Why “Real” Doesn’t Always Mean “Diverse”

embed Photo: Courtesy of Betabrand.
Between Aerie's unretouched lingerie campaign and Rick Owens' explosive step-team runway show, fashion is increasingly enamored with the "real," whether that means using nonprofessional models or simply allowing them to be their natural, un-Photoshopped selves. Now, Fashionista reports that San Francisco-based casual-clothing company Betabrand is using its own team of real-women PhD candidates as models. And, while the idea is admirable, it's interesting to note that in this and other campaigns, "real" does not always mean "diverse."
Betabrand traditionally uses friends and customers to model its wares. But, for its latest collection, it put an interesting twist on the real-woman theme: The company used all female doctoral candidates to model its spring offerings. The photos show several young women posing in the brand's breezy cotton basics and boyfriend jeans, often with a book in hand — because, hey, PhD candidates and their books, amirite?
The shoot is beautiful, fresh, and accessible. And, yet, we can't help but feel that it reflects some of the issues we have with the traditional modeling industry — namely, that the models are still young, conventionally pretty, slim, and, for the most part, white. While we love the idea of featuring women who are brainy and high-achieving as well as beautiful, does choosing to highlight PhD candidates — 75% of whom are white — in particular reproduce the racial inequalities of the traditional modeling world? Certainly it's not the responsibility of one ad campaign to undo decades of underrepresentation in the modeling world. But, we'd love it if the next "real-woman" campaign truly reflected the diversity we see in, you know, real life. (Fashionista)

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