The clothing company Revolve recently received some serious backlash for a horrible body-shaming shirt sold on their website. It was a $168 grey sweatshirt that read, “Being fat is not beautiful, it’s an excuse.” The sweatshirt was part of “The Capsule Collection” in partnership with Lena Dunham and its parent company, LPA. The phrase is supposedly an insult that was said to Paloma Elsesser, a plus-sized woman herself. The exposition of the insulting top led to immediate outrage among the media, with users questioning the designer’s intentions and the message it sends to young people.
This is gross..who even thought that would be a good idea
— NYC (@IA_NYC) September 12, 2018
But what do you think this does to impressionable young teenagers when seeing things like this? Yes as grown adults we are supposed to be more responsible for our actions which I agree with too.
— Victoria (@thedeafactivist) September 13, 2018
Renowned plus-sized fashion model, Tess Holiday, reacted as well calling the Revolve company “a mess”.
— Tess Holliday 🥀 (@Tess_Holliday) September 12, 2018
To make matters worse, the website featured a sample-size model wearing the sweatshirt, which only reinforced the insensitivity of the matter. This ignorant choice of model gave the impression that it was not an empowering form of expression, but a malicious insult directed at all curvy women.
The shirt clearly promotes fat-phobia, mistreatment, and bullying on the premise of one’s weight, so it’s no wonder people reacted negatively. The question is, why was it even made?
The line was conceived by LPA alongside Lena Dunham, Emily Ratajkowski, Cara Delevingne, Suki Waterhouse and Paloma Elsesser, all influential models with the hopes of fighting cyber-bullying. Yet somehow they managed to offend more people than they’ve helped with this awful and ignorant idea. The concept of the line was to put mean quotes on clothing, inspired by real messages said to these women to shed light on the horror of internet cruelty. More pullovers like this were scheduled to be released, but the collection was canceled after this disaster.
In response, the parties involved have issued individual apology statements, excusing themselves for the offense. Revolve released a statement to Fox News that the series was “prematurely released.”
“The capsule collection – originally conceived by LPA alongside Lena Dunham, Emily Ratajkowski, Cara Delevingne, Suki Waterhouse and Paloma Elsesser – was set to debut tomorrow as a direct commentary on the modern day ‘normality’ of cyber-bullying and the shared desire to create a community for those most affected by the epidemic. Proceeds were set to benefit ‘Girls Write Now’, a charity focused on mentoring underserved young women and helping them find their voices and tell their stories through writing,” the statement read.
“The prematurely released images featured on Revolve.com was not only included without context of the overall campaign but regrettably featured one of the pieces on a model who’s size was not reflective of the piece’s commentary on body positivity. We at Revolve sincerely apologize to all those involved – particularly Lena, Emily, Cara, Suki and Paloma – our loyal customers, and the community as a whole for this error,” Revolve continued, before noting that the collection had been pulled and $20,000 was donated to the charity.
Lena Dunham also released a statement on her Instagram account to state her responsibility in the controversy. She admits she was central to the production of these harmful shirts, but she blames Revolve for the choice of model, claiming that, “Without consulting me or any of the women involved, @revolve presented the sweatshirts on thin white women…”
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For months I’ve been working on a collaboration with my friend Pia’s company LPA through parent company @revolve – sweatshirts that highlight quotes from prominent women who have experienced internet trolling & abuse. This is a cause very close to my heart and the proceeds were meant to benefit charities that help young women by empowering them to express themselves through writing and art. Without consulting me or any of the women involved, @revolve presented the sweatshirts on thin white women, never thinking about the fact that difference and individuality is what gets you punished on the Internet, or that lack of diversity in representation is a huge part of the problem (in fact, the problem itself.) As a result, I cannot support this collaboration or lend my name to it in any way. This isn’t meant to shame Pia or the great work she’s done with LPA. I am deeply disappointed in @revolve’s handling of a sensitive topic and a collaboration rooted in reclaiming the words of internet trolls to celebrate the beauty in diversity and bodies and experiences that aren’t the industry norm. *** I’d like to especially extend my love and support to @palomija, whose quote was the first to be promoted and mangled. She’s a hero of mine. Like me, she gave her quote in good faith and shared her vulnerability in order to support arts education and to spread her message of empowerment, and she wasn’t consulted in the marketing. Not an ounce of negativity should be sent her way. *** My only goal on this planet is to empower women through art and dialogue. I’m grateful to every woman who shared a quote and so disappointed that our words were not honored. As a result, I will be making a donation to the charity of every woman’s choice who was wronged with me and I hope that @revolve will join me with a contribution of their own. *** P.S. This Rubens painting makes me happy because it’s about women joining in love, but he didn’t recognize diversity at all- he just loved curvy butts. Problematic fave.
Florence Given, a U.K.-based artist reached out to LPA, the clothing designer, via Instagram direct messages to learn their intentions and they responded similarly.
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I heard back from @palomija and she told me she is MORTIFIED about how this quote has been used, and is asking for her quote to be pulled • The brand @lpa responded and they have got @revolve to take down the shots – this is our convo. Problematic marketing = a problem with diversity in the work place. This is still incredibly problematic and an awful attempt at ‘claiming back’ toxic narratives because (in my opinion) it just gives them power by putting them back into the world and at a £162 price tag. The designs went up to XL, so the women who this tee is supposed to ‘empower’ probably wouldn’t even fit into one. But at least we got the pics taken down…Ugh.
This unfortunate episode was certainly not the first, nor will it be the last time an article of clothing has offended a community. It seems to happen increasingly more often and consumers are getting sick of it. What designers must realize is that clothing is a form of expression, and they must recognize the messages the clothes they design are saying.