The Exclusivity of “Inclusive” Fashion

Why do I (and many other women) only seem to buy clothes from the same 3-4 companies all the time? For me, it’s not so much a preference (or the fact that they’re a lot cheaper than Topshop), it’s because these are the few shops where I can actually buy clothes in MY size.

And so is the struggle of many people. “Ooh XXX have a sale- oh wait, they don’t do my size”. *goes on website…checks sizes…exits website and huffs*.

Now don’t get me wrong, it does have its perks- think of all the money I’ve saved because I can’t actually buy anything 🙂

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Over the past few years, there has been an “inclusive fashion” movement among retailers whereby they have extended their clothing size range beyond the traditional 8-14s, to cater for women of “all shapes and sizes”. Shops have gone from offering 4 or 5 sizes to 9+. So what’s the problem? Well, for one, the range only seems to extend to suit one body type.

While an increasing number of retailers now offer sizes over 16, very few cater below a 6. Now, to my delight, around 2 years ago Primark began producing clothes in a size 4 – but this was at least 5 years after they began producing sizes up to a 22.

Yes, there’s a whole debate and backlash about this;  some believe that offering smaller sizes promotes an unhealthy lifestyle and reinforces beauty standards, with others saying how one extreme is no better than another, and promoting larger sizes contributes to the normalisaion of obesity.

But this is not about that. Trust me, I did my A Level HE assignment on this topic and drafted and redrafted a literature review around FIFTEEN times so I am not even going into this *has flashbacks and shudders*.

I’m simply saying that yes, it’s obviously good that retailers are adapting to meet the needs of their customers, but why cater for one type over another? I just want a pair of jeans like, it shouldn’t be this hard.

It does lower your self esteem when you bring 7 items into a changing room and none fit or look nice, but that’s not just the case for larger sizes. Do you know how it feels to look like you’re wearing your mother’s clothes? Not good (no offence, ma – I think your clothes are lovely). It probably feels just as bad as looking like you accidentally tumble-dried your clothes and shrunk them.

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I welcome retailers extending their size range and catering for more than 5 sizes, I don’t think anyone should have to go a certain shop/s to be able to buy their size, or settle for clothes too big or too small for them. I’m just saying that retailers need to branch out a bit more. “Start doing a size 16, that’ll keep ’em happy”- well Mr Multi-National Retailer, on behalf of said “’em”, we are not happy.

Bringing in an additional 2/3 sizes doesn’t make you ‘inclusive’. Being inclusive means bringing in a variety of new sizes. Only extending your range to suit one body type actually makes you more exclusive than inclusive, just saying.

Don’t get me wrong, “inclusive” fashion is great – as long as you’re between a size 10-14 and are no shorter than 5 ft 3 or taller than 5 ft 7.

Now, some retailers have started offering a “petite” or “tall” range, thank God. But why?

If the average woman in Ireland, the UK, America, and most countries is around 5 ft 4, why are nearly all clothes made to suit people who are over 5 ft 6? And why are the models always 5 ft 7 – 5 ft 10? Surely it doesn’t make much sense to make clothes which only fit a a very small proportion of your customer base rather than the majority? But maybe I’m just being fussy, idk.

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And so is the beauty of online retailers – they offer plus size ranges, size 4s, maternity wear, petite and tall ranges *heavenly choir sings “ahhhh”*.

I personally prefer online shopping, but it’s not because I can buy clothes from the comfort of my bed while looking like a sight that is not fit for anyone except the postman to see (although I am determined to make dressing gowns a socially acceptable outerwear) Note: NOT a ‘house coat’. It’s because I can buy clothes.

People wonder why high street shopping is down year-on-year. Maybe we’ll go into your shop when your clothes don’t make us feel bad about ourselves and you actually do our size. And I’ll give you that gem of business advice for free.

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I was planning to write about the exclusivity of the bra industry but I guess I underestimated just how exclusive the fashion industry was- silly me. So to the (I’m assuming) joy of any male readers that haven’t given up or fallen asleep already, you are spared. And well done you for making it this far, you must either be interested in what I have to say on this topic, or you’re really bored.

Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to do some online retail therapy, because I can. And because Boohoo have 30% off coats -sorry, bank account.

 

Niamh Murray is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently on a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on Facebook: Niamh Ni Mhuirí and LinkedIn: Niamh Murray.

The PR Diaries: Part I

Fast Fashion & the ‘Material World.’

 

I cannot believe that it has been eight months since my last blog post, time really does fly!  As I embark upon my final year of studying Communication and PR an aspect of life has my creative mind ticking. Not much has changed over the last eight months, in fact I am pretty sure that I still adore Cacti as I outlined in my last blog and I am 100% certain that my love for food, coffee shops and fashion has not changed either (throwing that out there).  I will also just add that my love for Instagram and taking aesthetic photographs still consumes me- shocker.  What has changed the most over the past few months is my outlook in life.  My outlook on how we are guilty of trying to constantly pursue the latest trends, desperately wanting to live a life full of hope and false fantasies.  Now, you may be giving me major eye rolls right now and as cliché as it sounds I genuinely believe that most things happen for good reason. We do openly follow our passions and there is nothing wrong with that. We are all a little guilty of wanting more than what we already have and if you are reading this thinking, hold up.  I do enjoy following trends, then you are not alone.  However, what happens when we place all our focus on only the most attractive and aesthetic aspects? Are you that material girl, living in a material world?

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Fashioning the self

A recent trip to London Fashion Week inspired me to think about the pressures to conform to the latest trends- let’s not forget that both leopard and snake print are dominating the population of Belfast.  So much so we could to create a second Zoo (90% of my wardrobe).  We are each guilty of religiously following others who inspire us or those who we believe to be ‘role models.’  I believe that there is a negative stigma around the material items in life and rightly so.  When we think of material items our minds wonder to Gucci, Prada and investing in luxury fashion brands.  We may even think of our favourite online influencers and how they fashion the latest trends- not to mention the ‘social influencers take on cycling shorts’ wave which left us feeling a little Tour de France/ Bradley Wiggins (Sorry, I had to).

 

Behind the seams of reality

Our Instagram platforms have become a playground for flashing material items.  It almost feels like an online shop, yet we are sucked in by aesthetic travel photographs that surround these gorgeous clothing posts.  For me, this all feels a little wrong.  I am growing tired of the volume of ‘fast fashion’ brands that are so cleverly luring us in.  Only to try on the dress to discover that it works better as a boob tube/ crop top and the material is as thin and see through as clingfilm.  On another side note, I can openly admit that I am a keen consumer of fast fashion. As much as I try to avoid it the student life really does force us to swap luxury for affordable, with little thought about the materials used- here lies the problem.

In this digital era, I believe that there is a greater pressure to showcase our lives on Instagram.  We almost use it as a mirror, reflecting an articulated image of how we wish to be viewed by our followers.  This is not healthy.  When I buy a new item of clothing I appreciate how it looks and feels, not only on the hanger but how it fits my body.  This is the beauty of fashion as it enables us to appreciate colours, prints and textures as a form of visual communication.  Taking Fashion Week as an example, I was in awe of the array of designers showcasing garments that communicated their brand story- this is the value that is important.  Designers invest time and creative effort in developing a brand, which is why following ‘fast fashion’ can defeat the purpose of buying clothing to keep in the long run.  If your closet is anything like mine, I can put my hands up and admit that I am awful for hoarding clothes.   Regardless of how many times I have tried to flog my clothes on Depop- it is a vicious cycle!

 

‘Keep the snakes away, unless they’re Gucci

The truth is that nothing should be ‘fast’ about fashion.  Investing in luxury does not consist of spending all of your pay on expensive designer gear either, nor does it mean flashing these items online.  From a student’s viewpoint, I do not believe that it is realistic for us to splash out on luxury brands, or to try to prove to others that we can afford this kind of ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ lifestyle- we are only kidding ourselves really.  The purpose of this blog post is to prove that life is far too short to worship designer brands and materialistic items (Ok, life is also too short not buy shoes, keep it on the down low).  Think about the long run.  These items will never truly matter to us, they may only influence how we feel at the time of purchase- that feeling is short-lived.  Think about the real bodies in our lives, the ones who invest in us and bring us joy.  People that are relentlessly by your side and will be a lot longer that a bottle of Gucci Perfume.

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Gucci Gang

 

It has become extremely difficult in society to identify the true value in people, especially with online platforms concealing our true selves.  In reality we are crying out for authenticity. All too often we are told to ‘get out there, follow your dreams and afford that fancy car alongside that high-powered job.’  Is it any wonder why students and young adults in their 20s feel obliged to conform to such ideas? The pressure is all too much to afford life’s ‘little luxuries.’  To live in a society that tells us how to ‘work fast and live fast’ is becoming a challenge and I can admit to feeling overwhelmed by how I should live my life. The bottom line is to work hard enough that success becomes your noise but equally to have the time of your life.  How does that saying go? Work hard, play harder.

 

Does my environmental impact look big in this?

Delving deeper into this topic I discovered that ‘fast fashion’ has received a lot of negative media coverage recently.  Our love for fashion is taking its toll on the environment as in the UK alone we are consuming 26.7kg of new clothing per head each year.  It is not only fast fashion brands that are to blame as it is also expected that 3,781 litres of water is used in a full lifetime of a single pair of Levi’s 501 jeans.  This is just a  snapshot of how our fashion consumption is spiralling out of control.  I guess we could say that having something at our disposal only devalues that item, it is all too easy to make an online purchase without adding any genuine value- a theory that applies to a lot of aspects of life.  When something is readily available, we take it for granted.  Investing in statement items that are durable, high quality and affordable is the best method.

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As I draw my fashion ramblings to a close, I want to stress how easy it is for us to feel pressured by clothing brands.  Being lured in by marketing and influencers online has a  negative effect on our mental health.  This concludes why materialistic items will never maintain true value.  Yes, clothes are beautiful, they are powerful but they will always be around for us to purchase.  Ask yourself this, if everything you possessed was striped back, what would we be left with? We may be cold and a little naked, but we would be guaranteed to be surrounded by those we love.  So, sorry Madonna, living in the material world is not all that it would appear to be!

 

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Kathryn Bigger is a final year student on the BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be contacted on: Instagram – the_fashion_fairypr / Twitter – @KatieB_05 / LinkedIn- Kathryn Bigger.

Keeping up with Kylie’s PR Blunders

Kylie Jenner has been in the public eye since she was ten years old, but in 2016 when she launched her own cosmetics brand, she finally began to hold her own in the spotlight.

Of course, something that comes with every business venture that any of the Kardiashian/Jenners embark on, is bad publicity, and this was no different for the youngest of the clan.

From the very beginning of the brand, there has been constant backlash of everything that the young entrepreneur has launched. Not long after the first LipKit launch, beauty vloggers began to review the first of the products, and gave very honest, very brutal reviews.

Not only had the products themselves been receiving the awful feedback, the company itself had been getting dogged with complaints of missing products, with customers waiting months and months for their order to arrive, some customers even contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for advice. The BBB website actually displays information about the complaints it’s received of different companies, and of the 136 complaints filed about Kylie Cosmetics, the majority fell under the categories of delivery issues and problems with the products. During this first major PR blunder, the BBB first rated them an F, which then changed to a NR (no rating).

Not exactly great PR for an up and coming business. The company has since had their rating improved to a B, but the negative reviews from customers still overpower the positive, out of 348 reviews, 199 of them are negative, a whopping 57%.

“I placed an order on 12/2/17 for the Koko set for my niece and they have yet to send it out. I have e-mailed them on the 7th but receive a generic response that didn’t answer any of my questions. There is no customer service backing this product . I don’t understand how they are at a B+?”
“I purchased the KoKo Collection lipsticks on 10/24 at around 9:22 p.m. After doing some research on the colors I decided they wouldn’t be a good fit and at around 9:45 p.m. I emailed Kylie’s customer service to cancel my order. I received a response on 10/27 informing me that my order was already placed and I couldn’t cancel my order. I somehow was hopeful that I would be able to use some of the product if not all. Well yesterday (10/30) I received the ripped kit with used lipsticks which was clearly returned by another customer. I emailed customer service right away and provided pictures of the used lipstick tubes and broken package. Customer service got back to me today and notified me that they didn’t accept returns of broken products! will be tossing these in the garbage and will never recommend this cosmetic line to anyone. Buying products online without being able to swatch them is difficult enough and risky on the consumer and therefore buying from a cosmetic line that doesn’t do returns or refunds is ludicrous.”

Other than the ongoing negative customer reviews, the company has had no major PR mishaps in the last couple years. Until now.

With the most recent launch of her brand involving an entire new range of concealers, lipsticks and a brush set, 2 out of 3 of the products have come under fire on the Internet.

Firstly, a lot of the make-up community have criticized the make-up mogul for copying Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty brand with the new concealers. Before the Fenty Beauty launch a few months ago, not many brands had put out products that was inclusive of all skin tones across the board, and this is why Kylie’s concealers have had backlash. Many believe that Kylie has copied Rihanna’s shade range. So, I suppose you could be criticized for worse things than being racially inclusive, right?

However, another criticism of the same product is that Kylie Cosmetics is developed in the same factory as much cheaper e-commerce brand ColourPop, so many are slating the concealers for being the exact same as the ones ColourPop released not so long ago, just with Kylie’s name on it.

Kylie Cosmetics, for the first time since launching in 2016, also released set of brushes, sold separately and as a collective on the website. The collection includes 16, silver/chrome “real hair” brushes, which according to the reviews made by beauty vloggers in the last week, perform well. Although, the thing on everyone’s mind is not how they perform, or how they look, it’s the whopping $360 price tag.

Controversial make-up artist and owner of cosmetic brand Jeffree Star Cosmetics, Jeffree Star published his very honest and brutal opinion of the brushes as soon as the brushes were available to purchase. In a review posted to his youtube channel, Star first of all, described the ‘silver brush roll’ that the brushes came in as ‘tin foil’. He stated to his fans that for what you’re getting, and paying $360 (plus tax and shipping), you’re really paying for a over-hyped celebrity name.

And many other YouTube famous make-up experts seem to agree with this opinion.

Kylie Jenner took to Twitter to defend the price tag, and compared her brush set to the sets released by legendary make-up brands such as MAC, Artis and Kevyn Aucoin, which actually made things worse for Kylie, as many believe someone who has only been in the make-up industry for a few years, simply cannot compare her products to those luxury brands that have been around for a lifetime.

It would seem that Kylie Cosmetics, and maybe Kylie Jenner in general, need a PR professional, and stat.

Hollie Thomson is a final year BSc student in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/holliethomson/ or Facebook: Hollie Thomson

13 Years in the Making – Dove’s #RealBeauty Campaign

13 Years in the Making – Dove’s #RealBeauty Campaign

The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. – Audrey Hepburn

How many times have Dove sparked outrage with a campaign? 3? Maybe 5? To be perfectly honest, I think the majority of us have lost count now. Dove is hardly the first marketer to find itself embroiled in a public relations crisis this year,  but experts say that their most recent mishaps have placed them alongside the biggest brand crises of 2017 (with tough competition from Pepsi and United). The real question is, how much longer can Dove keep up the campaign for ‘Real Beauty’ before they lose their entire following?

It has now been 13 years since the exhibition opened, and it can be said that the ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’  is one of modern marketing’s most talked-about success stories. The campaign has expanded from billboards to television ads and online videos. The 2006 video, ‘Evolution’ went viral before “viral” was even a thing, (after all, YouTube had only launched the year before). Also, Dove’s 2013 ‘Real Beauty Sketches’, which shows women describing their appearances to a forensic sketch artist, became the most-watched video ad of all time (can be viewed below).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaOjMXyJGk

 

However, many of these campaigns have received public backlash. One of the most recent controversial issue comes from a social media outcry over an advertisement for Dove body wash which showed a black woman removing her top to reveal a white woman. This has understandably escalated into a public relations disaster for the Unilever brand.

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The 3-second video clip, posted on Dove’s U.S. Facebook page in October, reminded some social media users of racist soap adverts from the 19th century or early 20th century that showed black people scrubbing their skin to become white. Resulting in a worldwide #BoycottDove trend. If this was the first time Dove was accused for being racist, the recovery process would be a lot simpler. However a previous Dove ad, which showed three women side by side in front of a before-and-after image of cracked and smooth skin, caused an uproar in 2011 because the woman positioned on the “before” side was black while the “after” woman was white.

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I could go on with more major examples of public relations crisis but I think we can all see a reoccurring theme here…

So why are these campaigns upsetting so many women?

Maybe the idea of change isn’t what Dove should be focusing on. Not everyone agrees with the importance the campaign places on physical beauty. It indicates to women that when it comes to evaluating ourselves and other women, beauty is paramount. Also, just because women are defining beauty, do they actually feel different about themselves? An estimated 80 percent of American women feel dissatisfied with their bodies, and 81 percent of 10-year-old girls are afraid of becoming “fat.” Can a series of ad campaigns really change institutionalised body hatred?

Most likely not. I can see how this message of beauty can be seen as problematic to some individuals, but until we get to a point in culture where the dominant messages about girls and women are not focused on their physical bodies, then we do need to actually reaffirm a broader and more innate, internal definition of what beauty is. For me, we are still nowhere near that point.

When I think of Dove products, I think of plain, white and simple soap. In my opinion, the fact that Dove have associated their brand with influencing men and women worldwide to think about the narrow definitions of female beauty is admirable.

Despite the controversy, this Real Beauty public relations campaign has been honoured several times as one of the best campaigns in recent history. It has won a handful (or two) of ad awards and has sold an enormous amount of product.  Sales have increased to $4 billion today from $2.5 billion in its opening campaign year. If that wasn’t enough, research from a Harvard psychologist, Nancy Etcoff, examining the campaign then and now found that more women today describe beauty on a wider variety of qualities outside of just looks, such as confidence. Quite an achievement for a controversial public relations campaign if you ask me!

I believe each of the campaigns success is based on the eye of the perceiver, and my eye… loves them. I can honestly say that as I went through watching ‘Sketches’ and ‘Speak is Beautiful’, I was moved to tears. ‘Evolution’ in particular struck a chord for me at the young age of 11, opening my eyes to the narrow definitions of beauty I was growing up with and the way images were manipulated to fit ideals. You can watch Evolution by clicking on the link below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYhCn0jf46U

Are Dove using public relations effectively to maximise their success?

One thing for sure; Dove often have a good strategy, but poor execution. They need to be able to anticipate cultural points of view and reactions that their campaigns will generate. In the reality of the competitive world we now operate in, it is evident that consumer mobs can quickly jump on a misguided conception and cause it to escalate far beyond the brand’s control. This is why PR professionals should have a responsibility to see how a campaign can be construed through multiple lenses, from various audience segments through to the media.

Dove is targeting a diverse market, yet the lack of diverse thinking is becoming apparent. Their intent is not the subject that should be questioned, maybe it is their approval process.

Whether you critique or champion the ongoing Real Beauty campaign, it is difficult to argue with the results and the goals of inspiring women and girls to reach their full potential through building a positive self-esteem.

Ultimately, Dove was — and still is — one of the only mainstream advertisers talking about how we define female beauty. Personally, I don’t know what beauty is, but I do know you are more beautiful than you think.

So I will leave you with this… in Dove’s situation, is all publicity good publicity? 

Chloe Stewart is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. You can follow her on Twitter @ChloeStewart8 or reach out on LinkedIn at  https://www.linkedin.com/in/chloe-stewart-007150a4/

 

 

Being Cruel to be Cool- Exploring makeup for those that love animals

Being Cruel to be Cool- Exploring makeup for those that love animals

How do you feel about animal testing? Have you ever heard of it? Let’s begin with a fact: I have always been a bit of a makeup snob. When I first dipped my toe into this colourful world, I would have turned my nose up quite quickly at lower-priced drugstore brands. My personal goal was to own the entirety of Bourjois Paris makeup. My reasoning was very simple; it was French, it was chic and most importantly, they make Chanel makeup and because I couldn’t afford luxury lipstick on a pocket money budget, I settled on second best. But several hundred pounds worth of products later, I have moved on. I voyaged out further from just Bourjois Paris. I went to Kiko Milano, Rimmel London and even ventured across the water to Maybelline New York. Though, many others are still very selective when it comes to shopping for cosmetics.

Cruelty-free products are becoming more about a choice rather than a suitable option for the vegan/vegetarians lifestyle. Thankfully. These types of products are making a steady advance to greater mainstream audiences due to an increased awareness of animal welfare issues. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) conducted a public opinion survey in order to gain an insight into people’s opinions about animal welfare.

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As the graphs show, many believe that testing cosmetics and personal care products on animals are unethical, and a large majority believe such testing should not be allowed. This definitely reflects that there is an interest in the idea of animal welfare as 58% stated that they are likely to purchase products that were cruelty-free. Whilst this study was conducted in America, I feel like this really can reflect on a much larger population interest- the idea of anyone seeking animal welfare rights can be universal regardless of location and to back this notion up, on the 11th of March 2011, the European Union banned animal testing to both cosmetics products and their ingredients in Europe. Fantastic!

Let’s get down to basics; what is animal testing and why does it exist? It exists due to ensure consumer safety at the cost of animal welfare when a product is made, it is hauled through multiple tests in order for it to be deemed safe. It is tested for skin sensitization, skin or eye irritation as well as less immediate effects like reproductive development and inhalation toxicity.

Here’s an example for you: when a product is being tested for skin irritation, animal testing labs will apply the test substance to the exposed skin of a shaved rabbit. They then leave it for a period of time and “record if their skin shows any signs of redness, rash, lesions, scaling, inflammation, and/or other signs of damage” according to The Humane Society, a non-profit organisation that reviews animal safety. This test is usually done on numerous rabbits at once over a period of time to make results more valid. Should beauty be forcibly made skin deep for these animals? And yet, there is a simple alternative that exists. Cruelty-free organisations use “reconstructed human skin models”. These are grown in a laboratory from skin cells left and are the replacement to live test subjects. They highlight the potential dangers caused by a new product and are more accurate at predicting how human skin will respond to an ingredient or product.

And that isn’t the only benefit from using reasons cruelty-free products. Many everyday household brands are full of harsh chemicals, such as parabens and fragrance. For instance, aluminium is an ingredient found in antiperspirants that may be linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. Cruelty-free products provide a gentler, more natural substitute for our skin to absorb.

On doing a quick google search of ‘Cruelty-Free makeup’ for my research, I was hit with a vast number of articles-most about which brands are listed as cruelty-free. But that made me think;

  • Why do you have to check these lists in order to be informed?
  • Why do so few of these companies actually make that clear?
  • Shouldn’t companies be proud to be recognised as a cruelty-free brand?

Companies such as TooFaced Cosmetics, Wet & Wild Beauty and NYX Cosmetics are proud to show their support towards the protection of animals as they print the Cruelty-Free bunny logo onto all their packaging.

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Personally, a brand should not be approved as a cruelty-free brand unless they are willing to display it on their product’s packaging. For a lot of brands, it seems to be that you have to do the research yourself to find out information about their animal testing policy. I find this to be true with a lot of brands because nowhere on their packaging, mentions “cruelty free” or even has the cruelty free bunny printed on it. Which is ironic because most brands have been certified by both PETA and The Leaping Bunny Program. To name and shame a few guilty brands: Hourglass Cosmetics, Urban Decay, Charlotte Tilbury, ELF Cosmetics. I think this is an awful shame because I own products from each of these brands and would deem it an attractive trait for the brand to demonstrate its beliefs to oppose animal testing.

When looking at this issue from a PR perceptive, these companies are losing out in my opinion. Customers dictate the market. If consumers are buying into the concept of supporting animal welfare and begin to shop with a more to ethical mindset then brands with outdated packaging and philosophies will crumble. By tapping into this idea of identifying as a cruelty-free brand, I feel animal caring customers would want to engage more. By understanding that the consumer is now actively choosing cruelty-free over animal tested products, it should set alarm bells ringing for organisations to change their ways. Now I am not expecting the CEO of these companies to become extreme animal activists but I feel owning up to the title of an animal right supporter should be enough for customers to feel more informed and connect to the brand as they share the same beliefs. This can be as easy done as printing it on packaging or training staff on the company’s ethics.

Personally, I believe the more attention we give to cruelty-free brands, the quicker more legislation is brought in in order to protect all animals. China is a perfect example. With little to no regulations set in place about animal testing, there is no framework to ensure Asian companies will uphold these documentations. Therefore, companies don’t need to make an effort to ensure animal welfare is safeguarded which leads to a higher potential for abuse. And so, hundreds of thousands, probably even more-rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, and rats are still subjected to painful tests each year to bring the likes of eyeshadow, shampoo and body lotion to store shelves.

If we can do our best to avoid cruelty-free brands through research and selective purchases, knowing which brands we stand by or boycott- then maybe the directors at these companies will get the message that all lives- from men to mice- are equal and deserve to be treated with respect. I hope that further awareness and rapid change to how testing is currently performed will change for the better- animal abuse is an ugly affair, so why should they be harmed in order for us to feel pretty.

 

Nicole Service is a third-year student on the BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicole-service-056016130.

Missguided: Stretching the Media’s Beauty Standards

Missguided: Stretching the Media’s Beauty Standards

WARNING: If you are in any way offended by ladies’ bottoms, then this probably isn’t the post for you and I suggest you look away now!

 

It was earlier this year as I was sitting on the train doing my usual social media scroll to pass the time when I first came across an image on my Twitter feed that made me do a double take.  The picture was a screenshot from the women’s fashion website Missguided, particularly of one of their lingerie models.  The image was entirely normal…except for the stretch marks which were clearly visible on the model’s derriere.

Now, I’m not exaggerating when I say the picture made me do a double take.  I was amazed!  I immediately tapped my way onto Missguided’s official Instagram account to see if they had acknowledged it, and they had – there was a similar image on there too with the quite unremarkable caption “Just landed: Velvet lingerie! Green or pink? Comment below!” I double checked the link to their website to ensure this wasn’t all some elaborate prank, and indeed, the picture was equally untouched on there.  So I proceeded to screenshot it, sending it to my friends, my sister, anyone who I thought might be equally as astounded as me to see a well known fashion website using images of a model with her stretch marks still intact!  How astounding!  Groundbreaking! Simply MINDBOGGLING!!

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On reflection I realise…isn’t it a little bit sad that I found it so unbelievable to see an image of what is, in reality, just a real girl appear on my social media feed?  I wasn’t the only one.  While Missguided began to receive massive praise across Twitter and Instagram, they also found themselves on the receiving end of some bad PR, too.  Some people began to accuse them of photoshopping the stretch marks onto the model.

Yes, really.  Some consumers found it so implausible that a fashion website would use un-retouched images that they would sooner believe the stretch marks were faked.

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Missguided responded to the conspiracies by releasing a statement from the model herself, first year nursing student Amanda, who clarified that the stretch marks were the real deal, that she was proud to show them off and happy that Missguided hadn’t covered them up.  This still wasn’t quite enough explanation for some people, with many comments still accusing the company of lying, arguing the model was ‘too slim’ to have stretch marks.

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Did you know? Slim 21 year old girls biologically cannot experience stretch marks! Wow, isn’t science amazing?! *Violently eye rolling*

Once again….yes, really.

If anything, I believe this negative PR and the scathing comments that the image received highlight exactly why this campaign by Missguided is so needed in society today.  Firstly, there’s undoubtedly a serious problem with our culture when the public would sooner believe that a picture showing a models’ imperfections is a fraud, schemed up by money hungry photoshop wielding con artists, than a genuine attempt by a brand to be body positive.  Secondly, more education is evidently needed on what real people look like when some individuals truly think that it’s possible to be ‘too slim’ to have stretch marks (news flash: stretch marks can affect slim, curvy, tall, small, female AND male human beings!).  Thirdly, the realisation of how brainwashed we are by the media really hit home for me when I contemplated how hugely shocked I was to see a twenty-something year old girl who has stretch marks on social media…when I AM in fact a  twenty-something year old girl who has stretch marks.  Why was I so stunned to see someone who looks like me advertising clothes that I would like to buy on a website aimed at people my age?  Strangest of all, our media and advertising is without a doubt flooded with images of scantily clad girls, so why is it so rare to see a stretch mark when an estimated 80% of women have them? It’s clear that something needs to change to bridge the divide between what we see in the media and what real people look like.

And Missguided are attempting to be that change.  Following the use of these unretouched images on their website, they recently launched their #MakeYourMark campaign, as part of their larger #KeeponBeingYou movement.  With nine diverse and different body positive ladies at the forefront of the campaign, Missguided’s message is to ‘love yourself, embrace your flaws, and to not strive for what the world perceives as perfection – because f*ck perfection, it doesn’t exist.’  Couldn’t have put it better myself, to be quite honest.

 

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The nine stars of the Missguided #MakeYourMark campaign

As part of the campaign, Missguided have pledged to never retouch their models’ ‘perfect imperfections’, which is music to my ears.  As someone who has spent large amounts of my time (as well as large sums of my student loan) browsing on Missguided and many of their closest competitor websites, I find it extremely refreshing to see normal, dare I say, average girls promoting the clothes as opposed to the usual airbrushed models.  We’re used to seeing these sorts of people, whether they’re celebrities or social media influencers, the sort of people who seem to have the faces, features and figures of someone who won every possible prize available in the genetic lottery.  And in our modern day culture of self promotion where airbrushing tools and filters are constantly at the tips of our fingers and every image, every video, every caption is edited and fine tuned to within an inch of it’s life, it can often feel like we somehow could never measure up to these people whose lives seem perfect in every way.  I know for one I can sometimes end up feeling disillusioned, intimidated and put off by flawless clothing models, thinking to myself…well, I could order that dress, but it’ll never look a bit like that on me!  So it’s actually really nice to have a brand say ‘you know what? You don’t have to look a certain way to wear our clothes’, which Missguided neatly sum up in their slogan – “Just keep on being you babe, it’s a really great look.”

So while I’ve always been a Missguided customer, this campaign has definitely managed to make a loyal supporter out of me.  I know where I’ll be spending my student loan!

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Una McHugh is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/una-mchugh-a11956106/ and Twitter @unamickq

Nothing is perfect

One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist…Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist” ― Stephen Hawking

If I asked you to look at this photograph of my friends and I (I’m on the right) and tell me what you thought… what would you say? I look happy, right? Content, confident and carefree?

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What if I told you that the same week that this photo was taken, I lied to my friends, telling them I couldn’t go out because I had family plans. Meanwhile, I lied to my parents, “I have a migraine. I can’t leave the house.” In reality, I just wanted to hide from the world under my duvet and watch yet another episode of How to Get Away with Murder.What if I told you that on the night of my 21st birthday celebrations pictured below I cried hysterically to my mum and dad before any guests arrived. I didn’t want anyone to see me and I certainly didn’t want to go into town for a night out. A tsunami of tears later, I began my usual routine; Slap on as much makeup as possible, take a few (who am I kidding…A LOT of) deep breaths and top it all off with one gigantic fake smile. I’m fine…

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Very few people know that for almost six years I have struggled with acne.

“What! YOU? No way! Your skin is fine! It isn’t that bad!”

Maybe I did a great job of covering it up (THANK GOD for Clinique’s Beyond Perfecting Foundation) and maybe my clever charade of confidence fooled a lot of people. Sadly however, I have really really struggled…  A lot.

Like a lot.

For years I was treated with antibiotics, topical creams and the contraceptive pill. They would work initially, metamorphosing my never-ending sense of despair into short-term optimism. Gradually however, the effects of each medication would wear off and I would come crashing back to square one; hating my skin and resenting the way I looked.

In August 2016, mum collected me from placement in Dublin to drive me home for my friend’s 21st birthday party in Belfast. What should have been a pleasant two hour mother-daughter catch up developed into me weeping as I took my makeup off and revealed what was underneath. In the tiny sunshield car mirror, I stared at my angry, red, scarred, sore and UGLY face. I hated it. As always, Mum tried her best to calm me down. “You’re working too hard. You’re tired. You need to get out of the office and into fresh air. You’re not eating enough fruit and veg. Will we take you to get a facial?” She was frustrated. Seeing me so upset but knowing that there was nothing even a mother could do to help. It was out of her control and she despised the fact she couldn’t cure me herself.

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August, 2016 – That car journey.

After years of endless doctors appointments and medication I was left feeling totally helpless. I had exhausted all treatment avenues and there was nothing more my GP could do.

There was only one solution. Roaccutane.

Roaccutane, or Isotretinoin is a last resort skincare medication used to treat moderate to severe acne and its use must be supervised by a dermatologist. The drug has a fairly negative reputation and has been linked to some nasty side effects such as extreme dryness of the skin, depression and severe birth defects in unborn babies. During treatment, regular hospital visits are required for blood tests to monitor liver function, pregnancy tests to fulfil my obligations to the pregnancy prevention program and close monitoring of my mental health. Anyone reading this who knows me understands that my biggest fear in the ENTIRE world is blood. Even typing the word makes me light-headed and a bit uneasy and the thought of regular blood tests almost put me off starting the medication entirely.

I was worried about the treatment but I was also desperate and as they say, “desperate times call for desperate measures.”

In a bid to prepare myself, I started carrying out my own research and came across the beauty vlogger, Katie Snooks. This brave young woman posted her entire ‘Roaccutane Daily Skin Vlog’ on Youtube and I watched every single video.

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Katie Snooks, Roaccutane Month 1.

I found myself relating to the pain in her voice and the tears in her eyes when she explained how she didn’t feel confident or beautiful. As I watched her progress videos I was amazed at the difference the drug was making to her skin. It was visibly improving week by week but something else was becoming apparent. Her self-esteem and confidence were also transforming. It seemed as if she had been injected with a new lust for life… I wanted that feeling too.

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Katie’s first and last days of treatment.

I’m pretty sure my confidence was at rock bottom. I have never felt so low and I was willing to try anything to pick myself back up again. I had to be pinned down by a few nurses and (poorly) distracted by my parents or friends to get through the dreaded ‘B tests’ (I invented this term to avoid uttering the ‘b word’), endured six months of a severe addiction to Carmex and six cringe worthy pregnancy tests in front of my mum.  But I did it.

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Yay! The end of treatment in May, 2017.

In recent weeks, Queen of The Jungle and Made in Chelsea’s Georgia Toffollo has decided to publically document her Roaccutane journey. She bared all on ITV’s This Morning when she exposed her makeup-free and acne prone skin to roughly 600,000 viewers across the UK; a decision that I thought was very, very brave and one that inspired me to write this post.

Explaining why she wanted to speak out about this issue, she said: “I think for so long I’ve hidden. I think actually now I’m in the limelight, I don’t want everyone who follows me to think I’m perfect.”
“I am very jolly by nature, but I get very upset when my skin is bad, I dread leaving the house.”

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Now… I am by no means a beauty blogger, influencer, role model or Queen of the Jungle, but I wanted to share my story. I want people to know that if you are struggling, there is help available and there are always solutions to your problems. Your world may appear to be falling apart at the seams at times but someone will always be there to pick you back up. You can and you will get through it.

During my treatment, I completed a year’s placement in FleishmanHillard, one of Ireland’s leading communication agencies, working on big brands such as Cadbury and Proctor and Gamble. Despite sometimes not feeling like the best version of myself I still managed to get out of bed every morning, travel 1 hour 30 minutes to work and give everything I had to a job that I loved.

I still struggle with my skin. I’m not 100% cured from acne and to be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever be. I endured one of the hardest periods of my life, yet I still managed to challenge myself and achieve success.

My mum bought me a plaque that read;

You are braver than you believe,

Stonger than you seem,

And smarter than you think.”

 

She was right.

 

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Me in August 2017 – Happier than ever.

 

Hannah Martin is a final year Bsc student in Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @HannahMartin596, and Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannah-martin-b31334112/