THE POLITICISATION OF PRODUCTS
Who is the true benefactor when fashion chooses to move towards inclusivity for ‘EveryBODY’?
By Maya Blinkhorn
Illustration by Niamh Power
The ease of ordering clothes online is a privilege; one that has almost exclusively been enjoyed by women who inhabit smaller bodies; namely those in the six to sixteen dress size categories.
November 2018 saw the launch of Pretty Little Thing’s campaign ‘EveryBODY’ which offers a refreshingly diverse array of models in clothes for many dress sizes. Available in sizes six to twenty-six the collection boasts clothing that is diverse, sexy and bold. Such characteristics have been few and far between, or indeed completely absent, in the world of plus size clothing.
Whilst this is evidence of fashion heading towards a more inclusive, diverse and aware future, the cynic in me questions the integrity of Pretty Little Thing’s intention in politicising their products.
Corporations jumping onboard the bandwagon for social and political movements is a trend ubiquitous with our time. We see it across the board with shops suddenly keen to demonstrate how they are ‘ditching plastic’ or ‘saying no to straws’. We are living in an age where brands are in a race to present their unique - and marketable - stance. Issues ranging from sexism, racism and environmental destruction seem to be fair game for companies to use, and indeed misuse, in the sale of their products.
Capitalism is clearly not shy of dipping its fingers in areas of culture previously occupied and ruled by the subversive. Pretty Little Thing’s extended plus size range and feminist rhetoric must be viewed then as the tip of an iceberg; corporate interest now lies in working with, and gaining from, the pertinence of protest movements.
The ‘EveryBODY’ campaign speaks to a future where size need not dictate who is able to participate in the style and value that online shopping offers. It speaks to a future where women with all body types are valued as consumers, as models and influencers, and as people. It goes without saying that this is a necessary and positive development by the brand and for the fashion industry generally.
Nonetheless, as consumers we should remain weary of those who seek to capitalise off the use and misuse of trending social issues. The degradation and oppression that larger body types have experienced down the years will not go away overnight; brands such as Pretty Little Thing have no place taking the credit for what body positive campaigners have sought for years to achieve.
It would be naive however not to recognise that the huge platforms and audiences that such brands bring to these campaigns is the very thing that is required for their success. If achieving real change is the true aim of campaigning, then commercialisation is not the downfall of protest, it is a symptom of its’ success.
We must not be blinded in our praise for the companies who are taking up these social issues from remembering their primary motivation remains, and always will be, financial. The companies, like Pretty Little Thing, who are politicising their products must be greeted then with a welcoming yet beady eye. Instead of celebrating the companies that have brought inclusivity into the forefront let us celebrate instead the women who are (finally) being represented by them.
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