While few would argue that jeans could stand to be more reflective of "real" women's bodies, Levi’s recently launched Curve ID sizing system has drawn fire for not reflecting all sizes and shapes. That's to be expected, perhaps; but what is no doubt particularly upsetting to the brand's strategists at Levi-Strauss -- the charges of racism accompanying those complaints.
The charge: instead of delivering on the promise of a new fit system based on a woman’s body shape, it favored some body types over others. After 60,000 body scans of women world-wide, Levi's rejiggered its women's denim sizing to reflect three main body types, roughly following the classic ectomorph, endomorph and mesomorph body shapes — or in Levi's-speak, its new “slight curve,” “demi curve,” and “bold curve” sizing.
The pushback to that new system? Levi’s Curve ID jeans only go up to a size 14, hardly “curvy.” And the Curve ID section of the Levi's website features three light-skinned models.
Granted, if you drill down on the site you'll find a gallery of real women in all shapes and sizes and ethnicities, but some bloggers feel dissed and frustrated with the lack of larger women with darker skin up-front and center
“Ethnic diversity is not a checklist for us. It’s truly part of our value system and our philosophy around women. That’s really important to us as a brand. It’s unfortunate the Curve ID ad campaign came across as being one-dimensional. We actually shot Caucasian women, African-American women and Hispanic women, but what ended up being more visible was what looked like a one-dimensional presentation of women,” responded Mary Alderete, VP of Global Women's Marketing for Levi Strauss, to The Frisky blog.
Asked if Levi’s would make changes to their Curve ID campaign (hindsight being 20/20 and all), Alderete continues,
“As a brand, I think what we should have paid more attention to is the way the media would be consumed by the average reader. In our flow chart, in our media plan development, we had this grand plan that we’d do three different ads and people would see the range. But in real life, the way consumers read magazines and go online, the message didn’t unfold in exactly the way we had hoped. So it was a good to get that 'learning,' to understand how consumers read media, both in their daily digital diet and in the imagery they consume on any given day across the plan.”
As for the headline, “All asses are not created equal,” it’s getting easier to be an ass these days.
In a September brandchannel post, the MD of Levi's agency of record (Duke/Razorfish) commented: "Levi’s is setting up a new denim standard for women, totally inspired by their daily insights. It is a critical shift in the communication industry to see that a pioneer brand like Levi's has chosen to orchestrate such an historical product launch, by using digital as its communication backbone.”
The backbone is connected to the hip bone…and "being an ass" opportunities abound as the biggest retail brands publically display their attempts to scale the steep digital learning curve of, well, curves.