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In a society consumed by beauty, perfection and youth, there has recently been another setback for the self-confidence pioneers. The CEO of American fashion label Abercrombie & Fitch, Mike Jeffries, has publically said that brand don’t stock XL or XXL women’s clothing sizes because they only cater to the ‘cool kids’, stating “We go after the attractive all-American kid…”, a category larger ladies apparently don’t fall into. Jeffries further explained how the company only wanted the brand associated with certain types of people, hence the high price tags, and the fact that the company paid to keep their label off reality TV show Jersey Shore.
There has been a backlash regarding these comments, with many people questioning and berating Jeffries elitist attitude, particularly when other popular fashion brands such as H&M and American Eagle stock clothes that cater to larger sizes, and are clearly sweeping up the money where Abercrombie & Fitch are missing out. The irony that many internet commentators have noted is that, despite all Jeffries protestations about youth and beauty, the man himself is far from a looker.
However, it is comforting to note many people have reacted to this absurd statement in a variety of positive ways (although perhaps not in the eyes of Abercrombie & Fitch). L.A. resident Greg Karber went to extreme lengths in an attempt to ruin the brand image that Jeffries seems to care about so much. In a YouTube video that has gone viral, Karber is seen distributing the high-end high street clothes to homeless people. Whilst this might be doing something to bring the brand down a peg or two this week, shouldn’t we be doing something to tackle the root of the problem?
As mentioned previously we live in a world where people of all ages, genders and sizes are constantly bombarded with images of perfection, or how they ‘should’ look. It’s true that throughout history there has always been an idea of what was conventionally beautiful; but never before has there been so much pressure or such extreme lengths taken to achieve said perfection. With the UK make up industry worth over £15 billion a year, and the fitness industry worth nearly £5 billion, it can be seen just how obsessed we all are with that ultimate image. And how is that a surprise? Stick-skinny, ethnically cleansed models parade our catwalks, magazines declare women on their cover are a “curvy size 10” (the UK average size is 14-16), and celebrities such as Anne Hathaway – who if you’ve seen her recently is far from even bordering on a normal weight – are told to drop pounds for movie roles.
The question remains whether we as a nation, and a community of beautiful women, are doing enough to combat this worrying trend. Recently H&M caused a bit of a stir by using a plus-sized model for their 2013 summer swimsuit campaign. Jennie Runk, the model used for the campaign, said she “had no idea that [her] H&M beachwear campaign would receive so much publicity” and that “we need to stop this absurd hatred towards bodies for being different sizes. It doesn’t help anyone and it’s getting old.” The question to be asked though, is why did Jennie’s story cause such a stir? Hopefully it’s not because her campaign is the usual token success story to cover up a much deeper entrenched problem. I would like to think that it’s a move towards a more sensible fashion industry, but with designer test sizes still being made in US sizes 2 and 4 (UK size 4 and 6), we still clearly have a long way to go. Whilst idiotic comments like Jeffries’ do a lot highlight the size issue within fashion, the reaction against the idea needs to be sustained in order for any real change to happen. Come on ladies, let’s stop worrying about what size jeans we can fit into and flip the bird to creepy weirdos like Jeffries, who seem more concerned with the size of our thighs than we are.