Welcome to our column, "Hey, Quick Question," where we investigate seemingly random happenings in the fashion and beauty industries. Enjoy!
The conversation around body positivity and inclusivity has been gaining a lot of steam in the fashion industry of late, leading to major changes across the board. It seems like slowly, but surely, people are catching on that it's important — both from a moral and a business perspective — to make fashion more inclusive.
Perhaps that was what LPA was going for with its series of sweatshirts, now for sale on Revolve. The five sweatshirts feature quotes reportedly said to people like Lena Dunham ("Horrible Result of Modern Feminism"), Suki Waterhouse ("If you translated a bum onto her face, she'd have a better face") and Cara Delevingne ("Too boney to be boned"). In tiny font under the quotes, the sweatshirts read, "As said to" with an Instagram handle, which leads us to believe these were pulled directly from the comments of the people credited. LPA founder Pia Arrobio is friendly with many of these "It" girls, so it's not surprising she might use her label to combat the kind of negative messaging they receive every day.
It's the quote reportedly said to Paloma Elsesser, though, which is giving the internet major pause on Wednesday, which we first spotted on Instagram account @florencegiven. It reads "Being fat is not beautiful it's an excuse" and — what?! It's really not okay that someone said this to Elsesser, obviously, and it is completely up to her whether she chooses to turn that negative into an empowering moment, as has been previously done in the body positivity movement.
The context, however, is completely lost when the sweatshirt gets marketed on a sample-sized model. In fact, we dare say the context is completely changed: The comment is reinforced by the image of a thin, white model in the kind of messaging already spread by the fashion industry.
There's also the fact that the sweatshirt only comes up to a size XL — which isn't even listed on Revolve's size chart, as Revolve generally doesn't carry sizes beyond a 10, but appears to correspond to a 12/14 — and that Revolve has gotten into hot water regarding the lack of diversity in its stable of influencers.
So we have to ask: What on earth was LPA thinking when they sent this sweatshirt into production? Did Revolve think that putting a thin model in a size S (per the "Model Info" listed on the product page) sweatshirt that read "Being fat is not beautiful it's an excuse" was an empowering moment? Is Revolve aware how tone deaf this messaging is overall, considering their own marketing strategy?
One thing is for sure: This sweatshirt was a terrible idea all around, and until brands like LPA and retailers like Revolve make their offerings truly more size inclusive, they should probably avoid trying to capitalize on the body positivity movement.
UPDATE, Wed. Sept. 12, 2018, 12:00 p.m.: LPA has responded to @florencegiven on Instagram, calling the situation a "nightmare." The brand notes that the $168 sweatshirts are to benefit charity, and there was a launch intended to announce the project with the women involved, but that Revolve put the sweatshirts up on the site early. See the full exchange below:
While we can appreciate the explanation, the fact still stands that LPA does not carry beyond a size XL in their line, which is something they may want to keep in mind if they want to get involved with the body positivity movement in any real capacity.
UPDATE, Wed. Sept. 12, 2018, 10:15 p.m.: LPA finally released a statement on Instagram. "What was conceived as a statement on today's internet culture and its treatment of women has gone terribly wrong," it reads. According to the brand, the capsule collection was released in collaboration with Dunham and the two parties involved "coordinated each aspect of the collection itself," including the chosen quotes.
"We were planning to launch with an image of Lena in the sweatshirt along with our statement and explanation. I cannot apologize enough to my good friend Lena, and others, to all of LPA's fans," says a portion of the statement. "We work hard to make the right choices every day, understanding the platform and the opportunity that we are lucky enough to have, and we are so sorry to have let you all down."
The statement also mentions that LPA supports Revolve's efforts in taking down the collection and the brand plans to make its own donation to Girls Write Now, a mentoring charity in which the collection's proceeds were to be given. Read LPA's entire statement below:
What was conceived as a statement on today's internet culture and its treatment of women has gone terribly wrong. We at LPA were so honored when Lena Dunham agreed to work with us on this capsule collection and, most importantly, thrilled at the exposure our work would give to such a serious issue. We coordinated each aspect of the collection itself, to the chosen quotes to the design. We were proud of our final product, the conversation it would start and — most importantly — the direct effect it would have on such an impactful charity in "Girls Write Now." Where we faltered was not intention, sincerity or conception, but in my own lack of communication that lead to how the collection was portrayed on Revolve.com and the pre-mature release of the e-commerce imagery, a day prior to launch. We were planning to launch with an image of Lena in the sweatshirt along with our statement and explanation. I cannot apologize enough to my good friend Lena, and others, to all of LPA's fans. We work hard to make the right choices every day, understanding the platform and the opportunity that we are lucky enough to have, and we are so sorry to have let you all down.
We know the quotes within the collaboration were shocking, which was entirely the point. To spotlight how we've normalized the way we bully and speak negatively to one another via the internet.
Given this controversy, we support Revolve.com and join them in their removal of the collection from our site. We are also proud to make our own donation to "Girls Write Now" — in honor to their commitment to this admirable cause.
UPDATE, Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, 1:00 a.m.: Revolve finally issued its own comment, pasted below, apologizing and announcing plans to donate $20,000 to Girls Write Now:
UPDATE, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, 4:15 p.m.: Paloma Elsesser commented on the controversial sweatshirt in an Instagram post, saying she denounces any involvement with Revolve, which was unaware the sweatshirt would be sold through and LPA, "as well as their shocking lack of thoughtfulness about the nuanced pain that this rhetoric addresses." She also noted that she was not involved in the marketing, design or any part of this project: "I sent a screenshot of a comment I received — the kind I constantly receive via Instagram — to highlight the dark and insidious nature of the words that are hurled at fat people online and benefit a charity that helps low income girls and women get access to arts education," she wrote. Elsesser concluded the post by promising to "avoid becoming ensnared in ill-conceived ideas which do not serve us." You can read the full statement below.