The fashion and beauty industries have a lot to answer for when it comes to the representation of realistic and diverse female bodies but, also, strides are being made and there’s a lot to be celebrated.
We’ve seen Christian Louboutin introduce nude shoes for all skin tones, modest Islamic-friendly fashions introduced by brands and now, plus size model, Ashley Graham, fronts the latest H&M campaign reminding us all that not all women look like cookie-cutter images of female beauty.
Graham is one of the most successful plus size models in the industry, and has appeared across a range of glossy titles. Earlier this year, she made headlines when she appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated- a slot usually reserved for sculpted, unattainable bodies as opposed to realistic images of womanhood.
It’s not the first time the 28-year-old has represented the brand, either, having walked the runway at H&M’s Paris show alongside transgender model Andreja Pejic, in March.
But fronting the brand’s AW16 is somewhat of a big deal. And part of the reason it’s a big deal is that the brand isn’t using her size (a UK 14), as a selling point, it’s simply used Graham in the campaign.
The model says she feels “honoured” to be promoting plus-size women, because she didn’t see the same images when she was younger, telling the brand that:
“For the young girls, it's important for them to recognize that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, races and ethnicities, and that they need to start appreciating their bodies at a young age.
“For the women, it's reminding them that attaining self-confidence is a long journey, and it's achievable when you surround yourself with other positive females.”
Speaking to Harper’s Bazaar, Graham says: “My hope is that young women who shop at H&M see me in the ads and are reminded that there is not one standard definition of beauty or one perfect size.”
Graham is also particularly proud to be fronting an H&M campaign- a brand that has shown, in recent years, a real support of diversity – last year featuring a model in a hijab, and a 60-year-old in its campaigns.
“It’s exciting to be representing one of the most internationally known fashion retailers that is not only offering more options for curvy women, but pieces that have a high fashion aesthetic,” she says.
Speaking about the collection, that features Swedish folkloric embroidery, feminine tailoring and hourglass shapes, H&M’s Creative Advisor, Ann-Sofie Johansson says:
There is a new femininity in this H&M Studio collection. It’s about female strength and power, with a fresh look at folklore and romance. It’s very elevated, and also very real.”
The collection will be in stores and online starting from September 8.