Smart brands these days are in the business of making women feel good—make that great—about their bodies. This week alone brought the launch of Lane Bryant’s #ImNoAngel and Dove’s Choose Beautiful female empowerment campaigns.
By aiming to instill self (and selfie) esteem at an even younger age by revamping its marketing—including banning Photoshop, using real models and celebrating young women’s natural beauty—American Eagle’s Aerie brand was recently awarded the US National Eating Disorders Association’s first-ever “NEDA Inspires Seal of Approval.”
The award was given to AE’s intimates and apparel brand for its #AerieREAL campaign, for not only challenging beauty standards in the retail and fashion industry but for also promoting a healthy lifestyle and outlook.
Aerie, which sells lingerie and sleepwear to young women 15-25, has made a bold commitment to body positivity in its advertising and marketing efforts, pledging to no longer retouch models in its marketing and advertising and celebrate natural beauty.
Its mission: “Aerie is bras, undies and more for every girl. Designed in sizes 30A to 40DD, Aerie is committed to making bras for girls of all sizes feel good about themselves, inside and out… because we believe the real you is sexy. No supermodels. 100% no retouching. #AerieREAL.”
It recently created the world’s biggest unretouched selfie (ahem, Kardashians and Beyonce) with its Love Your Real Selfie photo shoot in Miami. Young women are also encouraged to share their stories at aeriereal.com.
Similar to the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for lifestyle goods, the NEDA Inspires emblem was the brainchild of Aerie’s 24-year-old model Iskra Lawrence, who was dropped by her agency at age 15 when her hips were deemed “too big” but her body was found “too small” by plus-sized reps at the time.
We asked Jennifer Foyle, Aerie global brand president, for more insights on the campaign.
brandchannel: Jennifer, how has #AerieReal evolved since launching last year, and has it influenced the brand beyond visual changes such as banning Photoshop?
Jennifer Foyle: #AerieReal started as a campaign and became who we are. We celebrate body positivity and embrace a more realistic image of girls and women, in our marketing and our product. #AerieREAL means no altering the girls in our photography in any way. Nothing is covered up, removed or changed in any way.
As a company we had to unlearn and change our mindset. We were so programmed to retouch a scar or cover up a tattoo—it was a completely new approach and new way to speak to our customers.
bc: What is your message, and how can it resonate beyond your brand?
JF: We believe that every girl should be confident and comfortable, embracing their REAL self. We are happy to spread such a positive and inspiring message and hope this movement will continue to spread! Let’s be clear, the movement is already happening, we are just happy to help share the love.
bc: What inspired American Eagle to take the Aerie brand in this direction?
JF: “No retouching” works for us. It was a natural progression for our brand. We have always embraced real, natural beauty and celebrated our customers’ unique and spirited optimism.
Over the last few years, through social media, we were really able to listen and engage with our customers directly, and in turn, we were able to simply give our girls exactly what they wanted. We want to help empower young women to be confident in themselves and their bodies.
bc: Do you see body-positivity as a growing concern not only by customers but other brands?
JF: It has definitely been a conversation on social media, focus groups, customer feedback, etc. Our girl was looking for it and we decided it worked for us. We listened to our customers and responded in a way we felt was best.
bc: How will you build on winning the first NEDA Inspires Seal of Approval?
JF: We hope this recognition will inspire other brands to be part of a movement for positive change and join us in creating authentic advertising and marketing.
Aerie is committed to challenging supermodel standards to spark a conversation with the fashion industry and champion consumers with the true meaning of real and unretouched beauty. We are also proud of our partnership with NEDA to support those affected by eating disorders.