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Ashley Graham’s New H&M Campaign Isn’t as Much of a Win for Body Positivity as It Seems

Ashley Graham for H&M Studio's Fall 2016 lookbook.

Image: H&M

At first glance, Ashley Graham’s new campaign for H&M Studio’s Fall 2016 collection looks like a win for the plus-size community — and in many ways it is. After modeling the folklore-inspired, feminine pieces on the runway at March’s Paris Fashion Week, Graham once again suited up in H&M’s pricier, seasonal line alongside other straight-sized models.

Ashley Graham for H&M Studio's Fall 2016 lookbook.

Image: H&M

The brand didn’t toot its own diversity horn by touting the campaign as “body positive.” It’s simply a high-end lookbook starring a group of models, one of whom, like many women in America, just so happens to be a size 14. Mass retailers outside of the plus-size arena are finally courting the Sports Illustrated model and not just for the sake of modeling a plus-sized capsule collection.

While Graham has chosen not to be labeled as “plus-size,” she remains an outspoken advocate of body positivity and is happy to champion the new norm: “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,” the America’s Next Top Model judge told Harper’s Bazaar.

Ashley Graham for H&M Studio's Fall 2016 lookbook.

Image: H&M

However, before we all get too excited by this news, consider this: the size Ashley is wearing will only be available online (and what do you want to bet it sells out first?). While straight-sizes hit stores September 9, plus-sizes will be relegated to the interwebs. If not for her campaign, Ashley herself wouldn’t know how the clothes fit her unless she took a leap of faith and waited several days for delivery.

Ashley Graham for H&M Studio's Fall 2016 lookbook.

Image: H&M

It’s a tale as old as time — the plus-size community frequents e-commerce sites at higher rates than any other demographic because retailers like H&M, Target and Old Navy tend to stock sizes 14 and up exclusively online. True, 21 of the 25 most profitable clothing retailers do offer plus-size options — but most selections are limited and dull, designed to cover women up. When these lines do appear in stores, they’re often segregated and scantily stocked.

Ashley Graham for H&M Studio's Fall 2016 lookbook.

Image: H&M

So, while on paper H&M appears at the forefront of diversity in fashion, in practice it still has a long way to go. If it’s going to dangle the idea of inclusivity with an Ashley Graham-fronted campaign, it ought to follow through by addressing the real life struggles plus-size women face while shopping. It’s a shame too, because the line looks great and we’re sure all available sizes, in-store or no, will get snatched up quickly.

Ashley, care to comment?

[ via Mic ]