As someone who has been involved with the fashion industry for most of my adult life, I’ve had an insider’s view into how things really work. Behind every polished picture exists a multitude of falsehoods: wig tape, clamps, dermablend/make-up, chicken cutlets, baby powder and, of course, Photoshop.
This type of unattainable perfection has capitalized on exclusivity to foster a sense of insecurity in people, specifically women. Luckily, there is a sea change happening within that world, and wider acceptance of body shapes and sizes, ages, gender and race is entering the mainstream.
The Beauty World
Recently an article about ditching the term anti-ageing caught my eye. Companies are electing to use terminology that aims to “maintain” and “nourish” instead of “combat” and “fight” a natural part of life. As a woman who is north of 30, I don’t aspire to military strikes against the emerging fine lines and wrinkles on my face: Let’s paralyze these smile lines and neutralize these eyebrow furrows! Bring in the injections for a wrinkle strike, Botox!
That seems grim to me. Also, expensive and uncomfortable. And like other millennials, I find myself more concerned with health and well-being than a smooth forehead. As The Guardian says in regards to the anti-ageing trend: “This change may also reflect the holistic approach people are now taking towards health and wellness – with more consideration given to mind, body and soul than our physical appearance.”
Perhaps it is just semantics, but I won’t lie: I’m more drawn to products are ok with where I am in my life than those that pressure me into feeling terrified that I’m not 25.
The Fashion World
It’s not just the beauty world that’s shifting. The fashion industry is (finally!) accepting that there’s a world of women (AKA potential customers!) who wear sizes beyond the 0-14 range. The sea change in body inclusivity has changed the dialogue heard in production rooms in the fashion district: excluding sizes hurts sales. After all, approximately 67% of the female population in the USA wears a size 14 or larger. And as fashion continues to suffer from the departure in brick and mortar stores, the design world has realized the financial benefits of inclusivity: ignoring ⅔ of the population is a bad business move.
Magazines, ads and fashion shows are responding to this trend as well. Ashley Graham is currently the most visible curvy model, appearing in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Sports Illustrated. Precious Lee, Philomena Kwao and Candice Huffine are a few other curvy women also making waves in the industry today. In fact, 2017 was a banner year for curvy models appearing in New York’s Spring 2018 Fashion Week. Jezebel.com reports that “90 plus-size models walked this season, which amounts to about 3.46% of the models walking.” While that’s not a huge number, it’s signs of a much-needed shift in the fashion world.
The Runways and Race
There’s even more good news. Fashion isn’t just shifting towards inclusive sizes; every season, designers are booking an increasing number of women and men of color in the shows. According to Jezebel.com, “in the Spring 2018 New York shows 63.1% of castings were white and 36.9% were nonwhite. And for the first time in New York fashion week history every runway included at least two models of color.”
Some designers have truly embraced the inclusivity trend. Tracy Reese, a women’s wear designer from Detroit, cast a variety of models from different races, ages, shapes and sizes in her Spring 2018 show. She’s been outspoken about the race problem in the fashion and design world and even won Glamour’s Diversity Award. Another designer who has been on board with embracing all types of beauty is Christian Siriano, who had plus-sized and male models in his Spring 2018 show.
The Power of Inclusivity
Truth be told, these changes are a good start, but they are still not enough. Unrealistic beauty standards create barriers and foster low self esteem. The impact of the fashion world has been notoriously bad for women, especially in their teens and early 20’s. When marketers and advertisers promote inclusivity, they are giving space and recognition to all kinds of beauty. Because being beautiful comes in all shapes, sizes and colors, doesn't have a gender; it comes from the inside, from feeling good about yourself.
Marketers and advertisers have a lot of power in how they choose to promote their content and products. Some notable inclusive companies include Dove’s Real Beauty campaigns for over a decade. Planet Fitness states that “the world judges, we don't. At Planet Fitness, be free“. CoverGirl recently hired their first CoverBOY and just made 69-year -old Maye Musk their newest spokesperson.
Inclusive Content Marketing
Embracing inclusivity isn't just about who you reach out to — it's also how you reach out to them.
- If your primary form of content is blogging, you can expand your audience by adding podcasting into the mix.
- Make your videos more mobile-friendly and watch your engagement with millennials increase.
- Recognize the value and invest in creating content for youth-centric social media apps like Snapchat.
- When designing UX/UI for your website, keep in mind how dyslexia, Alzheimer's, autism, vision/hearing/speech impairments, other cognitive factors and mobility issues affect user experience.
- When writing articles and blogs, consider the perspective of different ages, races and genders. Read and edit your content with a different lens.
When considering how to market your brand, pay attention to the power of inclusivity. It’s a powerful marketing that creates a sense of belonging. This marketing trend is changing things for the better–and hopefully here to stay.
“Vancouver Fashion Week – Summer & Spring 2018 – Sep 21st, 2017” by Flickr user GoToVan, licensed under CC by 2.0.