. We don’t expect them to completely change their company, it’s just about being more inclusive and recognizing it is not only the size zero white women of the world who are buying their products.

UK plus size lingerie brand JD Williams was rather upset at the Perfect Body campaign and decided to hit back in the form of their own campaign, which they hoped would send a more positive message. They called it the #perfectlyimperfect campaign and is designed for women of all shapes, sizes, ages and colors. Their lingerie ranges from size 0-16 and hope they can show that real beauty comes in many forms.

Ed Watson, a spokesperson for the retailer, said: “We have a responsibility as a retailer to promote positive body image to our customers and that means being representative of women in the UK.”

Susan Rigland, CEO of eating disorder charity BEAT, added: ‘We are delighted to see JD Williams taking such a positive stance against the negative influence of the “perfect fit”. We know perfection doesn’t come in one size or shape, and how harmful it can be to pretend it does. We know that fashion has what it takes to get real and get in touch with what people want- images that show real health, real beauty and real lives.”

This was the image they have been promoting:

JD-Williams-Perfectly-Imperfect

But there is criticism that even this image isn’t very diverse, as they are all Caucasian women, and mostly all the same size. But the point is they want to send a healthy message to women about body image, although you’d think VS does too, especially with images like this on their site:

victorias-secret-love-every-body

Elsewhere in the UK, three female friends Frances Black, Gabriella Kountourides and Laura Ferris decided to go as far as launch a Change.org petition to get Victoria’s Secret to apologize for their “irresponsible marketing”.

“Every day women are bombarded with advertisements aimed at making them feel insecure about their bodies, in the hope that they will spend money on products that will supposedly make them happier and more beautiful,” says their campaign.

“All this does is perpetuate low self-esteem among women who are made to feel that their bodies are inadequate and unattractive because they do not fit into a narrow standard of beauty. It contributes to a culture that encourages serious health problems such as negative body image and eating disorders.”

The campaign has gathered over 23,000 signatures, showing this issue has really struck a chord with a lot of people.

Closer to home in the US, underwear brand Dear Kate, who are known around these parts for promoting real-life female trailblazers and heroes in their campaigns and female empowerment messages which accompany their product, have also created a response to the ‘perfect body’ blunder.

In a blog post they write about being an all-female company who feels they can do a better job at promoting healthy body image ideals.

“As if women need a reminder of our society’s homogenous definition of beauty, the ad features ten models with almost identical body shapes. The creators of the ad probably didn’t think twice about the message it is sending, and to us, it’s irresponsible marketing,” they write.

In true Dear Kate signature style, they recreated the ‘perfect body’ campaign with their own staple of diverse models. Dear Kate are uniquely positioned to send a very powerful message to women about body image, because by attaching the stories of each of their models to their campaign message, they are showing customers that your worth isn’t just about how you look, let’s also celebrate who you are as a person and the valuable contribution you make to this world.

Dear-Kate-perfect-body-image

In the past their campaigns have focused on women in the fitness world, women in tech, and more recently, women who are pioneers in different industries.

The women in the above Dear Kate picture aren’t just any group of diverse women, they have some pretty badass accomplishments and credits between them. From left to right they are:

Christina Vuleta | Founder at 40:20 Vision
Tinuade Oyelowo | New York based performance artist, who tackles issues of social/political injustices within her work
Kate Gardiner | Digital strategy consultant working with clients across the United States on national and globalfacing audience development
Hayley Rynehart | Founder of The Rynehart Agency
Cindy Gallop | Founder/CEO, IfWeRanTheWorld/MakeLoveNotPorn
Mellie Davis | Editor of TheFatApple & Social Media Strategist
Quinne Myers | The one-woman-show behind the dreamy loungewear label, she and reverie
Shelly Ni | Chief Product Officer of Propel, a company improving the food stamp application process, and founder of The League of Ladies, a feminist superhero underwear line
Gaïa Orain | Gaïa is a Brooklyn-based design strategist for non-profits. The lady makes magic in the kitchen and is the co-designer of the League of Ladies.
Arlene Chung | Medical Education Fellow and Attending Physician at Maimonides Medical Center

What Dear Kate is doing is something more along the lines of what Dove have so successfully done for the past decade. They too are a brand who made their own imagery and campaign in response to another Victoria’ Secret campaign from 2013 called ‘Love My Body’. Dove decided to take it further and created the ‘Real Beauty’ campaign, which took the exclusive focus on the physical appearance away, and made it more about the whole woman and her entire worth.

Victorias-Secret-Vs-Dove

Early in 2014, American Eagle launched a campaign for their lingerie brand Aerie and made a huge statement by not only using models with a range of body types, but also telling consumers they did not use photoshop. The intent had a huge effect on female buyers, because despite an overall decline in sales for American Eagle by 7%, Aerie’s second quarter sales actually rose by 9%, compared to a decrease of 2% at the same time last year. No guesses why it was so popular!

These response campaigns to Victoria’s Secret beg the question, why haven’t they acknowledged the fact that real women want to see real women? Like the three British girls suggest in their Change.org petition, VS is hugely popular amongst young women and they have a crucial responsibility not to promote harmful and unhealthy ideals.

Marketing is what sells a product, and done right, it can also drive huge amounts of conversation online and in real life. But is that enough? Are Victoria’s Secret going to be content with making bottom dollar, or do they actually care about their customers well-being?

It’s not about skinny-shaming, because all body types should be celebrated. But when you have one of the largest and widely known lingerie brands continuing to peddle an outdated message, it’s time to take stock and re-think where we want to spend our money. In a world where photoshop still reigns supreme in many advertising campaigns, we as consumers need to make conscious decisions about how we use our voice and our power.

For us, it is a great opportunity for brand like Dear Kate and JD Williams to step up to the plate and point women in a more empowering direction. And while we don’t intend on waiting forever for VS to change, we hope the attention this ‘perfect body’ campaign received will enable other brands to show what true body diversity looks like.

9 Comments

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  8. natalie thoss says:

    would love it if you guys left an author so that I could cite this for an essay i’m writing about female advertisements. great article otherwise!

    • Hi Natalie, thank you for your comment! We are mostly a team of interns and volunteers who contribute to each article. If you’d like any further info about a particular piece of content feel free to email us at info@girltalkhq.com.

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