H&M just launched their new campaign video and it’s a thing of beauty. It captures a diverse range of women displaying a full spectrum of what it “ladylike” means in 2016, all having a great time in H&M’s new Autumn 2016 collection. We see muscular women, women unzipping their jeans to eat french fries in a hotel room, transgender women, women with armpit hair; women of all races, ages, shapes and sizes. It’s all set to a great cover of Tom Jones’ She’s a Lady (1971) by Lion Babe. It’s tremendously empowering to watch and has generated a great discussion online via the hashtag #Ladylike.
It’s hard to believe this celebration of real women comes from the same H&M that was under fire five years ago for using computer generated models for their swimwear range. This angered a lot of people because it highlighted how unattainable the beauty standards set by these images are. Professional models with strictly policed body types couldn’t even make the cut. So this display of diversity and realness shows some growth on the company’s part.
But it’s important to remember that while it’s an empowering, diverse, inclusive, contemporary ad, it’s still an ad to promote the H&M brand. And if the recent exposés about H&M factory conditions in Cambodia and India are anything to go by, they don’t seem to be putting their progressive ideas into practice.
It’s also hard to swallow their body positivity stance when many of their stores don’t have a plus size section, their flagship Sydney store being one of them. Journalist Amy Stockwell wrote of her embarrassment when she was invited to the opening of the new store on Pitt Street and she found out that none of the clothes would fit her. “Fat people don’t belong here,” she wrote. “We don’t fit in here. We might be invited, but we aren’t welcome.”
So I love the new campaign video. I like the clothes and the overall sentiment, but what the video asks its audience to buy into is a brand with a far less wholesome track record.