Aerie's Inclusive Ads Are What Fashion Needs

Aerie's Inclusive Ads Are What Fashion Needs

A new campaign prominently features women with disabilities.

Aerie, the lingerie apparel brand of American Eagle, has garnered praise in the past for showing unretouched models in its advertisements. The brand has unveiled their newest body-positive campaign, which is already earning similar kudos for celebrating models with varying disabilities and physical illnesses.

Women of all body types star in the ads, including models Abby Sams, Evelyn Robin Ann, and Cat Coule. Women are sporting Aerie lingerie in wheelchairs, with colostomy bags, and with crutches. Jennifer Foyle, Aerie's Global Brand President, told Insider that the brand has been a leader in promoting inclusivity and body positivity since the launch of the #AerieREAL campaign in 2014. "Our newest bra models are part of our brand's ongoing commitment to show real, authentic and unretouched women, who are at the core of everything that we do," Foyle says.

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Messages of body positivity for women and people with disabilities are important, because they allow for necessary forms of inclusion within an often still exclusive fashion industry. In Aerie's case, not photoshopping women who appear in their ads is good for business: a 2016 report noted that sales surged over 20% from previous years.

Inclusion for all bodies is needed, because the truth is: one in five Americans reports having a disability, which is defined as either a mental impairment, such as autism, or a physical one, such as spina bifida. Designing clothes for people with disabilities can be challenging. One challenge is fit—disabled bodies aren't always symmetrical, while another is comfort and function.

Another sign that fashion is becoming more adaptive is the existence of Open Style Lab, which was created in 2015 in partnership with New York's Parsons School of Design as a design incubator serving disabled people. Open Style Lab has a range of fashion-forward pieces, from raincoats that fit over wheelchairs to heated bomber jackets to accommodate those who struggle to regulate their body temperatures. Unfortunately, they are only available for custom ordering.

Aerie's example has empowered more mass brands like ASOS to follow suit in its promotional efforts, when they launched an activewear campaign featuring of various abilities, gender identities, and body types. Just last week, the online retailer launched a wheelchair-friendly jumpsuit. Additionally, in recent years, brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Zappos have launched adaptive arms of their clothes, including trousers with adjustable hems, magnetic zippers, Velcro closures, and chic, comfortable shoes without laces or fasteners. Zappos has also been working to expand its fashionable offerings to include a range of adaptive denim and business casual looks.

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