In the last few years more and more people have spoken about inclusivity and diversity, from a wide range of points of view: race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Among those, one that has attracted a lot of attention of late is body size, especially in the USA, where a large segment of the population is overweight.
The mirror image of acceptance of any body size and shape has been called body-shaming: people, usually women, are the target of comments about their physique, ranging from derisory to outright demeaning; this is nothing new, but, with the rise of social media, it has reached unprecedented dimensions. Parents, friends and strangers feel the need to point this out but now it is also possible to buy it online on Revolve (Moss, 2017).
A brand that has recently found itself embroilered in a controversy about body-shaming is Revolve
Established in 2003 by Michael Mente and Mike Karonikolas, Revolve is an online retailer based in Los Angeles. The platform sells garments created by less-known Los Angeles-based designers…... Among these brands, there is also LPA (Creeden, 2016)
In September 2018, Revolve released on their website a sweatshirt (by LPA) that states “Being fat is not beautiful it's an excuse” which was immediately noticed by customers who inveighed against the platform on social media: “Jesus Christ @REVOLVE what are you doing?!” and “LOLLLLL @REVOLVE y'all are a mess.” are only some of the comments published on Twitter by users who did not really agree with the message the company decided to spread.
The criticism took the brand management completely by surprise, since the aim of the slogan had been exactly the opposite: according to the brand, the collection (that comprised a few more shirts with different slogans) was made in order to challenge and criticize cyberbullying.
Indeed, the plan of the collection had been hardly objectionable: Revolve asked a few public persons to contribute the most offensive comment they had received on the social media, in order to underscore the negative effects of cyberbullying: the slogan on the offending sweatshirt was a comment posted by a user in plus-model Paloma Elsesser's Instagram profile, that she herself had given to Revolve.
Unfortunately, the phrase that explained that was printed on the shirt in a very small font, much smaller than the slogan itself, and many people overlooked it; Revolve compounded the blunder by releasing the shirt alone, instead that along the remainder of the collection, and without any preparatory explanation.
Moreover, many took issue with the overall layout of the ad: the shirt was worn by a white, thin model (while Elsesser is not only plus-sized but also of African heritage); lastly, the shirt itself is only available up to size XL.
Obviously, all of it is not consistent with the message and justifies the critiques (Lesavage, 2018).
A spokesperson for Revolve said that it was released too early and without a context and supposed to be a capsule collection with celebrities and activists like Emily Ratajkowski, Cara Delevingne, Suki Waterhouse, Paloma Elsesser and Lena Dunham. The retailer apologized for the using a thin model that clearly did not represent the aim of the collection and to the celebrities included, customers and “the community as a whole”. Moreover, Revolve donated $20,000 to the Girls Write Now foundation as already planned since the beginning by LPA (Lesavage, 2018).
This sequence of events shows first of all bad planning by Revolve, that failed to prepare a proper release of the collection, and later by a weak management of the controversy, where Revolve adopted a passive, defensive stance.
London artist Florence Given posted on Instagram a screenshot of a conversation between Pia Arrobio (who's that?) and her that they had to shed light on the controversy: the designer stated that the quotes were meant to make fun of the haters on social media and to raise awareness about how bad this problem is in now-a-day society. According to the artist, this is an issue of “problematic marketing”; moreover, she feels such an attempt does not work because sharing those insults only gave haters more power (Lesavage, 2018).
Even though the purpose of the campaign was to ridicule real comments left to well-known figures, and at the same time to underscore their evil nature, in the end well-known by body activists such as…… distanced themselves from it; even Lena Dunham, the actress who had been involved in the project from the start, apologized to everyone through an Instagram post.
She explained the project was meant to be a feminist statement and roundly blamed Revolve for the messy outcome, saying that she and the other celebrities involved in the project had given to Revolve their quotes in good faith (O'Malley, 2018) and, that ”no one was consulted about it” - thus, she stated, she cannot support their collaboration” even though she still respects and loves Pia (Heller, 2018).
Moreover, she emphasized that, nowadays, the lack of diversity is punished by people (O'Malley, 2018). (unclear: original quote?)
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