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Debenhams for Diversity

a petite 5’4 model, a size 16 model, a size 10 model, and a wheel-chair using model

with designer Ben de Lisi

Debenhams trial size 16 mannequins in its windows

Last week, the UK department Debenhams launched an advertising campaign for their Principles fashion line that features models of a variety of sizes, backgrounds, and abilities. The print advert features a petite 5’4 model, a size 16 model, a size 10 model, and a wheel-chair using model. Debenhams is the first UK high street retailer to employ a model who uses a wheelchair in an advert.
Michael Sharp, Debenhams’ Deputy Chief Executive, said: “We cater for women of all shapes and sizes, young and old, non-disabled and disabled, so we wanted our windows to reflect this choice.” Debenhams says that it is committed to using disabled models in other photography; a second photographic shoot is being organized. Debenhams stocks up to size 26 in its women’s department, and 42% of sales come from sizes 14 and 16 garments.  The retailer says that it is committed to using diverse models that reflect their consumers in their future advertisements. The print advert follows the chain’s introduction of size 16 mannequins in their store windows. Debenhams, as do all the clothing shops, traditionally use standard size 10 mannequins, whereas the average woman is a size 16.
While there has been much debate over the inclusion of size diversity in fashion, the incorporation of people of a variety of abilities has remained absent in the media. In addition to Debenhams, Alexander McQueen used model Aimee Mullins, with two specially carved wooden, prosthetic legs that he had designed, in his London Fashion Week show.
While these efforts are important steps in diversifying fashion, it is important to recognize that models of different abilities that have been incorporated into fashion to date have represented the singular and accepted size, age, and racial beauty standard. To be truly groundbreaking, fashion needs to use people of diverse abilities who are also of a variety of sizes, ages, and backgrounds in their adverts and on their catwalks.
Debenhams reminds us all that we must continue to push, with courage and conviction, for people of all abilities to be incorporated into fashion advertising and on the runway. Fashion and style knows no size, no age, no background, and no ability; they are open to our definitions and re-definitions because the most important runway is not the catwalk in New York or Paris, but the sidewalk in our neighbourhoods where we breath life into the clothes – whether we strut, limp, or wheel.

By AnyBody member Ben Barry

Please see related article for more information:

Aimee Mullins modeling prosthetic legs and garments designed by Alexander McQueen


Reader Comments (5)

Good. Now less boring looking models.
March 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLola
Great job Debenhams! Now maybe the rest of the "fashion world" will follow suit.
March 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPatty
How encouraging! I might start reading women's magazines if the ads featured women like these.
April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate
These jerseys which are interestingly termed retro basketball jerseys are old school. Here is an example, men football jerseys, Kobe’s jersey at the present time, but the Lakers look 20 years ago. That would be an example of the throwback kind. Sports stars put them on now and again during games
July 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNflJerseyOnline
This is a fine start, Debenhams, but notice that the plus-size model is always obscured by one object or person or another. Yeah, I noticed. Let her stand out and up for herself.
September 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Nell
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