Not only is fast fashion toxic to the environment and to the people who make it. Its toxic to ourselves. Fast fashion is all around us, it’s in traditional media advertising, as well as being prevalent in the online world. It is hard to scroll through the explore page of Instagram or the trending page on YouTube without seeing a beautiful young woman advertising her latest fast fashion purchases. However, it seems it is only one type of woman who advertises these products, which leads to those of us who don’t fit the mould (most of us) to feel bad about our own appearances.
There is a serious lack of diversity in the fast fashion world. You’ll find that most women used in advertising are very thin, white and tall. Fast fashion brands have for a long time been criticised for lacking diversity. On a browse of a few fast fashion websites, I did find that there tends to be an inclusion of different ethnicities, but I would still argue that this is tokenistic, with the majority of models still being white.
Despite an attempt to include different ethnicities, fast fashion brands still lack in showing different body types. Even though most brands sell clothes at least up to a size 18, most models tend to be around size 8. This is not particularly representative of the UK population, where the average dress size for a woman is size 16.
I think the most toxic part of this though, is the girls advertising for fast fashion brands on Instagram. A brands website can be easily analysed. However, the portfolio of women that a brand chooses to use to advertise for them on Instagram is much harder to trace. Meaning they can go for a much less diverse, stereotypical set of women.
Fast fashion brand ‘Oh Polly’ is a serial offender of this. The women they use to advertise their products on Instagram set some of the most unrealistic body standards I have ever seen. Here is a selection of girls that have been paid to advertise for them on Instagram: I could have created a collage with 100 images of girls advertising for Oh Polly, they all have the same body type as the 6 girls above. There is nothing wrong with these girls’ bodies, but they promote an image which is unattainable to most. Most of us don’t have flat stomachs, thin legs and tiny arms. And we don’t need to look like this in order to be healthy. When brands perpetuate a body image like this, all it does is lead us to feel bad about ourselves, it leads us to think about our perfectly healthy bodies in a negative way.
Gymshark is another fast fashion brand guilty of perpetuating one type of body image. Here are some of the girls advertising their activewear on Instagram: Gymshark particularly like to show women that have extremely small waists and very large asses. I’m sure that many of these girls do have this look, but it is exaggerated significantly by the angle and lighting of the photo. It can lead to a desire for this hourglass figure that not even the models themselves have. Even though we are taught to be aware that not everything we see on Instagram is real, its hard to remind ourselves with every photo we look at.
These are just a couple of examples of brands that perpetuate an idealised body image, but this is pretty standard across fast fashion brands. What makes advertising on Instagram even more toxic is the fact that we are led to believe that these are normal girls, just like us. They’re not supermodels, they’re more on our level. This perpetuates even further the idea that we should and can look like them.
I really don’t think we should be worrying about our body image. We should be grateful for our bodies and do everything we can to try and keep them healthy. But in todays society it is almost impossible to escape an obsession with body image. We are made to believe as women that we are not as worthy if we don’t fit the idealised image. We are not as valued within society, being beautiful is still seen as a part of a woman’s role in fitting in in society. Its very hard to learn to accept ourselves as we are when we are constantly bombarded with images of what we ‘should’ look like. Even though I realise that these images are constructions of a narrow ideal, I still struggle with my own body image at times.
The body image ideals perpetuated is just one of the many toxic components of the fast fashion industry. They make us believe that if we buy their product, we will look just like the girls in the Instagram photos. When we make the purchase and realise we don’t look the same, it leads us into a toxic mindset of feeling bad about our bodies, that for most of us, are perfectly functional and healthy.