A few days ago, we posted a Sound Off article asking you, the reader, what you thought of the below photo from plus size retailer SWAK Designs and if Pic A was too curvy for comfort.
Since then, the article and image featuring plus model Alex LaRosa, have made its way across social media outlets and has people talking about it. Huffington Post even weighed in their thoughts and wrote an article about it over the weekend. We think it’s definitely progress in the right direction because this important topic of the lack of size diversity in the plus size modeling industry is gaining some well-deserved attention.
Many valid points were raised in the Huffington Post article, the main point being those controversial questions we also raise in our January 2014 issue: Are plus models disappearing? What exactly is ‘plus size’?
“Plus-size models” are seemingly more ubiquitous than ever, but the models bearing this designation tend to be a size 12 or 14. If those women are plus-size… where do women size 22 or 24 fit in?”
Huffington Post states that the public are being conditioned by what they see and this also speaks to a larger issue at hand, which was evident by reading the comments under the article and on Huffington Post’s Facebook page. Many commented that showing larger plus size models is only promoting obesity and furthering the “epidemic” in America.
We have discussed this topic on the blog before with the Fit Mom vs Curvy Girl debate where some people believe you can determine someone’s health by looking at their size. As we have written previously, there is no proof of that since no one is exempt from having health issues no matter what their size.
However, in this instance, we think it’s two very different topics. Plus size modeling is a business. It’s a business that is selling to plus size women. If plus size models are promoting obesity, then does that mean plus size women should not be marketed to at all? If retailers can’t market their items properly, they will not make a profit. To say that plus size modeling is promoting obesity and because of that, larger models should not be used is almost the same as saying we should fat-shame women into losing weight so that they can be the size they are seeing in the media.
Our Editor-in-Chief Madeline Jones, who has always been an outspoken advocate for the plus size community and is a size 22/24 herself, spoke to this in her Call to Action to retailers and consumers in our January 2014 issue. She writes that the main two reasons for the lack of use of larger plus models by retailers is (1) the belief that these models do not inspire the plus size woman to shop/buy and (2) that plus size women won’t invest in their wardrobe because they are always thinking they will lose weight so the investment in new clothing is not worth it.
And contrary to that belief from retailers, Huffington Post pointed out in their article that many plus-size customers want to see more representative body types. They want to see a model who they can identify with and get an idea of how that particular outfit will look on them. A woman who is a size 20 is not going to identify with a model that is a size 12.
We recently did a survey where the results reflect this. Survey results show that 91.4 percent of respondents would prefer to see plus-size models larger than a size 12 in ads and magazines. That’s a large number that cannot be ignored. The number of women who said they don’t consider sizes 6, 8 and 10 models to be representative of the plus-size market was a huge 94.8%. The customer is speaking. Are the retailers and industry listening?
“It was important for me to know my readers so that I could get their thoughts, needs and wants out there for brands and designers to use when sitting at the round table meetings. It’s clear plus-size women experience fashion in a very different way, the majority of women who answered this survey did have strong opinions about the way they are being marketed to and I’m happy to put the information out there. Let’s see if anything changes in 2014.”
We are happy to see brands such as SWAK Designs who are not afraid to use larger models like Alex LaRosa, who is a size 16/18. We hope this will set the example for other plus size retailers to see that larger plus models could actually be a positive asset to their business. There are some fantastic plus models out there who are above a size 16 such as Fluvia Lacerda, who once said in an interview with Refinery29, that she has been turned away from jobs for being too “big”.
Sarah Sapora, Director of Creative and Social Marketing at SWAK Designs tells us why they choose to use larger sized models:
“At SWAK Designs we are 100% into in using models that are larger than a size 14. In fact, we have a hard time finding models who are the size we want. Agencies tend to want to send us size 12 or smaller size 14 models, even those that work best in junior plus sizes. I have literally turned beautiful models down because they were too small for our clothes. If you (as a model) don’t fit into the sizes we offer then we can’t use you. It’s really as simple as that. If we were able to find more models that were a size 18 and camera-ready professionals who took their craft seriously, we would absolutely use them. We just haven’t found many!”
What do you think? Sound off below with your thoughts. We’re sure this is a topic we will be talking about frequently in the days to come. We will be reporting any updates and developments on the blog as we learn of them.