Yesterday, Jan. 17, a new campaign by aerie - an offshoot of American Eagle, specifically for lingerie - redefined real beauty and thwarted convention. Their Spring 2014 'aerie Real' ads went viral yesterday, promising that all models were unretouched, and that it was "time to get real."
The brand was launched in 2006 and geared for girls aged 15-21, targeting a market that is very vulnerable to media images and prone to internalizing those idealized images in terms of their own inadequacies. For example, a recent survey conducted on behalf of a clothing line found that 15 percent of women aged 18-24 believed that the photoshopped images they were exposed to actually represented reality. Another 24 percent stated that they were not comfortable with their bodies even among friends and 33 percent believed that they could never attain the body image they strived for.
That last statistic is unfortunately true; if women are presented with supermodel images that have then been photoshopped and airbrushed to perfection and that is what they aspire to, they will always fall short, through no fault of their own. Aerie was aware of its demographic and the triggers that photoshopped super models can provide, and found that it would be more beneficial to provide ads that would inspire their consumers with real images that were relatable.
Although there have been isolated movements in the past - for example, the un-photoshopped picture of Cate Blanchett on Intelligent Life magazine in 2012 - aerie's campaign marks the first concerted effort to address the issue of airbrushing and photoshopping. Aerie's mission to change the face of fashion that is marketed to this at-risk group, might also be a strategic move, when even more pressure is put on the fashion industry to stop being a contributor of unrealistic ideals.
However, aerie's campaign is still problematic despite its oath to represent real women. From the pictures presented, the models - though not supermodels - represent a narrow range of the body shape and size spectrum. Aerie is embracing the perfect imperfections of reality, the lines, rolls, and distinctions that make us all unique, but until they do this on a broader level, embracing all shapes and sizes, we will still be constrained to the 'thin' ideal. But at least this marks a deviation from the norm for the better, and congratulations are always in order for that.