We’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve called for greater diversity in fashion. And nowhere is that need more felt than in the lingerie industry, where the sexy-equals-skinny rule seems to reign supreme in the vast majority of underwear advertising.
But one inclusive skivvies brand is taking a stand against this approach through its campaign celebrating real women in all their diverse beauty.
Earlier this year, Curvy Kate, a body-positive lingerie brand, announced the launch of its #TheNewSexy campaign for its Scantilly line. To showcase its collection, the brand shunned professional models in favor of eight powerful, out-of-the-box role models, including a woman who is transgender and a woman who has had an amputation, as well as one who has alopecia, another who is plus size, and another woman who has recovered from anorexia.
Now the label has released its second #TheNewSexy campaign — and it’s every bit as inspirational.
Following the overwhelming success of the first campaign, the original stars were invited to select the next generation of inspiring models. Through this ‘pay-it-forward’ system, eight women of various shapes, sizes, abilities, ages, skin tones and backgrounds were chosen to be photographed in the new Scantilly boudoir collection.
Gemma Flanagan suffers from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an auto-immune disease that has left her mostly reliant on the use of a wheelchair. Since her diagnosis five years ago, when she was left paralyzed, the 33-year-old has had to completely rebuild her life. But it hasn’t stopped her striving to do her bit for diversity.
“The world we live in is diverse, but yet the fashion industry is a very ‘perfect cookie cutter’ type world that is so unrelatable to the majority of people,” she says. “We are the customers and we buy the clothes but we are not all represented. The industry is so powerful and has so much influence over us all that it should take more responsibility for the images it portrays. Diversity isn’t a novelty that should be ‘used.’ It should just be the norm.”
Paige Billiot, 24, who was born with a “port-wine stain” birthmark across her face and head, took part in the campaign to show that it is our imperfections that make us beautiful.
“When I was young I absolutely hated my birthmark. I would have done anything to be normal like everyone else because I was always surrounded with media telling me what beauty was. It made me feel like being different was wrong,” she says. “Then I started to change and not care anymore. I started to accept myself, understand who I am, and then embrace it. That’s why #TheNewSexy is such a strong movement that is long overdue. Everyone is sexy, and unfortunately a lot of people don’t realize that, and these beauty standards that have been forced on us for quite some time don’t help that.”
Starring alongside Gemma and Paige in the campaign is Yasmin Taylor, 24, who has hair loss from alopecia; Carla Atherton, 34, a breast cancer “previvor” who, after finding out she carried the BRCA gene, opted to undergo a double mastectomy; Diana Sirokai, 20, a plus-size model and body positive activist; and Janet Rook, 65, who took part in the campaign to prove that women can be sexy at any age.
Both Shorntay Allen, 31, and Seema Patel, 34, were thrilled to be chosen for the campaign to represent their Caribbean and Indian heritage.
“I don’t feel like women of color make up nearly enough of the mainstream media, and as a result, I 100 percent feel underrepresented as a young black woman,” explains Shorntay. “Having a greater representation of non-white models/actors/actresses/people in mainstream media will not only help encourage acceptance, but teach the younger generation that we live in a world where everyone is valued and should be treated respectfully.”
Speaking about the second installment of #TheNewSexycampaign, Curvy Kate spokesperson Hannah Isichei explained that the fight to increase diversity in the fashion industry is ongoing.
“Our brand ethos is to make women feel fabulous — that doesn’t just mean one woman, that means all women, regardless of age, height, look, shape or ability,” she says. “When we launched as a brand we could never find a model who looked like our customers. Our customer base is made up of so many different women that we wanted to represent this diversity, so that they all have someone they can relate to. That’s why we didn’t want the campaign to be a one-off. It’s not a gimmick or stunt. We believe that images like this should become the ‘norm.’”
“Our dream is that diverse images like this are seen everywhere,” Isichei says. “For example, in the UK, one in five people have a disability — yet how many images do you see featuring any model with a disability? The same can be said for women of color, over 50, and more. We all need someone who we relate to, so why is that currently so hard to find?”
Isichei says Curvy Kate will continue to use a range of models in their campaigns in the future.
“We’ve already had women writing to us to appear in next year’s campaign,” she says, “so it’s exciting to think who will star in the 2017 campaign.”