The problem of representation in ad campaigns is something that has haunted the fashion world for decades. Campaigns featured the same thin girls, alienating the majority of the population who didn’t fit this niche image. To tackle this issue, high street brand River Island launched their “Labels Are For Clothes” campaign back in February, in the hopes that it would break the mould of unrepresentative fashion on the high street. The campaign was met with huge popularity on social media, with many calling for more people with disabilities to be represented in any campaigns that followed.
River Island are now back with their new Autumn Winter 2018 “Labels Are For Clothes”, aiming to be more diverse in their selection of representatives and celebrating what it really means to be 100 per cent true to yourself. Featuring models of varying shapes, races and abilities, the campaign launched in September and is one of the first fully diverse campaigns on the high street. The campaign, which was announced on Twitter, is described as a “celebration of people who reject stereotypes and champion self-expression,” and has already drawn lots of media attention for its work towards promoting inclusivity in high street fashion.
Whilst the campaign in itself is impressive, the models chosen are each unique and inspiring, all promoting self-confidence and self-expression. The models include: motivational speaker Mama Cax, who lost her right leg to cancer, wheelchair basketball player Jordan Luce and plus-sized model Lulu Bonfils. Another key member of the modelling team is nineteen year old Kathleen Humberstone, a model with Down’s Syndrome. At only 19, Kathleen has already walked the catwalk at London Fashion Week and addressed the UN as part of an event marking World Down’s Syndrome Day, all whilst studying as a performing arts student. It is clear that Kathleen is definitely one to watch in the fashion world as she continues to promote positivity and work towards greater equality. Each model is accompanied with an inspiring mantra, focusing on how important it is to remain true to yourself and not succumb to societal pressures. “Do Stand Out”, “100% Flawless”, “Do Not Stereotype” and “Do Embrace Curves” are just some of the accompanying statements that have been adopted by so many across social media.
To spread their message, River Island have released a collection of t-shirts and sweatshirts featuring their campaign slogan, “Labels Are For Clothes”, in partnership with international anti-bullying charity Ditch The Label. Ditch The Label, much like River Island’s campaign, looks to challenge outdated labels by believing in a world that is fair, equal and free from all types of bullying. The charity, which is primarily aimed at young people from the ages of 12 to 25, has partnered previously with companies like social networking service Habbo and the male grooming brand Lynx to combat a multitude of forms of bullying. This campaign features slogan t-shirt and sweatshirt designs for all ages, even offering the designs in their kids collections designed from ages 0 to 5, with the same “Labels Are For Clothes” printed in metallic, eye catching lettering. The designs have been immensely popular, with the hashtag on Instagram already being used thousands of times.
The scale of River Island’s latest campaign, and its subsequent popularity on social media, has proven the importance of diversity in future campaigns on the high street. As the campaign suggests, the outdated labels and stereotypes should be rejected to make the fashion we see and buy on the high street more inclusive to every individual, not just a select few. Other brands such as M&S, recently launched their children’s Easy Dressing collection for children with disabilities, and ASOS announced their work with unisex brand Collusion, an affordable brand for the new coming age, have begun to show some awareness for greater diversity in the products they sell and promote. As a form of self-expression, fashion should be inclusive, free from all prejudices and diverse in nature and message. More can still be done on the high street.