Scroll through your Instagram feed, take a look at the sponsored posts on your Facebook Ads. It's pretty clear that while the body positivity movement has made pretty impressive progress in the past years, businesses are still hesitant to take the step.
We don't exactly know why - after all, running a business involves a lot of moving parts and things to consider, but here are some things to consider.
Why not body positive? Well, free-size is cheaper. We learned about economies of scale back in our first economics class. Now, we see the real-world implications of that. Cost drastically increases when you scale up on sizing. Not only do you need more patterns to be made, but you also need more test models of various sizes to make sure the fit is just right.
It costs more to produce in more sizes. This is why businesses are usually hesitant to widen their range of sizes to include those at the poles. We too feel this. As a small business, it can be extremely difficult to support a sizing range of more than 4 different sizes. But there are ways around this - like coming up with custom sizes that are made to fit the wearer.
But we are a small business, and we think bigger brands out there can definitely do better. If you're able to produce the same top in 20 different colours, we're sure you're able to include a few more sizes in your catalogue.
Notice that we don't have any shapewear on-site? Despite them being valued at 2.62 billion USD in 2020 and projected to grow by 7.7% annually, we don't carry them. That means we're essentially cutting out a very profitable product from our catalogs.
There are multiple discussions regarding body positivity and shapewear. Discussions about whether both can coexist (can you be BoPo and still wear Spanx?). We're not getting to that today, but basically, being a business that aligns itself to the support of women regardless of size makes us more stringent on the products we curate.
Body positive is an entire branding - not just a marketing gimmick. Brands that call themselves allies of the BoPo movement, yet promote slimming products, or entice women to look better by putting on their shapewear are not allies.
It's all about The Brand
Many businesses are committed to their brand. Rightfully so, especially since it takes decades to form a solid brand association with your customers. Remember Abercrombie and Fitch's body-shaming incident? From a marketer's point of view, there's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to curate your brand. A&F positions itself as a fashion brand for the in-crowd which its founder associates only to people of a certain sizing range.
That's why it takes time to change. 127 years...if you need a time frame. 127 years plus a complete PR disaster is what it took for A&F to finally try a new body positive marketing approach.
Locally, many brands posit themselves according the ideal image of the traditional asian woman. Slim, fair skinned and effortlessly elegant. This image has been around for a long time - it's the reason why my mum doesn't eat potatoes for dinner. To them, body positivity is a foreign, western concept. And to change your branding simply because a few brands are doing so is a huge risk.
We don't want to fix what isn't broken. Which is why sometimes it's hard for brands to make a change.
You, as a consumer, must make the change.
Businesses respond to demand. It's just the most financially sound decision. As a consumer, you need to be the driving force behind businesses making the change.
For the majority of consumers who don't find difficulty in shopping for clothes or lingerie, the lack of size inclusivity isn't a problem. But think about your friends, family or your children - think of people who walk into a store and are told there isn't anything available in their size.
No, we're not calling for a boycott for brands that aren't BoPo. We're asking for friendly reminders and practical suggestions so businesses are reminded that they can do better.
Is Body Positivity just a marketing gimmick?
It takes time to change things, which is why even though size-inclusive brands are still difficult to find, we are hopeful that inclusive sizing will be the norm for the future. There's a lot of debate on whether brands are doing it for the money, as a marketing gimmick or simply to prevent backlash from the public. But to us, it doesn't really matter.
Marketing gimmick or not, our goal is for women of all shapes, sizes and colour to have more clothing options. Whether or not a brand does it out of the sincerity of their own heart - well, that's the cherry on top.
As a brand that focuses on inclusive sizing and body positivity, there's still a lot we can do as well. For example, stocking our sizes beyond XXL and offering more sizing options for our off-the-rack designs or using models of more ethnicities. We know and we are working on it.
Just like loving your body, running a body positive brand is a constant work in progress. Some days, we look in the mirror and think we look absolutely perfect. Other days, stretch marks, uneven skin tone and limp hair are more difficult to accept. That's us too.
Some days we feel on top of the world, an ally in championing for body positivity. Some days, we feel like we've barely done enough. And that's ok.
We'll keep working on it. And we hope you keep working on loving yourself the way you are too.
This was such an interesting and insightful read. I have noticed these things about so many businesses, and have felt so trapped by Asian beauty standards. It’s so exciting to see a business make a change x