Body Image 2.0

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The internet heralds a new era of body image which calls for a fundamental re-definition of terms like ‘disability’ and shows that ‘plus size’ is anything but connected to aesthetic ideals. How are brands reflecting this visual trend in their communications? We examine campaigns and communications leading the change.

Social media and digital platforms are giving a voice and a face to those mainstream media often does not talk to. Many brands in the fashion world are picking up on the sentiment that people really want to see something different than perfect (airbrushed) bodies.

 

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UK label, Clements Ribeiro, invites plus size models and fashion bloggers from the UK and the US for their SS13 ‘Holiday’ Collection for Evans bringing inspiration, personality and the proof that curve consciousness has a place in the world of fashion.

Stop Shopping in No Man’s Land highlights the campaign by men’s large-size retailer Destination XL. It highlights the male perspective by portraying how clothes shopping for bigger and taller men often feels like a scavenger hunt to them.

Celebrating individuality

An initiative encouraging more diversity within the fashion industry is the All Walks Beyond the Catwalk campaign founded by fashion experts and supermodel Erin O’Connor. Their Diversity Now! online campaign with I-D Magazine is promoting a broader range of body and beauty ideals to truly celebrate individuality.

Lisa Stone, cofounder of BlogHer.com notes that “More and more women are realizing the power of the internet to reach out to other women in affirmation of what our bodies really look like.”

 

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Limiting re-touching

British retailer Debenhams sets a new tone by pledging to limit their photoshopping to fixing stray hairs and pigmentation. In the latest fashion collection, the high street retailer completely turns its back on the industry norm of young thin models featuring a Paralympian athlete and a woman with a prosthetic leg.

“Our customers are not the same shape or size so our latest look book celebrates this diversity,” says Ed Watson, Debenhams director of PR. With its ‘High Summer Look Book’ the retailer is also hinting at the fact that beauty and body-shape is perceived to be not the same in different cultures.

Augmented bodies

The notion of the body will change even more dramatically in the years to come. Prosthetics are one of the hottest areas for start-ups according to an article on ‘The High-Tech Future of the Human Body’ in a Time magazine ‘Rise of the Robots’ special edition.

“We are approaching a point where technology can fully replace a functionality of the human body,” states Bertold Meyer of the University of Zurich.

Aimee Mullins, a former athlete-cum-actress owning 15 pairs of prosthetic legs, says that our language has not caught up with the changes in our society. Featured in numerous magazines and shot by the likes of Nick Knight, she is a new role model offering a glimpse of what’s to come. So is former marine Alex Minsky who, after losing a leg in combat, has reinvented himself as an underwear model.

Mullins also notes that social media platforms allow people to self-identify and to claim their own descriptions of themselves. “Perhaps technology is revealing more clearly to us now what has always been a truth - that everyone has something rare and powerful to offer.”

 

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Superhumans

The Cannes Lions winning campaign ‘Meet the Superhumans’ for the 2012 London Paralympics underlines this notion. By focusing on their strength, the campaign dispels the notion of disability as insurmountably challenging, instead showing the athletes as powerful sports people and as human beings not defined by those disabilities.

Belgian Kraak Mee Collective meanwhile is drawing attention to those who are not accomplished Paralympic athletes or who have yet become ‘superhumans’ through a high-tech aid. The collective is fighting for disabled people to find a home more easily as in Belgium 5,000 are on a waiting list for a proper dwelling.

Watch Kraak Mee Collective’s video 

Key takeaways:

  • The internet heralds a new era of body image including a re-definition of terms like ‘disability’ and showing that ‘plus size’ is anything but connected to aesthetic ideals
  • Progress in technology and its application upon the human body opens up different perceptions of ‘body image’
  • Communicators are creating a new, visual, language around the body
  • Social media is helping to promote new, alternative-bodied, role models

To browse a selection of images reflecting the new body image, click here

Read more articles about diversity

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