U.K. plus-size brand Taking Shape has been called out for pulling a major gaffe during London Fashion Week. Setting up a "bird watching" booth on a London sidewalk, they brought out staffers with binoculars to do some "skinny bird watching" ("bird" meaning the British slang for "girl"). As managing director Alla Buinowicz explained, the stunt was apparently meant to "bring some focus to the curvy women of the world. The average size in the U.K. is a size 16, yet today on the catwalk there's going to be a whole heap of size sixes. So, it's just a bit of fun; a tongue-in-cheek Skinny Bird Watching Society, just to say, 'Hey, let's put all women onto the catwalk.'"
While a campaign for body diversity during Fashion Week is one we can get behind, it's clear that in practice, this one was abject body shaming. As if it weren't bad enough to see these "bird watchers" pointing fingers in jest at skinny women in the street, the company took it even further. As Styleite originally reported, Taking Shape published illustrations of the models as exotic bird breeds, and promoted a #SkinnyBirdWatching hashtag on Twitter.
Needless to say, women of all sizes found the tone-deaf stunt distasteful, pointing out that body shaming is body shaming, whether you're mocking a size 0 or a size 22. "Who sat down in the creative idea session and thought, Yeah, let's make slim girls feel rubbish to promote our brand?" asked one woman who saw the hashtag on Twitter. Beauty blogger London Beauty Queen echoed the sentiment, saying, "Skinny shaming is NOT the way forward. We should build the confidence of women in ALL shapes & sizes."
In response, the company released a classic sorry-not-sorry statement. "We are very sorry that many of you felt our stunt today at #LFW had a negative message... [Ed. Note: Ha!] We apologize to anyone who was offended and are keen to state that our aim was never to body shame anyone. We hope you will see that as a brand, we are all about empowering women to love their bodies and embrace fashion, no matter what their size."
Clearly, the PR folks at Taking Shape have yet to see the error of their ways, but they're very sorry if you didn't get the joke. On the plus side, nobody else did, either. Body shaming draws awareness to nothing but ignorance, and public displays like this do nothing but create further division between women of every size. If the company's aim is, as Buinowicz said, to celebrate "all women," then next time they might try, well, celebrating all women — not pointing fingers at them.