Summer has departed so each fashion house and retail brand is flaunting their collection via the annual Autumn Winter Advert. The aim is to please us so much that our wallets also take action. The new norm for fashion adverts is that they not only impress us creatively but inspire us to be better people or at least to feel like it. It seems we no longer settle for the choice of prints, fabrics and styles but we want to know how that can integrate with societal issues. At least it makes us feel better when the time comes to overspend because, you know, it’s promoting a good message.
In the coming cold months H&M supposedly want us to release ourselves from the shackles of traditional decorum and lady-like behaviour. The advert aims to celebrate taboos and redefine what it means to be a lady. One can argue that the freedom of the ladies in the advert is posed as aspirational.
The little girl in the dinner gathering stares deeply at the girl with an afro gleefully picking her teeth with a fork. However, reality dictates that most parents don’t want their children to admire bad manners. Someone has got to say it: picking your teeth with cutlery in public or private is unsavoury and brutish regardless of how cool the ‘offender’ looks when doing it. Perhaps at an attempt to grasp reality these “social good” adverts could leave children out of their trendy experiments.
The force behind the one-minute-twelve-second footage is the Swedish Advertising Agency, Forsman & Bodenfors. Their website states the below.
Since basically forever, girls and women have been told to look and behave ”like a lady”. Well isn’t it about time we — everyone together — redefined what it means to be a lady today? This campaign aims to do just that — featuring some seriously bad-ass women who are all equally ladylike in their own right.
The Agency are true to their ethos of ‘defying social convention’ as they’ve run other campaigns such as’ You can never be too much of you’ encouraging women to not let anyone else dictate their identity. That campaign appears to be more authentic but ‘She’s a lady’ is surface level fun or ironically simply vain. Yes, it’s refreshing to display a celebration of individual uniqueness. However, the advert hardly touches upon current unconventional standards of beauty and identity.
‘Current’ must be used here because one must be hopeful that female beauty and identity standards become even more inclusive in the future. A beautifully-freckled tall girl with chiselled facial bone structure or one who has an androgynous style and looks as elegant as a gazelle complies with mainstream beauty standards of the 21st century. A muscly female boxer, though not as celebrated outside the health and fitness arena as much as the former is no longer recoiled at. The muscles represent discipline and strength so this beauty does deserve to be valued in our society.
As for the other models, a pretty, playful (pink-coloured air) skinny tall model eating a finger of skinny fries is not ground-breaking however hairy her armpits. In 2016 celebrates like Madonna, Gabby Hoffman et al have embraced their armpit hair (we can’t vouch for hair in more discreet areas). Thus, the advert is following a trend not introducing a new concept.
It’s fair to point out that beyond this mere flirtation with social inclusivity, H&M do promote a form of actual social good. They have sustainable fashion and promote the recycling of clothes with the incentive of a voucher (bring a bag of clothes and get a discount voucher) which encourages more spending.
Their attempts to be inclusive must be applauded but it doesn’t show the demure lady. The message of the advert seems to be that being a lady is being who you are. If so why exclude the prim and proper type. Not all traditionally ladylike girls are that way due to societal pressure. Au contraire, some rather delight in doing things the ‘right’ or, indeed, the correct way.
The campaign aims to paint a picture of lady-like behaviour coming from societal pressure and not as a rule created by society or any powers that be. The message is communicated using different types of models being themselves. This begs the question, as admirable as their intentions are, how far our desire (as consumers) for perfection will be quenched by adverts promoting the normalisation of the unconventional.
Perhaps this question is irrelevant because Forsman and Bodenfors seek to merely inspire not to necessary activate social engineering. If, on the other hand they are seeking to see the message taken even further into creating change that affects consumer sales, then there’s the issue of inconsistency. Thus, we are inclusive to help increase our revenue but not truly inclusive as in we won’t include ladies with hairy armpits or with excess fat on our runway, in our shop image display or in the catalogues, website and certainly not in editorials.
The video has received over two million views and counting but the comments are disabled on all their You Tube videos but audience reaction can still be found on other social media platforms. The general consensus echoes my point that tough it’s a lovely idea and will indeed inspire others to think differently about beauty, female behaviour and identity, it’s purely a surface level message not backed up the models used in many of their campaigns or editorials. Their summer 2016 advert, ‘Forever Summer’, featured the standard perfectly toned models frolicking on the beach. There were no wobbly bottoms or over-flowing mid sections in sight.
Until the message of the advert translates into their model casting type, it will lack authenticity but it is certainly entertaining.