Are designers going far enough to promote body positivity?

Sian Dickie discusses the hard hitting question about diversity and designers...

26th November 2018

In recent years the term ‘Body Positivity’ has become a buzzword in the media, liberation circles and in the fashion industr. I feel it is necessary to define the term body positivity as people tend to equate this to the sole inclusion of ‘plus-size’ women in these fashion spaces, particularly on runway’s. While this should be celebrated if this occurs, the term ‘body-positivity’ doesn't just mean plus size, it actually means the inclusion of people of colour, people with disabilities, trans people and any other marginalised group.

So, if we are to look at body positivity in this sense, I don't believe that designers are doing enough to promote a diverse range of bodies. There has been some progress, particularly with the advent of brands such as Rhianna’s Fenty Beauty and Savage X Fenty (their lingerie line). However, Western beauty ideals still seem the dominant norm with white, cis gender, thin models representing many brands in fashion shows world-wide.

The most recent brand which has came under-fire for this is Victoria’s Secret, with the CEO Jan Singer resigning recently, after holding the post for two years. Her resignation was not a surprise to many, as, after the most recent Victoria’s Secret show, Ed Razek, Chief Marketing Officer for the brand said some offensive and controversial statements with regards to the inclusiveness of the show. In an interview with Vogue, Razek, said "It’s like, why doesn’t your show do this? Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy.”

Razek is only perpetuating the idea that people who are trans, cannot be seen as desirable to the audience of Victoria’s Secret. The notion of fantasy being that of a thin, cis, white woman, only repeats the discourses of Western beauty standards and hegemonic ideals of ‘femininity’. Munroe Bergdorf tweeted and posted stories on the comments made by Razek. The trans activist and model said in Nylon magazine "It just sounded like someone trying to save their job after being caught," Bergdorf tells us. "He said 'sorry it came across as insensitive,' but failed to acknowledge that it WAS insensitive, furthermore it was transphobic.”

 The use of the term ‘transsexual’ is incredibly outdated and Razek failed to correct himself in the apologetic tweet, highlighting the fact that large industries like fashion, have failed to educate themselves, their staff and social media networks about the importance of using the correct terminology. In this sense, Victoria’s Secret could be endangered of falling behind with the times. Not only is their physical representation of ‘Women’ on the runway fulfilling the hegemonic ideals, but it also doesn't reflect the people buying the products.

Despite many people denouncing the brand on social media, the brands strongholds, its stores, have continued to do well. This can be seen most recently in the Metrocentre, Gateshead, with Victoria’s Secret creating quite the buzz in the large shopping centre and people queuing to get a peak at the American lingerie brand.

Unfortunately Razek, who said the transphobic comments, has not resigned from the brand, with Singer taking the fall. In my opinion, he should have been fired, especially for the brand to progress and move forward in the future. However, with dwindling sales records, and no CEO, Victoria’s Secret could struggle to reform its image.

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