Debenhams, the U.K.-based department store, vowed to stop the practice of airbrushing models in advertisements and pleas for others to follow suit and promote healthy body image.
According to an article in the Daily Mail, Debenhams has banned all retouched lingerie model ads and vowed to stop using digital photography correcting methods that "create unrealistic body shapes and flawless skin."
Debenhams banned airbrushing as a moral imperative and in order to "help customers feel confident about their figures without bombarding them with unattainable body images."
The department store has also administered a call to action, urging competitors to do the same. Research shows that most teenage girls have unhealthy body images, a self-conception that can lead girls to develop eating disorders and other psychological problems like depression. In fact, a study by the Schools Health Education Unit revealed that "58 percent of girls aged 14 or 15 said they wanted to lose weight." Perhaps even more shocking is that girls "younger than 12 are unhappy with their weight and some are skipping meals in an effort to slim."
There is no doubt that many young girls are dissatisfied with their body images due to the influence of the fashion industry. Impressionable girls are bombarded with images of models with skin and bones, toned limbs and perfect hair and skin wearing their favorite brands.
The fashion industry has been making efforts to move away from such stereotypes; Jacob, a Canadian clothing retailer was the first company to launch a "no photoshop compaign," in 2011 as a way of "producing images and media that reflects something slightly closer to "real" women." The Daily News also reported that an Israeli law went into effect early this year "banning models with a BMI (body mass index) level below 18.5 from the catwalk as well as from photo shoots and advertising campaigns." In addition, renowned model, Yomi Abiola founded the group Stand Up For Fashion (STUFF), a global campaign promoting diversity, equality and inclusion, which aims to "transform lives through the power of fashion."
In 2004, Dove Unilever launched the Campaign for Real Beauty, an international marketing campaign showcasing women as they truly are — grey hair, cellulite, pimples, and all. It was an effort to reinstate the beauty in naturalness.
These efforts are a great and admirable start, but they are not enough to promote change. Despite the progress, images of young models with protruding collar bones, frail limbs, and not an inch of fat on their bodies dominates the industry and the minds of young girls.
Debenhams understands the gravity of such perpetuating stereotypes, and has initiated a campaign that is "all about making women feel fabulous about themselves rather than crushing their self-esteem by using false comparisons." The department store understands that even models are not perfect — they are computer generated, and to attempt to achieve such perfection is an unattainable and possibly life-threatening struggle.
A negative body image is not just a flippant issue; eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia plague teenage girls and young women, and the consequences of such dangerous eating habits can be disastrous on personal relationships and psychological and physical health.
The entire fashion industry must initiate drastic changes in order to reverse the stereotypes that have somehow made it attractive and desirable to look sickly thin. Each individual brand and designers must fight a part of the battle. Debenhams' decision to ban airbrushing is an exemplary and important step in the quest to redefine beauty that others must follow. Fashion is all about trends, and the great thing about trends is that they are constantly evolving. It is time to turn this current one around.