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The representation of the gender spectrum in women’s fashion is a very recent phenomenon. Unfortunately, trans individuals were largely absent from fall 2016 campaigns. Nevertheless, 2016 did see some trailblazing advertisements like H&M’s #ladylike campaign, which included 2 women kissing, a 72-year-old model Lauren Hutton, and trans model Hari Nef. Marc Jacobs deserves another shout out here, as the American brand featured trans director Lana Wachowski and Hari Nef. There is a lot to look forward to in terms of gender representation in fashion in 2017; for example, brands Diesel and About You are expected to launch a joint campaign featuring trans models Benjamin Melzer and Loiza Lamers.
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According to Adweek, people over the age of 60 make up the fastest growing group of consumers in the world, accounting for over 60% of global consumer spending. Strangely, brands have only recently begun to incorporate older models into their campaigns. Throughout 2016, older models comprised approximately 4% of models cast in campaigns. Marc Jacobs’ campaigns included 52-year-old musician Courtney Love, 55-year-old Kembra Pfahler, and 64-year-old Keiji Haino. Other brands also became more inclusive: Aigner made 95-year-old fashion icon Iris Apfel the center of its 2016 campaigns, truly driving home the fact that style is timeless.
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Social media has become an important medium for the celebration of all bodies. Body positive bloggers such as Ragini Nag Rao use social networks as a platform to spread messages of empowerment and self-care. Little by little, the apparel market is catching up with the body positive movmeent. For instance, plus size women were cast 7 times out of 440 models that were featured in Spring 2016 campaigns. Though that number is small, plus size models have made some serious waves. JCPenney’s #HereIAm commercial, which features blogger Gabi Gregg and plus size yogi Valerie Sagun discussing the importance of self-love, got over 4.5 million views. Aerie’s “real” campaign led to model Iskra Lawrence skyrocketing to fame and landing spreads in dozens of magazines.
In the spring 2016 season, models of color made up 21.8% of ad campaigns. This number increased slightly fall 2016, which saw 23.3% non-white models featured in campaigns. A notable instance of racial diversity was Chloe breaking its “white streak” by casting Brazilian model Ari Westphal in its spring campaign; the brand had not included a non-white model since 2001. Campaigns by Chanel eyewear, Balenciaga, and Alexander McQueen also included more models of color than before.
Hopefully 2017 will see significantly more variety within fashion campaigns targeting women. Urban Outfitters started the year on an excellent note by launching its “Class of 2017” campaign, featuring a diverse group of 16 influencer: students, artists, musicians, and so on, all of different genders, sizes, and ethnicities. Similarly, L’Oreal’s “Your Skin Your Story” commercial has gained momentum. The ad has multiple models of color discussing their heritage and how it relates to the beauty industry. L’Oreal’s campaign is unique in that it actively emphasizes the importance of diversity in fashion. A study by the Business of Fashion found that black women were 1.5 times more likely to purchase a fashion product advertised by a black model. This finding is important for two reasons. Firstly, clearly, there is an economic benefit: consumers are more willing to invest in items whose brands invest in using models that look like them. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, people feel more engaged in the fashion industry when models look like them. Representation is often synonymous with inclusivity. The world of fashion is one that facilitates self-expression, creative growth, and cultural exploration: it is necessary to maximize entry into this transformative world.