Plus Size International News: Swedish Retailer H&M Accused Of Using Medium Sized Model In A Plus Size Ad

Plus Size International News: Swedish Retailer H&M Accused Of Using Medium Sized Model In A Plus Size Ad

The Local, a major news outlet based in Sweden, reports that Swedish fashion retailer H&M has been accused of using a medium sized model in a plus size ad in their recent catalog.

H&M image - the localSabina Karlsson, who is signed with Ford Models, had her size listed as a 40, which is equivalent to a US size 10. A size 40 is the same as H&M’s size medium. Well, this is not go over well with Swedish customers, who received the catalog in the mail last week. The Local reports that “Multiple models in the plus-size section of the catalog have been called ‘normal’ and even ‘skinny’, starting a debate about what plus size means – and whether H&M manipulates sizing.”

H&M image - sabrina
Model Sabina Karlsson in an H&M image

This is no surprise to us since the retailer has previously used model Myla Dalbesio in past plus size campaigns. Myla, who was a guest panelist on Huff Post Live last week with our Editor-in-Chief Madeline Jones, stated that she is a size 10 and that she knew that she was modeling clothes that didn’t even come in her size. H&M’s plus size line starts at a size 14 and runs to a size 24.

We have been asking the question “What is Plus Size?” for some time now with our latest issue devoted to this controversial topic and the photo ‘experiment’ we conducted with SWAK Designs, showing readers two images of curvy size 16 model Alex LaRosa and asking readers to choose which image they preferred. That resulted in a debate of whether or not, an image is too curvy for comfort. You can read about that here.

H&M Myla pic
Model Myla Dalbesio – H&M’s Spring/Summer 2011 campaign

Sabina’s size has now been changed on her agent’s website to a size 42-44, which is a US size 14/16. Her Swedish agent Mikas also told another newspaper Expressen:

“[H&M] confirmed that Sabina was photographed in H&M’s size 44 clothing and that she fit perfectly in them, and therefore requested that the sizes on the website be coordinated.”

Emma Igelström, a former professional Swedish swimmer who wrote a book about her battle with bulimia, received one of the catalogs and is one of the customers publicly stating their outrage at H&M using a non-plus model in a plus size campaign. Emma told The Local:

“The model looks like a totally normal girl, even skinny. I’m bigger than she is, and I wear a medium at H&M. H&M needs to take their responsibility for this. They are sponsors to the Swedish Olympics team, but by calling this model plus size, they are strengthening the idea that super skinny is the ideal.”

To H&M’s credit, the retailer has done some great things like using size 12 mannequins in some stores in Sweden and as we reported last May, they used plus model Jennie Runk in their plus size Summer 2013 swimwear campaign.

As we reported, Jennie Runk is on the smaller side of the plus size model range (she’s a size 12) but when you see her side by side with a straight sized model (see below – Jennie on the right), you definitely can see the difference in body size.


While these are great moves on H&M’s part to offer more size diversity in their campaigns, it appears it’s not enough to satisfy their customers. We hope H&M is listening to their customer and will take steps to use larger sized models. As we have said before, there are plenty of beautiful plus models out there above a size 10 and 12 that will showcase H&M’s clothing in a wonderful way, such as Fluvia Lacerda, Allison McGevna and Elly Mayday.

We have to ask again… What is plus size? Is it a size 10, 12? Or should it start at a size 14? And what about using larger sized models, sizes 18, 20 and up? Let’s keep talking about this important topic so that retailers like H&M, Target, Party City and others realize that their current plus modeling practices are not acceptable.

Let’s make 2014 the year of CHANGE in the plus size modeling industry.