Here's What Happened to American Eagle After It Stopped Airbrushing Its Models

Source: AP
Source: AP

The news: "Natural" is good. Not just in ads, but also for a fashion company's bottom line.

Eleven months after clothing brand American Eagle decided to stop airbrushing its lingerie models for its Aerie line, sales are way up. The line's second-quarter sales jumped 9%, a sharp turnaround compared to the same quarter last year when sales dipped 2%, Quartz reports.

"We left beauty marks, we left tattoos, what you see is really what you get with our campaign," Aerie stylist Jenny Altman told Good Morning America earlier this year. "They are still models, they're still gorgeous, they just look a little more like the rest of us. We're hoping to break the mold. ... We hope by embracing this that real girls everywhere will start to embrace their own beauty."

Source: Instagram

It's working. The move was smart and practical, since shoppers are more comfortable seeing clothes on someone who resembles their body type, rather than someone who has been airbrushed into oblivion.

Of course, the models featured in the Aerie line are still thin, young and gorgeous, but their moles and stretch marks are still proudly on display.

American Eagle's move flies in the face of other campaigns. Lingerie retailer Victoria's Secret came under fire for an ad that featured skinny models with the large caption reading "The Perfect 'Body.'"

Upset shoppers said it promoted an unhealthy and unattainable body image for women. 

On the flip side, other retailers have gone the au naturale marketing route, too. In August, online boutique house ModCloth said it was going to stop airbrushing its models. The company promised not to "change the shape, size, proportion, color and/or remove/enhance the physical features" of models in its ads.

British department store Debenhams said last year that its lingerie models will no longer be "digitally retouched." A representative said of the company, "We want to help customers feel confident about their figures without bombarding them with unattainable body images."

Time will tell if ModCloth and other fashion retailers see a boost to business. But if American Eagle's change is any indication, it's clear that 'authenticity' sells way more than a sterile, unrelatable image of beauty.

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Jordan Valinsky

Jordan is a writer at the Live News desk. He's previously written for The Week, Betabeat, The Daily Dot and CNN.com.

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