In the age of body confidence and positivity, one L.A.-based swimwear company is doing something different. While most fashion labels make it a point to highlight their choice to use unretouched photographs as a part of their brand image — for example, they include it in ad campaigns that underscore the importance of "being real." But, this is where Rheya Swim differs from the rest. Like a growing number of companies, the brand chose to not edit out its model's stretch marks — Rheya, however, did it without telling anyone.
"It was intentional," the brand's 21-year-old founder and designer, Chloe Madison, told Elle in an interview. "When we got back photos from retouching it was shocking. I didn't really recognize my body – enhanced to someone else's idealistic version of it," she shared, noting that she and her best friend actually modeled for the campaign. "I sent it back and asked for all of that [retouching] to be stripped off, and it made me feel better about it."
Rather than using the move as a brand marketing technique, Madison instead describes the company as something meant to "accentuate your stunning lines and curves in minimalist fashion — sans the distraction of patterns and white noise." The swimsuits themselves are designed, as she puts it, to "focus on the woman wearing the suit than the suit itself," which is why all of the items are sold in solid colors and accentuate the waist.
"[Shoppers] see super photoshopped girls and think that's something they need to be and I didn't really want to celebrate that anymore." she told Elle. "I would rather purchase something I could relate to and I could see myself in as opposed to someone that doesn't even look like a real person."
Though Madison admitted there was definitely a level of insecurity over her "blotchy skin" and stretch marks (hey, we've all been there), Madison says it important for her to join the ranks of many other women who have chosen to love their imperfections and embrace their flaws.
As the fashion industry continues to challenge stereotypical beauty standards and push for inclusivity, Rheya's mission of celebrating body positivity (in an authentic, not necessarily market-driven way) isn't just refreshing — it's a positive step forward for normalizing what's so common in reality but rarely makes the final edit.