Image Credit: Oh Polly, Fashion Nova
It’s no secret that society has quite a ways to go as far as inclusion, diversity, and representation are concerned.
We’ve entered into a space in social media where we glorify the IG model and those that fit that aesthetic. Everyone wants to be an influencer, and with people chasing a certain look visually, everyone is starting to have the same look. It’s nothing new that a large part of social media is about obtaining likes and the validation that comes from the praise of viewers. Fashion brands, especially those that got the better part of their influence and recognition from Instagram, understand the power of the social media influencer and seek out women that they feel embody their target woman to catapult their engagement and likes. If nothing else, it is effective.
The adverse effect of this marketing tactic is that brands oftentimes alienate a good part of their customers by featuring one type of women, be that body type or complexion or ethnicity. To combat the backlash that would come up, brands may make an auxiliary page in an effort to showcase how truly diverse the brand really is. The authenticity of this tactic is a topic for another day, as this is sometimes a bandwagon effort.
A host of today’s popular fashion brands have come under fire for excluding groups of their consumer base at one time or another, namely Fashion Nova and Oh Polly. The same can even be said for a mass market, fast fashion company like Forever 21. Collectively, these brands feature largely white, light skin, or racially ambiguous women with a signature body shape. They have also made claims to be supportive of body positivity and inclusion.
Image Credit: Oh Polly, Fashion Nova
Fashion Nova has a separate page dedicated to their curvier shoppers, and, more recently, UK-based fashion brand Oh Polly came under fire for their efforts for inclusion. Their Instagram account @ohpollyinclusive was deleted rather quickly following the massive backlash the brand received. Influencers and consumers alike were quick to call out the brand on its irresponsible community-building marketing efforts, questioning the reasoning behind a second page if inclusion is actually the goal. “Imagine calling yourselves inclusive and not wanting to post women that don’t fit your ‘aesthetic’ on your brand page lmao,” tweeted beauty influencer and photographer Alissa Ashley. “Brands will include shades, sizes, you name it to appear inclusive and to get consumers to feel accepted but their pages reflect a totally different message. That’s why you really gotta pay attention. This goes for clothing brands, makeup brands, etc.,” she went to say in her thread that followed.
Image Credit: Instagram / @fashionnovacurve, Twitter / @alissa_ashleyy
We’ve definitely seen the rise of brands becoming aware of the consumers’ response to representation and inclusion. Unfortunately, they haven’t always gotten things quite right to make their consumers feel a part of the larger picture. There’s such an emphasis on making this big, huge push to make your brand seem inclusive, whether the effort is genuine or not. Everyone is making all of these animated gestures trying to say “Hey, look over here! We’re inclusive!” It’s like brands are acting like pick-me’s, and the consumer sees right through it every time. The answer is so simple—just do the work of making your audience feel included and seen. More work and effort has to be put in to include people who exist outside of what’s deemed conventionally beautiful or acceptable. The ‘othering’ of those individuals makes things so complicated when it really doesn’t need to be. There is always a way to fit everyone into your aesthetic, especially when you make claims to be inclusive of everyone in your marketing tactics.
For a fashion brand to feature the typical European, lighter skinned, or racially ambiguous women with the hourglass or slim thick figures on their main page and separate her from the women with varying body types, complexions, and ethnic backgrounds sets a clear divide. While the goal may be to create a community outside of a brand’s official page, it sends a message to the consumer and potential consumer that they exist outside of the vision of the brand’s aesthetic and target woman. It’s like “you can wear the clothes, but we’re still going to group you in over here.” Claims of inclusivity are void when a large portion of the consumer base isn’t being represented properly within the brand imagery.
This speaks to a larger problem concerning beauty standards and how women maneuver through them in today’s social climate. For plus size women (and men), the message is constantly being sent that they don’t deserve to take up the same amount of space, often being made to feel like they have to shrink themselves and apologize for it. The constant pressure exists to either hide or alter their bodies. Less value is placed here because they don’t fit that traditional mold of beauty. It’s because of this that we still get so hype for women like Lizzo and other body positivity enthusiasts who are undoubtedly confident and claim their space without apology. Adversely, this is also why Charlemagne (and others because many have been told the same) feels like he can tell Lizzo that she’d look stupid at a smaller size. It’s why people felt the need to leave negative comments in response to Chika’s Calvin Klein #MyCalvins campaign or why people feel emboldened to leave ugly comments under any plus size woman’s picture because she chooses to proudly showcase her body in any way she sees fit. For black women, you have people feeling the need to tell a dark-skinned girl or woman that she’s “pretty for a dark-skinned girl,” and it is so disrespectful every time. In media, token black girls are used as a means to fill a quota, or you get either a woman of a lighter complexion or one of a darker complexion with no in between. At the end of the day, people just want to be allowed the space to just be, without the constant critique of outside opinion. They want to feel seen, like they’re not an afterthought.
Image Credit: YouTube
Image Credit: InStyle
People are beautiful period, no matter their size, skin tone, body type. Brands do so much better in terms of engagement and good press when they include everyone—and that goes for everyone from plus size to disabled bodies. To continue to ostracize people based on antiquated views on beauty and acceptance is simply lazy.
We definitely have a long way to go. One day we’ll be fortunate enough to witness a truly inclusive future reflected in all forms and on all platforms.
Image Credit: Sports Illustrated
Model Halima Aden makes history with Sports Illustrated Swimsuit as the first Muslim model to wear a hijab and burkini for the shoot.
The Somali-American model dons custom-made burkinis designed by Cynthia Rowley and No Ka’Oi and looks absolutely amazing. Born in Kenya at the Kakuma Refugee Camp until the age of seven, the location of the Sports Illustrated shoot bears much significance to the model and beauty advocate. The SI team had the idea to shoot her rookie Swimsuit spread in her birth country at Watamu Beach. During her shoot, Aden couldn’t help but to express her feelings of excitement and gratitude about being back in Kenya. “I keep thinking [back] to six-year-old me who, in this country, was in a refugee camp. So to grow up to live the American dream [and] to come back to Kenya and shoot for SI in the most beautiful parts of Kenya—I don’t think that’s a story that anybody could make up.” In shots captured by photographer Yu Tsai, the Kenya-born, US-bred model is stunning, posing on the shore and alongside the water of Watamu Beach.
Image Credit: NBC
Aden is no stranger to firsts and breaking records and forging her own path to make sure that young girls and women feel represented when they see her. “Growing up in the United States, I never really felt represented because I never could flip through a magazine and see a girl who was wearing a hijab,” she shared with SI. The IMG signee made headlines three years ago at the age of 19 when she was the first contestant to wear a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA beauty pageant, in which she was also a semi-finalist. Aden’s star rose quickly from that moment, leading to being signed with IMG Models, gaining much support and success as an international model, and working to redefine the old-fashioned standards and images of beauty.
SI Swimsuit strives to “continue to spread the message that whether you are wearing one-piece, two-piece, or a burkini, you are the pilot of your own beauty.” Editor MJ Day added to the conversation surrounding beauty and expressed words of admiration for Aden in choosing her for being a part of the SI shoot: “We believe beauty knows no boundaries. I admire Halima, and I consider her an inspirational human for what she has decided to use her platform for and her work with Unicef as an ambassador. She is, in my opinion, one of the great beauties of our time, not only outside but inside. We both believe that the ideal of beauty is so vast and subjective. We both know that women are so often perceived to be one way or one thing based on how they look or what they wear. Whether you feel your most beautiful and confident in a burkini or a bikini, YOU ARE WORTHY.”
Image Credit: NBC
From walking Fashion Week runways to landing magazine covers to being featured in beauty campaigns to advocating for the representation of beauty outside of the traditional perspective, Aden is definitely making a strong case that there is more than enough space for modest Muslim women to exist and thrive in the fashion industry. Staying true to her messaging surrounding her career and the moves that she makes within the industry, Halima Aden charges us all to not be afraid to be the first. A message for us all in being the necessary changes in the world that we wish to see!
It is always amazing to see figures in the industry using their platforms to uplift not only their adjacent communities but also the world.
Video Credit: Sports Illustrated
Be sure to check out Halima in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, set to hit newsstands on May 8.
& remember these gems: be the pilot of your own beauty and don't be afraid to be the first!
The Moschino x Sephora Collaboration Bears an Uncanny Resemblance to Black Woman-Owned Brand The Crayon Case
âThe creative concepts and ideas of black women are more often than not pushed to the side and seen as invaluable until they are seen as profitable and valid by the powers that be, especially in the fashion and beauty industries. In which cases, these very ideas are then picked up by those that once shunned them and marketed to the masses as new and innovative, leaving the black individuals responsible for the innovative ideas with not even a nod or credit to their creative intellectual property.
"Ghetto Until Proven Fashionable," the conversation and thought-provoking phrase made popular by designer and fashion activist Nareasha Willis, continues to come to mind when highlighting the way black people are seen and valued in fashion and beauty more and more as the days go by.
The latest instance presents itself as luxury fashion brand Moschino unveiled its collaboration with beauty retailer Sephora of a cosmetic line that bears an almost identical resemblance to the creative concept behind black female-led brand The Crayon Case.
Image Credit: The Crayon Case
The Crayon Case is owned and operated by CEO Raynell "SupaCent" Steward and was launched in 2017 with a school supply-themed creative concept. The brand took the beauty community by storm, becoming an instant hit amongst influencers and consumers alike and going viral in November of last year after the indie brand generated a million dollars in sales in just an hour and a half for their Cyber Monday sale. The New Orleans native is a favorite on social media, garnering a following for her hilarious viral videos. Her story of going from being a waitress to the founder and CEO of a successful and powerful cosmetics brand is such an inspiring example of authenticity and drive.
Image Credit: The Crayon Case / 21Ninety
âAfter Moschino creative director Jeremy Scott announced the collaboration via Instagram and upon the release of the Moschino x Sephora collaboration, The Crayon Case fans and fashion industry whistle-blower account Diet Prada were quick to spot and call out the obvious similarities between the two collections. The nine-piece collection from Moschino's Sephora collaboration includes pencil makeup brushes, pink eraser beauty sponges, marker eyeliner and other office and school supply-themed products that are almost identical to those that The Crayon Case offers.
âThe Crayon case fans rushed to offer words of support and solidarity for Steward regarding the new collection. Many exclaimed how The Crayon Case concept was completely ripped off, claimed they would no longer be supporting Sephora as a result, called on the beauty retailer to discontinue the knockoff line, said the retailer should have instead partnered with Steward and The Crayon Case instead of with Scott and Moschino on a similar concept, and highlighted the continued issue of black creatives being disrespected and snubbed for their work while others made the profit. To the wave of support, Steward responded in the comments of the Diet Prada Instagram post by saying "I'll be okay. We all can make money but god sits high. [I'm] extremely blessed."
Something very similar happened not long after Steward launched The Crayon Case. One of the reasons that the cosmetics brand was so special was that it tapped into a sense of nostalgia for their consumers, bringing back memories from childhood and coloring with crayons and the bright colors and a much simpler time. One of the first products that Steward offered under The Crayon Case was the eyeshadow palette, Box of Crayons, a beautiful assortment of bold colors and rich pigments that take you right back to coloring books and scribbling doodles on computer printer paper. The palette was a viral success on social media, and where there is media attention, there is also a big corporation or label trying to ride the coattails of and catch the momentum of a smaller brand's success. Crayola released makeup line Crayola Beauty in collaboration with British fashion retailer ASOS soon thereafter. They didn't even have to say it; we all knew where their source of inspiration came from.
Image Credit: Us Magazine, Vogue Austrailia, Byrdie, Cosmopolitan, Allure, ASOS, Vampy Varnish
This is also not the first time that Scott has been accused of stealing a concept from another creative. Just last September, it was reported that Norwegian designer Edda Grimes accused Moschino of stealing the design concept for the looks at their S/S 2019 show. Grimes revealed via an Instagram post that she had met with the label a year prior and showed them her work, including her original ideas and sketches. Let's also make note that a pieces from the collection that Scott was accused of stealing are featured on the model in his Moschino x Sephora announcement post--see above!
Steward shared with BuzzFeed that she was very devastated, regarding the collaboration between the luxury fashion brand and the beauty retailer, but she also shared that the silver lining was that her followers flood the comments whenever the collaboration is posted and her sales go up. At the very least, this situation provides an opportunity for Steward and The Crayon Case's success to skyrocket and keep more money and support in their corner.
The phrase that people love to use in instances like these when caping for the accused party is that "imitation is the highest form of flattery." Takes like this are so insensitive, especially when the (assumed) success of the imitator comes at the expense of the black entrepreneurs who are simply trying to push their own innovations and ideas. It says more about the brands that copy the work of independent companies and creatives and how their team is incapable of bringing innovative and fresh ideas to the table, having to steal from those smaller companies because they know that no real harm (from a legal and significant financial standpoint) will come to them in most cases. There is absolutely nothing wrong with giving credit where credit is due. For entrepreneurs and creatives, credit for their work is everything; it's the difference between obtaining more access + opportunity and missing out on pivotal moments and checks because their name isn't attached to the product that is a result of their intellectual property. There is so much missed opportunity in stealing concepts and ideas from other creatives. Black women, specifically, have to work so hard to be able to be recognized on a mainstream level. It is disrespectful at the bare minimum to steal their ideas and pass them off as a brand's own idea when they could just as easily collaborate with them or hire them. There is so much money to be made in joining forces, audiences, and creative ideas, authentically and ethically doing so. In this apparent age of black outrage being a form of PR for these companies, it is so important that we commit to uplifting and supporting the entrepreneurs and creatives whose work we believe in on purpose.
Situations like these literally speak to the power and influence that black women possess. When we make moves and apply pressure, change quickly follows and shifts happen! May Raynell Steward and The Crayon Case receive all of the money, blessings and support in all endeavors. Let's keep the black dollar circulating!
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