Reality over fantasy: How inclusive business models work

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By FTN Editorial Team

For many centuries, beauty and fashion brands have imposed their standards on ordinary people. By not producing clothes, shoes or beauty products out of certain criteria or sizes they have non-intentionally (or in some cases, intentionally) declared people who are different as outsiders. So in the era, where diversity, inclusion, body-shaming and online bullying are at the center of the public discourse, have we really made progress?

Earlier this year one of the biggest lingerie companies and longtime market leader Victoria’s Secret has announced that it will be closing 53 stores in North America. This news came after in November last year, VS’s Chief marketing officer Ed Razek declared that they didn’t plan to use trans or plus size models in their annual shows that are watched by millions of people all around the world. According to Ed, they had tried to do a similar show for plus-size models in 2000, but people were not interested and Ed thought that the situation did not change. Razek described their shows as “a fantasy”, “one of its kind in the world” and that the complaints that they had been receiving were simply because they were the market leader.

But he does not seem as convincing when we look at the numbers. According to data from ABC, in 2018 the Victoria’s Secret annual fashion show has been watched by only 3.3 million people, which is a huge backdrop compared to the 9.7 million audience in 2013. This year the company has completely cancelled the show, which came as a great surprise to the audience and to the industry. Victoria’s Secret’s parent company L Brands Inc stock prize has reached a decade low ( $17.5 ) and this doesn’t seem to be the end of the fall. And even if Victoria’s Secret has claimed to be diverse, they could only maintain race diversity in their latest fashion shows. But none of the 60 models walking the runway represented anything different from flat stomachs, usually long blond hair and big thigh gaps.

The real world, though, is not a dream. Despite looking with excitement and admiration to the fashion shows and way too perfect models, when the time comes to buy, we all go for brands, who show with their business models, that they care for us. But currently, the dilemma is not solely about finding brands whose products match your size or colour. Current trends prove that now consumerism is about provoking responsible business models with our buying habits. As Victoria’s Secret has refused to play the consumers’ game, they are obliged to face the simple truth: they might lose the market leader position.

In May 2018, singer and fashion designer Rihanna has debuted her lingerie brand Savage x Fenty. Since the first day, she has shown that her brand is all about inclusivity by introducing the biggest variety of sizes and colours for everyone. Her commitment to the mission of inclusivity started in 2017 she launched her Fenty Beauty Collection and continued in 2019 when she started her collaboration with LVMH by launching her luxury clothing brand FENTY. 

The peak of all of these was the first fashion show of Savage x Fenty that aired on Amazon Prime in late September. It was a big bold statement of her inclusive positioning. During the first year after its launch, the brand has attracted an investment with a total amount of 70 million USD.

What this brand did with the lingerie and beauty market is quite phenomenal. Although we have previously seen some small-scale initiatives of promoting inclusive business-models, hardly any of them made any change in the industry. Until now.

A publication appeared on BCG’s website suggests that “to reach Millennial consumers, companies must make sure that their marketing communications are optimistic and positive in tone. They should also visually portray the generation as broadly diverse and inclusive.”  Edited suggests that since Savage x Fenty entered the market, “US and UK retailers have increased the number of size-inclusive lingerie styles by 34 percent”.

What conclusion can we draw? Inclusivity and diversity, not elitism are the key to the millenials’ hearts. 

The brands like Fenty have a lot of impact on the whole market and industry. They are not only trend-setters, but change-makers. The important thing to remember is that we, as consumers, set the tone of the market with our buying habits. And we, as consumers, can force businesses to be more responsible and inclusive.


By Viktorya Muradyan