If you want a snapshot of why the conversation around body size is such an important part of today’s fashion scene, take a minute to watch the video below featuring Iskra Lawrence, the new face of Aerie lingerie and, possibly, the brand’s first superstar spokesmodel.
The 25-year-old Brit was introduced yesterday as the new #AerieREAL Role Model to promote both the company’s products and its policy of using diverse models in unretouched advertising images.
When describing her reaction to being asked to join the Aerie campaign, Iskra wells up with tears and says: “I wanted to be part of the campaign so much because I got taught I wasn’t good enough and I could never make it. And then Aerie told me I was beautiful because I was me.”
This is the new language for engaging (and winning) customers in today’s fashion landscape, captured by Iskra in a handful of unscripted words. Validation. Acceptance. Recognition. Is there a 20-something woman on Earth who would not respond to that?
Millennial consumers are justifiably skeptical about marketing messages, but there’s every reason to believe that Iskra’s voice is authentic. Although she’s fairly well-known as a curvy model (with 1 million Instagram followers), Iskra is also a spokesperson for the National Eating Disorders Association and edits a popular blog, The Runway Riot, which provides a no-bullshit (and often angry) backstage look at the modeling industry and how it portrays women.
If a photo assignment can bring Iskra to tears, you know there’s something important happening here.
In a lengthy interview on Access Hollywood yesterday, Iskra said her 12-year career in modeling “has been a battle to figure out how do I fit in?”
“I was constantly told I was too fat to make it,” she added, “and then I tried plus-size and was told I was too small.”
Iskra — her unique name is Russian for “spark” — isn’t entirely new to Aerie. She’s been been modeling the company’s clothing and lingerie for almost a year now, part of its growing and increasingly diverse cast. But yesterday’s promotion shows the brand is stepping up its game when it comes to spreading the message about self-acceptance and body positivity.
Iskra will go “on tour” for Aerie beginning Feb. 28, traveling in a pop-up truck visiting colleges, stores and company events across the U.S. to share her inspiring story with customers and fans.
“Iskra embodies our mantra of challenging conventional standards through her unique beauty and vibrant personality,” Aerie president Jennifer Foyle said in a press release. “We are thrilled to bring her to the forefront of our campaigns.”
Two years after its industry-rattling debut, the Pittsburgh-based brand’s ambitious #AerieREAL campaign remains the most important and most impactful marketing initiative in fashion today. It’s also one of the most successful, driving double-digit sales growth for parent brand American Eagle and attracting a huge, attentive and fiercely loyal community of supporters.
Although very few mainstream lingerie brands have adopted Aerie‘s no-photoshopping policy, the company’s use of non-traditional models has been widely copied and is one of the dominant trends in fashion marketing today. Last year, Aerie was awarded the first “corporate responsibility” award from the National Eating Disorders Association.
Generally speaking, Aerie‘s customers have reacted to the #AerieREAL campaign with extraordinary enthusiasm. But at the same time, because of its highly publicized commitment to inclusivity, Aerie has also been criticized in the past two years for a lack of ethnic diversity in its campaigns and for using “average” models whose body shape and size deviate only slightly from industry norms. A widely-seen campaign last fall featuring slender, porcelain-skinned actress Emma Roberts showed the brand still had a ways to go in representing ordinary American consumers.
It responded this year with a rapid succession of videos and photo campaigns that featured a wide spectrum of new “role models”. From curvy 19-year-old Barbie Ferreira to super-freckly Pilates teacher Fo Porter to exotic Canadian Shivani Persad to Japanese dancer Sonoya Mizuno, Aerie‘s aggressive marketing rollout in 2016 shows it is doubling down on its commitment to make #AerieREAL as broadly inclusive as possible.
Each of those mini-campaigns projected a similar message, which Iskra sums up perfectly in her debut video: “You have so much more good things to give to the world than just your appearance.”
Keep an eye on Aerie‘s social media accounts to learn more about Iskra’s U.S. tour, which will run from Feb. 28 to March 20. Meanwhile, here are a few more shots from her work over the past year with Aerie.