Conversely, brands like Abercrombie, Lululemon and Victoria’s Secret, all American brands that sell like-minded casual or sportswear clothing rise in popularity whilst their idea of diversity diminishes. They use social media such as Instagram (Abercrombie, Lululemonamerica and Victoriassecret), Facebook, Twitter and Vine to reach a social audience of nearly 5 million people between them. They are well known for the being the most sizeist brands out there aiming to reach an audience no bigger than a UK size 12 or USA size 6. They do not stock any larger than a large so that anyone above these sizes cannot buy their products. Victoria’s Secret hold a project yearly where they advertise their swimwear line on a catwalk with only the most elite, skinniest and beautiful models in the world. In the second part of my focus group I asked the girls what they thought of these brands and the results were enlightening. Answers ranged from: “When I watched the Victoria’s Secret show I wanted to kill myself ”, “depressed, fat, ugly, never going to look as good as the models they advertise”, “demeaned and belittled”. However, they all agreed that they shopped there. When I asked why they shopped there if they felt that way, their response was similar. Answers included – “If I didn’t I worry people would judge me”, “It is cool to shop there”, “I aspire to look like the girls they feature in their adverts etc.”. These results surprised me as a communication and promotion student. Why do these girls shop at these brands if the adverts make them feel so bad about themselves? The packaging, marketing, visual merchandising and social media all have a role to play in why people purchase from these companies.
One of the leading clothing brands in the world is H&M. They have over 104,000 employees with an aim to increase the number of stores each year by 10-15%. (H&M, 2012). They have a huge social media following with thirteen million fans on Facebook and 2.5 million followers on twitter so they have a responsibility as a brand to their wider audience. They currently own an umbrella of brands which include Cos and & Other Stories. They produce a range of lines, which include a designer brand x H&M, H&M Conscious and most recently in 2012 – Beachwear+. Beachwear+ is a beachwear line for plus sized women but the company has refused to name it ‘plus sized’ to promote the use of women with healthy proportions. They have used the US model Jennie Runk, a healthy size 12 to promote their swimwear. On the H&M website, they have received huge praise by consumers with comments such as- “I love seeing a girl with my body type not only represented on your website, but represented without fanfare” and “I think it send a positive message about inclusivity and chaining standard and beauty’. (Saunders, 2013). Figure 9 shows Jennie Runk looking natural and beautiful. Which brands are leading the way? 12