In this age of female empowerment where leggings reign, marketers are still using similar language to differentiate between “good-looking” models and “bad-looking” models.” “They can’t be two or three different people,” the chief executive of L’Oréal USA, Jean-Paul Agon, told the press at a Bloomberg forum in New York. “They have to be recognizable as one human being, that is, somebody with the same values.” However, when it comes to advertising beauty, it turns out all it takes is a little Photoshop for things to “disappear.”
Last week, the New York Times reported on a fashion catalog the brand Love raised concerns over, for the inaccessibility of an increasingly popular T-shirt brand, TikTok. In an unenlightening article, the company at the center of the controversy said its online catalogue was still “nearly entirely covers,” but an independent study conducted by Santa Monica College’s Fashion Communication Program concluded otherwise. Between November 2018 and December 2017, Love Ltd. removed eight models from its online catalogue and replaced them with digital avatars. While the fashion label insisted that “three pictures will do,” the researchers concluded that after only a few weeks, “the portfolios between their appearance and disappearance … are completely reshaped.”
While one can see the trends of pay to play and marketing intrigue in the above example, many social media users have pointed out the hypocrisy surrounding the language attributed to “good-looking” and “bad-looking” models, as well as their supposed utility in deciding what ads are valuable, and what are not. Some pointed out the trope of “her nose” and the necessity of reducing and “retouching” any woman to be of a common hue. Others went further, calling for a return to more egalitarian advertising practices. A widely shared video and article argued that Black and Asian women in the fashion industry are underrepresented and “personally recognized” due to a “highly stylized approach” to marketing, which is coded “as ‘attractive’ in America,” as Arunga Dibson wrote. The hashtag #LoftParty began to spread the argument that “[bad]designs do not equal good design.”
We have also come across many ads of which we are critical, produced in the service of Beauty, that attempt to restore the magic of the somewhat irreplaceable. For instance, a lot of brands promote the chance of posting “perfect” selfies, but only have one share on Instagram. But the inclusivity of our industry must not be an afterthought.
So, what is to be done about it? Can we only embrace beauty by presenting only the “good” of it? Or maybe the ad industry could take a cue from Chanel for the holidays, which has a very refreshing advertisement. Instead of jumping to generalizations, this advert introduces a sister brand the brand offers exclusively to women, Leaning in. This is the kind of marketing we can all get behind: a sister label that gives more opportunities to women to come out.
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Read the full story at The New York Times.
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