What started out as a well-meaning sweatshirt has led to an uproar on social media over mixed messages about fat shaming and body positivity.
Social issues advocate and artist Florence Given found the sweatshirts on Revolve’s website on Wednesday, with the featured image showing a straight-size model in a pullover that read, “Being fat is not beautiful. It’s an excuse.” Disgusted by the message the sweatshirt sent, Given shared photos of it on Instagram. She also showed another sweatshirt the brand had on its website, emblazoned with the phrase, “Too boney to be boned.”
In tiny print below the quotes, the sweatshirts say, “as said to” beside an Instagram handle, giving the impression that these were comments pulled from someone’s Instagram account. The accounts attributed on the sweatshirts belong to models like Cara Delevingne and Paloma Elsesser.
According to Fashionista, the quotes were comments reportedly said to famous women — but the campaign backfired when the apparel was released early without any context. Since the $168 sweatshirt went up on Revolve’s website on Wednesday, Twitter has been awash with comments bashing the brand for the offensive message.
why is no one talking about revolve selling a “being fat is not beautiful it’s an excuse” sweatshirt, that’s so messed up
— m (@valentisilk) September 12, 2018
— Tyler McCall (@eiffeltyler) September 12, 2018
What is there to say about @revolve's decision to include this sweatshirt in their inventory? That they think it's okay and will resonate with their customer base speaks volumes. pic.twitter.com/9x1xXXyBGR
— Lisa Braun Dubbels (@lisadubbels) September 12, 2018
honestly i sometimes wish i covered body positivity all day everyday because i'd love to go IN on this https://t.co/USC2C7SWnU
— Izabella Zaydenberg (@belkabelka) September 12, 2018
Also like may I say that the attribution text is so small as to render my first few reads of the sweatshirt as CHAMPIONING this awful line? You could read the quote a city block away but would have to be in conversational distance to catch the "as said to".
— Jenna Kass is sleepy (@JennaKassArt) September 12, 2018
The sweatshirt got the attention of outspoken actress Jameela Jamil, who posited a rhetorical question for the brand.
— Jameela Jamil (@jameelajamil) September 12, 2018
Tess Holliday, a plus-size model who recently faced backlash from haters over her history-making Cosmo UK cover, also called out Revolve for being “a mess.”
— Tess Holliday 🥀 (@Tess_Holliday) September 12, 2018
“They have a huge following that’s mostly young women and they are perpetuating the toxic idea that our worth is tied into our size,” Holliday said in a statement to Mic. “They must have never seen me, because I’m fat and beautiful.”
Instagrammers were just as angry. “I am actually disgusted and bewildered….. who in the design meeting thought – “hey – I know a good idea” … and what idiotic team agreed with them!!??????” someone commented on Given’s post. “This can’t be real,” another pleaded. “BEING DISRESPECTFUL ISNT BEAUTIFUL ITS DISGUSTING.”
Revolve already has a reputation for its lack of diversity (remember #RevolveSoWhite?) and this sweatshirt is just fanning the flames. According to Fashionista, the largest size available in the sweatshirt was an XL. And that’s a stretch for Revolve, since the brand usually doesn’t sell anything beyond a size L. Just look at its size guide.
The fact that the sweatshirt is modeled on a slender woman is just a slap in the face to curvy girls everywhere.
So…. @REVOLVE thinks its okay to market this sweatshirt — which only comes up to an XL, by the way — by putting it on a thin model? Considering Revolve doesn't even have diverse influencers this is….A Choice. https://t.co/40R1iWTHkp pic.twitter.com/JhdonQbF3Y
— Tyler McCall (@eiffeltyler) September 12, 2018
As for plus-size representation? If you Google “Revolve plus size” you’ll find it. You won’t find anything in it though; there are “0 items” in the section. Not even the sweatshirt in question.
If this was Revolve’s foray into size inclusivity, it appears the brand missed the mark.
Given got a hold of LPA founder Pia Arrobio on Instagram, who explained the idea behind these sweatshirts, which was a collaboration with five women to “shine the light on how horrible trolling is.” The plan was to launch the sweatshirts on Thursday, but they “went up early on Revolve for some reason,” Arrobio tells Given on Instagram, before the context of the quotes was made clear.
UPDATE: heard back from @palomija and she told me she is MORTIFIED about how this quote has been used, and is asking for her quote to be pulled • The brand @lpa responded and they have got @revolve to take down the shots – this is our convo. Problematic marketing = a problem with diversity in the work place. This is still incredibly problematic and an awful attempt at ‘claiming back’ toxic narratives because (in my opinion) it just gives them power by putting them back into the world and at a £162 price tag. The designs went up to XL, so the women who this tee is supposed to ‘empower’ probably wouldn’t even fit into one. But at least we got the pics taken down…Ugh.
A post shared by FLOSS (@florencegiven) on Sep 12, 2018 at 8:23am PDT
“As a result, I cannot support this collaboration or lend my name to it in any way,” Dunham wrote in part. “This doesn’t take away from my love or respect for what Pia has done with LPA, but I am deeply disappointed in @revolve’s handling of a sensitive topic and a collaboration rooted in reclaiming the words of internet trolls to celebrate the beauty in diversity and bodies and experiences that aren’t the industry norm.”
View this post on Instagram
For months I’ve been working on a collaboration with my friend Pia’s company LPA through parent company @revolve – sweatshirts that highlight quotes from prominent women who have experienced internet trolling & abuse. This is a cause very close to my heart and the proceeds were meant to benefit charities that help young women by empowering them to express themselves through writing and art. Without consulting me or any of the women involved, @revolve presented the sweatshirts on thin white women, never thinking about the fact that difference and individuality is what gets you punished on the Internet, or that lack of diversity in representation is a huge part of the problem (in fact, the problem itself.) As a result, I cannot support this collaboration or lend my name to it in any way. This doesn’t take away from my love or respect for what Pia has done with LPA, but I am deeply disappointed in @revolve’s handling of a sensitive topic and a collaboration rooted in reclaiming the words of internet trolls to celebrate the beauty in diversity and bodies and experiences that aren’t the industry norm. *** I’d like to especially extend my love and support to @palomija, whose quote was the first to be promoted and mangled. She’s a hero of mine. Like me, she gave her quote in good faith and shared her vulnerability in order to support arts education and to spread her message of empowerment, and she wasn’t consulted in the marketing. Not an ounce of negativity should be sent her way. *** My only goal on this planet is to empower women through art and dialogue. I’m grateful to every woman who shared a quote and so disappointed that our words were not honored. As a result, I will be making a donation to the charity of every woman’s choice who was wronged with me and I hope that @revolve will join me with a contribution of their own. *** P.S. This Rubens painting makes me happy because it’s about women joining in love, but he didn’t recognize diversity at all- he just loved curvy butts. Problematic fave.
A post shared by Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) on Sep 12, 2018 at 11:47am PDT
Social media users were unhappy with more than just the way the top was modeled. “[O]kay but why would they sell a shirt like that???” someone commented on Instagram. “Even with the explanation, those shirts are an awful and poorly executed idea.”
When the answer is “The merchandise went up early? Also, fundraising! And bullying is wrong!” to the question “Why are you selling a sweatshirt conflating fatness with laziness?” perhaps a rethink is in order? https://t.co/bJzdtovmHj
— The Immortal Iron Feminist (@lschmeiser) September 12, 2018
This sweatshirt from @revolve is part of a series of things said to different women BUT the truth is you’ve put this on a sample size model .. sizes only go up to a 10, it’s kinda hard to… https://t.co/GBd4avU4vJ
— Curves Become Her (@AartiOlivia) September 12, 2018
“This morning, images of a forth coming LPA collection were prematurely released on Revolve.com,” Revolve told Yahoo Lifestyle. “The capsule collection – originally conceived by LPA alongside Lena Dunham, Emily Ratajkowski, Cara Delevingne, Suki Waterhouse and Paloma Elsesser – was set to debut tomorrow as a direct commentary on the modern day ‘normality’ of cyber-bullying and the shared desire to create a community for those most affected by the epidemic.” Proceeds were set to benefit “Girls Write Now,” a charity focused on mentoring underserved young women and helping them find their voices and tell their stories through writing.
“We at Revolve sincerely apologize to all those involved – particularly Lena, Emily, Cara, Suki and Paloma – our loyal customers, and the community as a whole for this error,” they added. “The collection has been pulled. We are proud to donate $20,000 to ‘Girls Write Now’ in the hopes that those who need it can still benefit from what was to be a meaningful, insightful and impactful collaboration by LPA.”
While the brand admitted the promo shots were poorly executed, they would not comment on how those photos came to be.
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