Last year a Swedish department store made the bold move to showcase “fuller-figured” mannequins in their store. The company’s commitment to greater body representation was extremely well received, and images of the mannequins were viewed all over the world. Thanks to those efforts, we are slowly beginning to see diversity of body types represented in stores here too. This is definitely one fashion trend we can get behind.
As part of its When It Fits, You Feel It campaign, retailer JCPenney unveiled five “inclusive” mannequins in their New York City store last week. An interesting move for a company that has previously been under fire for use of its super-skinny mannequins.
JCPenney collaborated with a company in Denver to create replicas of real life inspirational men and women including: wheelchair-bound Paralympic athlete Dawna Callahan; Desiree Hunter, a 6’ 1” NCAA basketball player; former Army paratrooper Neil Duncan, who lost parts of both of his legs while serving in Afghanistan and now wears prostheses; entrepreneur Beth Ridgeway, who is plus-size; and actor and little person Ricardo Gil.
“We felt like this was a great opportunity to really make sure we were helping showcase the important subject of body image,” says JCPenney marketing executive Debra Berman, in a company press release.
While we applaud JCPenney’s effort to represent a variety of body images, we were disappointed to learn that the mannequins will only be displayed until the end of August.
With the unveiling of the mannequins hosted by the Today Show, and accompanied by a press release, it feels to us, more like a PR stunt than a commitment to the “important subject of body image.” We are interested to see what other initiatives the brand will unveil to support inclusiveness and positive body image in the future.
One company JCPenney can turn to for inspiration is Nordstrom, who recently released its annual Anniversary catalog, which prominently features models with disabilities. In fact, we learned that Nordstrom has been using models with disabilities in their marketing since 1997.
We were thrilled to see WYSK Jillian Mercado, the fashion blogger who made her modeling debut in a campaign for Diesel earlier this year, throughout the book’s pages.
“For us, it’s really about reflecting the diverse customers and communities we serve. We hope when our customers receive the catalog, they see themselves in it,” said Tara Darrow, a Nordstrom spokesperson. “We don’t promote it or go out and talk about it. We just think they look great.”
Nordstrom, “is a leader in this space and has been a long-standing supporter of disability inclusion not only in their advertising but also in employment and accessibility in their stores,” said Meg O’Connell, a partner at the consulting firm Global Disability Inclusion. Ms. O’Connell added that in addition to Nordstrom, H&M, Diesel, Swiffer and Duracell have also recently featured models with disabilities.
We are encouraged by retailers who are rethinking the unrealistic and one-dimensional body type images they have been perpetuating. We salute the companies out there who are willing to create a more inclusive space where everyone can feel like they belong!