Why We Need Radical Body Positivity and Diversity in Fashion and Beyond - Good On You
03 May

Why We Need Radical Body Positivity and Diversity in Fashion and Beyond

Every day, we are surrounded by pictures that suggest supposed ideals—the best car, the ultimate bag, the one and only chocolate bar, and of course, the perfect body. There’s a problem here, but it’s not the advertisements per se. What is highly problematic is how those pictures distort our self-perception and feed into feelings of insecurity and dissatisfaction. Since the rise of the fast fashion and diet industries, most ads spotlight one thing—the physical body. And what society has presented us with as ‘normal’ might very well represent less than one per cent of the world’s population! For decades, we have been bombarded by pictures of non-disabled, white, thin, cisgender bodies, and something has to give. So, what needs to change? The answer is simple: include more body positivity and diversity in fashion and beyond.

Movement become mantra

Body positivity is deeply rooted in the fat liberation movement that started in the 1960s. The aim was to begin celebrating fat bodies, especially of women, and thereby smashing the stigma around fatness. The movement, which boldly called attention to the medical industry’s fatphobia, was largely driven by exceptional organising from feminist and queer groups. Many positive aspects of fair fashion brands endorsing and promoting body positivity are owed to political activists’ work pushing back against the oppression of marginalised groups. Since then, many have rightfully mentioned that #bopo has lost some of its radical nature and nowadays often misses the mark to continue the fight. Rather than simply focusing on fatness vs thinness, the movement ought to include people of all shapes, sizes, genders, colours, and abilities.

Below you can find some of the fair fashion brands inspiring us by celebrating diversity in fashion with consistent representation, not just tokenisation. These brands are leading the charge on body positivity and  inclusivity in fashion.

Brands celebrating diversity

Sotela

Rated: Good

US brand Sotela creates timeless pieces that meet the spirit of the age for everybody. They state that “the heart of Sotela is to restore your relationship with clothing and to celebrate the strength and resilience of your body”, which we love. They also took the step of abandoning stereotypical sizing labels to celebrate every single body with their collections.

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Shop Sotela.

HARA

Rated: Great

Since 2016, when founder Allie Cameron turned her vision into a business, Australian brand HARA (Hindi for ‘green’) has put caring for people and the planet first. That includes a shopping experience and size chart that speaks to all customers, creating underwear and loungewear “that’s both rejuvenating and empowering.” HARA’s products are inclusively sized with a range of XS-5XL.

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Shop HARA the Label.

Girlfriend Collective

Rated: Great

As a slow fashion brand, Girlfriend Collective is an outstanding champion in making their production process as transparent as possible. In summer 2020, they even launched an inclusive collection with 100% of proceeds going to charity. The range is inclusively sized in XXS-6XL.

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Shop Girlfriend Collective @ LVR Sustainable.

Shop Girlfriend Collective @ thegreenlabels.

Shop Girlfriend Collective.

Christy Dawn

Rated: Great
plus size woman of colour wearing black sustainable dress by Christy Dawn

With their carefully created collections ranging from petite to extended sizing, Christy Dawn ensures their beautiful dresses get to be worn by all members of their community. Have a look at this great interview with plus size ethical fashion blogger Marielle Elizabeth in their journal in between shopping—you won’t regret it!

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Shop Christy Dawn.

Ace & Jig

Rated: It's A Start

In their own words, US-based Ace & Jig is a “textile love story”. They are making some efforts for sustainability, including a workshop on circular life for their clothing. They also show their solidarity for various human rights organisations and political movements such as Black Lives Matter by giving back what they can. The range is inclusively sized in 2XS-4XL.

See the rating.

Shop Ace & Jig.

Daily self-love as a weapon

These brilliant fair fashion brands are crucial for the whole industry to become an inclusive and safe space. However, body positivity is far from only being about consumption—it is, after all, an all-encompassing way of life and attitude towards yourself and others. And in a capitalist world that still benefits from insecurities and beauty myths, to love oneself is a beautiful, feminist, and radical thing to do.

In a capitalist world that still benefits from insecurities and beauty myths, to love oneself is a beautiful, feminist, and radical thing to do.

What you can do to support the movement

  • Show some love to those providing invaluable resources and inspiration around body positivity and diversity in fashion every day, like Jamaican model Nyome Nicholas-Williams who posts regular uplifting content and successfully challenged Instagram’s nudity policy. Or get your daily input from plus-size model and TEDx speaker Neha Parulkar.
  • Be kind to yourself and others. Rather than commenting on someone’s body, focus on how they are pursuing their passions, or how they look so happy in their new outfit, or that you love their taste in books—and do yourself the same service.
  • Speaking of books, educating yourself on the history and beginning of the movement is a crucial step to find out what you can do individually to support it. We recommend Fearing The Black Body by sociologist Sabrina Strings
  • Support and amplify community-driven organisations that are fighting to raise awareness on discrimination and ceaselessly push for body positivity such as the Anti Diet Riot Club or Endangered Bodies
  • Call out brands that aren’t doing enough. You can use the Your Voice function in the Good On You app or contact brands directly via social media or email. You can even send them this article as a starting point.

Just like any other social movements, body positivity is not only about changing your mindset. Or at least, we can’t stop there. Body positivity is about dismantling the capitalist industry that has been telling us for decades how to define beauty. To say it in the words of Dr Emilia Zenzile Roig, founder of the Center for Intersectional Justice in Berlin: “Reclaiming body positivity means de-centering aesthetics and understanding that all bodies are worthy of love, protection, and respect, irrespective of how they look.”

Discover more ethical and sustainable size-inclusive and gender neutral brands.

 

Author bio: Hannah Lang is an anthropologist working in the non-profit international development sector. She is passionate about intercultural communication, human rights, and policies for a more sustainable and inclusive future. You can find her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Editor's note

Feature image via Girlfriend Collective, all other images via brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world's most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet and animals. Use the Directory to search more than 3,000 brands. To support our work, we may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links. This article lists brands rated ‘Good and ‘Great’ by Good On You’s comprehensive sustainability ratings system—and because highly rated inclusive brands are difficult to source, we may have also included ‘It’s a Start’ brands in case they better meet your needs.

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