Male body representation still remains a longstanding issue in fashion, and even more so in underwear.
The majority of brands are stuck in the same cycle of pushing images that only portray men as having tall, lean and muscular frames.
We know this is something that, in the nicest terms, is unrealistic and frankly outdated, but as of yet, no one has dared to challenge it.
What are we doing to change it?
We’ve been working with Charlotte and BRIDGE since before CAVALIER had even launched, but earlier this Summer we agreed that it was time to take a stand, and so the #REALBODYREVOLUTION was born.
In essence, the movement symbolises a collective stance of wanting to change the face of male fashion marketing, by creating a more inclusive and diverse space where men could feel seen, regardless of their size, body shape or race.
Whilst the competition may now have come to an end, this by no means suggests that our work is over. In fact, it’s just getting started.
To get a bit more background on male representation and the integral role both fashion brands and modelling agencies have to play, we caught up with Charlotte, Founder and Managing Director of BRIDGE Models.
1. Looking back 5 years to when you launched the BRIDGE Men’s Board, what do you feel your agency has achieved for men’s body diversity in that time?
Before we launched our division it was a market that was unrepresented in the UK, it took a while for other agencies to follow suit... a good 3 years before they would start representing more diverse men on their boards.
I am really proud of our commitment to the division and the mission. We didn’t wait for brands to request the models, we went to the brands with the models saying “you need to diversify”.
We set a principal that was in line with our company values and we created a market. I don’t take enough time to reflect back and recognise that, that's for sure.
2. Why do you think fast-fashion brands have been quicker to embrace body diversity, in stark contrast to luxury brands?
Fast-fashion brands are set up to adjust quickly and accommodate trends, and demand as and when required.
They thrive on digital spaces and promotions and can survey and track responses to collections on a scale that premium brands just can’t accommodate.
This also caters to an adaptable market, they use the data from these digital spaces to produce for customer demand.
It is on these platforms that we are seeing consumers most vocal about what they want to see, what they are requiring and what they like and don't like.
With premium brands their collections and ranges are planned, ordered and designed months in advance, due to their production lines and materials this will likely never change.
Their whole business model is designed around being unattainable, aspirational as well as inspirational.
This takes innovation, planning and foresight. This also means they sometimes struggle to stay relevant, they are in a position of planning so far in the future that they battle with staying current and impactful.
I also believe there is the view that to be a premium brand, ergo justifying the price tag and in some cases the quality of product, the view is that it needs to be unattainable i.e not diverse or inclusive.
3. We’ve just had another London Men’s Fashion Week without any meaningful body diversity represented by brands. Do you think LFW should be taking a more active role in ensuring representative casting by brands?
I think it should be encouraged.
I know that one of the reasons given for less diversity in shows is due to sample sizes and the issue of fitting items to different body shapes in time for a show, which isn’t effective or practical for the brands.
However this past year has shown us that we can adapt and we can evolve. If Moschino can plan to put on a show with custom made marionettes modelling their collection, I think we can work towards a bit more forward planning for a range of sample sizes and diverse models on live runways.
4. Who do you think the brands are that are leading in the body diversity space right now (*cough, CAVALIER*)? What do you think is driving them?
I love seeing the underwear market embracing diversity.
It is an industry that is notorious for elite body standards, so to see them break into this market is incredibly exciting and important.
From working with brands like CAVALIER it is definitely led by their customer feedback and support. They listen and embrace the current climate.
5. You’re not a fan of the term ‘plus size’, are you? Why not? And what kind of descriptors do you want to see the industry embracing?
I don’t believe it is needed, the other markets and sizes don’t need defining. The more we categorise, the more we segregate.
6. When it comes to finding new talent for your boards - what is it that you are looking for? Is it personality, approach? Or is it mainly about the body?
To be honest, attitude has the biggest impact on who we take on and represent - it’s a partnership.
If we believe someone is willing to work towards their goals, both independently and with us, they are the individuals we want to work with.
We want to develop careers and hit targets for our talent, but this takes trust and commitment on both parts.
7. We’ve celebrated 5 years of BRIDGE’s men’s board with The #RealBodyRevolution campaign. Can you tell us what the campaign means to you and where you see it going in the future?
You can so easily let milestones pass you by.
You have a to-do list of things you want to achieve, once done you move on to the next task, add to that.
Working in the fashion industry which is so fast paced, you almost never get the chance to look back, reflect and readdress.
The #REALBODYREVOLUTION has given me the opportunity to refocus on this market and on our company core values.
Why we launched the first Men’s board for this space, what needed to be worked on, how far have we come and most importantly what more needs to be done.
We have had such a positive response to this event, we definitely want to look at keeping the conversation going and potential further collaborations.
This is definitely not the end of the #REALBODYREVOLUTION.