Update (14th September 2018): Lena Dunham has responded to the backlash surrounding her involvement with a controversial Revolve sweatshirt, posting on Instagram that she would "rather go naked than promote exclusivity".
In the caption of a photo of herself naked in the bath, Dunham appeared to distance herself from the brand. She said she would be "only repping brands that cater to ALL women" in upcoming TV appearances.
"In response to the sweatshirt debacle of yesterday, I’ve had some amazing dialogue with other women about representation, reclaiming negativity and size inclusive clothing brands, she wrote.
Original story (13th September 2018): Lena Dunham has found herself in hot water on social media over her involvement in creating a sweatshirt that has been perceived to be "fat phobic".
On Wednesday, a sweatshirt designed by LPA and sold by online retailer Revolve attracted an immediate social media backlash for its slogan: "Being fat is not beautiful, it's an excuse." Countless people on Twitter and Instagram described it as fat phobic and encouraging of eating disorders. Many also criticised the brand for using a slim white model, selling only up to an XL size and for charging over £100.
Model Tess Holliday tweeted a screenshot of the sweatshirt and called the brand "a mess", while others including actor Jameela Jamil asked the brand what on earth it was doing.
Just think of how many people at @REVOLVE had to approve this concept before it got printed on a shirt, produced, and put online. There are SO MANY things you can do to “raise awareness for cyberbullying” that are not this...? like multiple people actually signed off on this wtf pic.twitter.com/vJgvfSWklW— Makeda Drennan (@makedajaye) September 12, 2018
Hey @REVOLVE what the actual fuck is this??? You actually were my favorite place to online shop but the fact that this made it through however many people it did and on to your website is so fucking mind blowing and disappointing. Biggest fail of a campaign I’ve ever seen pic.twitter.com/mdhOMFXV7n— Jenn McAllister (@jennmcallister) September 13, 2018
The item was part of a line of sweatshirts featuring similarly offensive quotes, which had been intended to shine a light on the abuse and trolling women face daily online. The quote in question was originally directed at model Paloma Elsesser. Emily Ratajkowski, Cara Delevingne and Suki Waterhouse were also involved in the collection with Dunham and Elsesser.
Then Lena Dunham waded into the row on Instagram and was similarly condemnatory, but revealed she was involved in creating it. She admitted that while she had actually been involved in creating the line alongside other women including Elsesser, after being asked by her friend Pia Arrobio (who created the brand LPA), she hadn't been aware of how the sweatshirt would be marketed.
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For months I’ve been working on a collaboration with my friend Pia’s company LPA through parent company @revolve - sweatshirts that highlight quotes from prominent women who have experienced internet trolling & abuse. This is a cause very close to my heart and the proceeds were meant to benefit charities that help young women by empowering them to express themselves through writing and art. Without consulting me or any of the women involved, @revolve presented the sweatshirts on thin white women, never thinking about the fact that difference and individuality is what gets you punished on the Internet, or that lack of diversity in representation is a huge part of the problem (in fact, the problem itself.) As a result, I cannot support this collaboration or lend my name to it in any way. This doesn’t take away from my love or respect for what Pia has done with LPA, but I am deeply disappointed in @revolve’s handling of a sensitive topic and a collaboration rooted in reclaiming the words of internet trolls to celebrate the beauty in diversity and bodies and experiences that aren’t the industry norm. *** I’d like to especially extend my love and support to @palomija, whose quote was the first to be promoted and mangled. She’s a hero of mine. Like me, she gave her quote in good faith and shared her vulnerability in order to support arts education and to spread her message of empowerment, and she wasn’t consulted in the marketing. Not an ounce of negativity should be sent her way. *** My only goal on this planet is to empower women through art and dialogue. I’m grateful to every woman who shared a quote and so disappointed that our words were not honored. As a result, I will be making a donation to the charity of every woman’s choice who was wronged with me and I hope that @revolve will join me with a contribution of their own. *** P.S. This Rubens painting makes me happy because it’s about women joining in love, but he didn’t recognize diversity at all- he just loved curvy butts. Problematic fave.
Dunham said the sweatshirts were meant to "highlight quotes from prominent women who have experienced internet trolling & abuse", with the proceeds intended to "benefit charities that help young women by empowering them to express themselves through writing and art."
She went on to condemn the optics of Revolve's marketing, which "presented the sweatshirts on thin white women" without consulting her or any of the women involved, "never thinking about the fact that difference and individuality is what gets you punished on the Internet, or that lack of diversity in representation is a huge part of the problem (in fact, the problem itself)."
She went on to withdraw her support for and association with the collab, while insisting that she still supported her friend's brand, LPA. "I am deeply disappointed in @revolve’s handling of a sensitive topic and a collaboration rooted in reclaiming the words of internet trolls to celebrate the beauty in diversity and bodies and experiences that aren’t the industry norm."
London-based artist and social issues advocate Florence Given first drew attention to the problematic sweatshirt, which has since been pulled from Revolve's website, with a series of screenshots on Instagram. She posted screenshots of a direct conversation between her and LPA. A spokesperson for the brand called the situation a "nightmare" and told Given: "The whole point was the exact opposite of this."
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I heard back from @palomija and she told me she is MORTIFIED about how this quote has been used, and is asking for her quote to be pulled • The brand @lpa responded and they have got @revolve to take down the shots - this is our convo. Problematic marketing = a problem with diversity in the work place. This is still incredibly problematic and an awful attempt at ‘claiming back’ toxic narratives because (in my opinion) it just gives them power by putting them back into the world and at a £162 price tag. The designs went up to XL, so the women who this tee is supposed to ‘empower’ probably wouldn’t even fit into one. But at least we got the pics taken down...Ugh.
Revolve said in a statement that the collection had been released "prematurely" on its website and "without context of the overall campaign". It said the image "regrettably featured one of the pieces on a model who's size was not reflective of the piece's commentary on body positivity."
The company continued: "We at Revolve sincerely apologize to all those involved – particularly Lena, Emily, Cara, Suki and Paloma – our loyal customers, and the community as a whole for this error.
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THE ENTIRE COLLECTION HAS BEEN PULLED. WE DID THIS. However, @revolve still have some problematic things to work through - they still fucked up. This collection and @revolve still suck. This isn’t over. The war on fat bodies in the media isn’t over. These eating disorder inducing narratives aren’t over. But, we stopped THIS one from being launched. Thank you for pulling your collective voices together with me and giving a shit. We did it this time..
"The collection has been pulled. We are proud to donate $20,000 to "Girls Write Now" in the hopes that those who need it can still benefit from what was to be a meaningful, insightful and impactful collaboration by LPA."