Corporations aren’t obliged to be inclusive

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Every fall, when the lineup of models for the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is announced, there is an outcry of anger as the company continues to exclude plus-sized models. Following the filming of this year’s show, in response to the public upset, Ed Razek, a marketing executive, made a statement explicitly saying that Victoria’s Secret has no interest in casting transgender or plus-sized women in the show.

As a result, there has been an overwhelming amount of backlash and complaints made towards the company and the CEO, Jan Singer, has stepped down from her position.

Many people have taken to social media to call out the brand and further try to entice them into using a more diverse modelling range. However, these pleas with the company are ultimately naïve and unlikely to make any real change in the industry.

For a long time, modelling has put a strong focus on tall, thin, and traditionally “beautiful” women. The standard slim build of a supermodel is actually valued for its ability to emulate the way that clothing would look on a hanger, rather than representing what the average woman would look like in the clothes. However, in recent years, many brands have begun to feature women of all shapes and sizes in order to be more representative of what the average woman looks like.

Lingerie companies like Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty and Aerie have been very progressive in terms of inclusivity in underwear models. Nonetheless, after over two decades of Victoria’s Secret Fashion Shows and 30 years of selling lingerie, Victoria’s Secret has chosen to stick to their roots and continue to exclusively feature women of one standard body type. 

What a lot of people don’t consider when they’re trying to push Victoria’s Secret in what seems to be the right direction of inclusivity and body positivity, is that the company has very specific branding that they are unlikely to stray from.

Their models are some of the highest paid in the world because they only want to feature the tall, stereotypically good-looking women with a body type that is unachievable for the vast majority of women.

Brands aren’t trying to be representative or even realistic of what women look like, they really just want their brand to be associated with people that are physically elite so that their product seems more unique and valuable.

They have built their brand entirely on sex appeal and a lingerie fantasy, and for many years that was a great sales tactic for them.

However, in recent years they’ve seen a steady decrease in sales as women have begun to shift from wanting sexy lingerie they see on skinny models to wanting comfortable, practical underwear that is advertised by models who look a lot more like themselves. In 2018 alone, L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, has seen their shares drop by 41 per cent, largely due to the decrease in sales by VS.

For the most part in the fashion industry, modelling was never meant to be a profession that is inclusive and representative of all body types. Models are cast to represent a standard of beauty that a company wants associated with their brand, in order to make people, especially women, feel like they will be more like the models, and therefore more beautiful, if they buy the clothing that they are wearing.

Many brands choose to offer a very limited size range simply because they only want a certain type of customer buying their products. The CEO of Abercrombie/Hollister Co. has made public statements that they don’t carry sizes larger than a large for women and an extra large for men because they don’t want fat people wearing their clothes. Brandy Melville has grown an entire chain only selling clothing in one small size. Even some of the largest cosmetics companies continuously release products in a shade range that really only caters to white women.

The reality of the situation is that companies have no obligation or moral responsibility that requires them to be inclusive of different body types, ethnicities, or transgender people.

They have every right to choose to use tiny models and limit the products they sell so that only a certain demographic can use them. Angrily tweeting that Victoria’s Secret is fat-phobic just isn’t going to change the fact that Victoria’s Secret simply does not care to include plus-sized women.

They don’t offer plus-sized clothing and are probably more likely to let themselves go bankrupt than sacrifice the image of fantasy and sex appeal that they have built their brand upon. They aren’t going to offer the coveted “angel” title and extravagant wings to just anyone.

Models are paid to be models because of a combination of things. First and foremost, they’ve most likely won the genetic lottery in terms of height and metabolism.

They are willing to train like athletes and give up carbs and dairy in order to stay in peak physical condition. Oftentimes, they’ve had some kind of work done — like a nose job or fillers.

Increasingly, models are being cast purely for their name and the level of fame they already have, with some of the biggest models in the world right now being the Hadid sisters and Kendall Jenner.

Brands aren’t trying to be representative or even realistic of what women look like, they really just want their brand to be associated with people that are physically elite so that their product seems more unique and valuable.

This isn’t to say that the way the modelling industry is run is right or admirable in any way, it’s just the reality of what is happening. Instead of wasting your breath trying to make a brand change, simply spend your money elsewhere. Brands like Victoria’s Secret have no obligation or interest to change and be more representative, so stop glorifying them to be the ones who need to pave the way for inclusivity in the industry in order for change to happen. A brand’s definition of beauty does not need to be your definition of beauty and the longer people rely on seeing models who look like them in order to feel beautiful, the longer they’re going to be ultimately disappointed.


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