How Forever 21 Missed the Body-positive Mark


By Cori Hays
The Hoffman Agency, Portland-Vancouver

In February, Forever 21 faced criticism for its new Instagram account. The clothing store giant recently launched an Instagram for it plus-size clothing line: @Forever21Plus. The account features models showcasing the company’s complete plus-size collection — everything from active wear and swimsuits to everyday clothing and sleepwear.

Just weeks after the account launched, people were outraged by the photos uploaded to the account. People criticized Forever 21’s choice in models, calling them “too skinny.” According to Adweek, the models are around a size six, even though Forever 21 Plus Collection starts at size 12.

Instagram users left comments on @Forever21Plus saying things such as, “Wow I must be mega-sized” and that the models don’t “represent plus size accurately.” One commenter pointed out that these photos “may encourage plus shoppers to stay hidden and away from your brick and mortar stores.”

So how did Forever 21 respond? The company’s vice president of merchandising issued a statement to Business Insider, saying, “We always appreciate our customers reaching out when they have a concern and therefore have removed some of the images and are working to ensure all of our future posts accurately represent the Forever 21 Plus customer. As a majority of the content on our social media accounts are user generated by our loyal customers, we encourage them to continue to share their own photos to provide a true representation of our clothing, embracing beauty in all shapes and sizes.”

For most, Forever 21’s initial response fell a little short. The clothing retailer could take a few pointers from Aerie, the lingerie brand that’s changing the face of advertising. Aerie is known for using unretouched photos — creating a positive image for its brand and causing sales to soar. In fact, Aerie recently announced that Iskra Lawrence, a size 14 model, will be the new face of its unretouched campaign.

Since the backlash, Forever 21 has moved away from using images of the models that caused the upset. The brand also recently started incorporating more fan photos — average women who fit into all sizes of Forever 21’s plus-size collection. Refinery 29 reported that the company even removed several images of slimmer models from the Instagram account.

Although Forever 21 took a step in the right direction by shifting the focus on its plus-size Instagram account, the company is in need of a little more action. By incorporating some of Aerie’s practices, this upset could soon be a thing of the past.

(Photo Credit for Feature Image: By Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine)

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