In an industry where thin is always in, the frequently gaunt and underfed faces staring out from the pages of glossy magazines often bear little resemblance to the actual customers and create unattainable ideals for impressionable young girls. Amid the rising chorus of complaints from critics and parents, enters the young CEO of H&M, one of the world’s largest clothing retailers, with an eyebrow-raising admission.
“Some of our models have been too skinny. That’s not OK,” H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson, told Metro World News.
“I think that customers are starting to say we are a changing demographic,” Ashley Lutz, reporter for Business Insider, told ABC News. “We want to see fashion brands promoting other body types besides just the stick thin traditional model.”
Persson says his large and very visible company has a “huge responsibility” and that he wants to “show diversity in our advertising and not give people the impression that girls have to look a particular way.”
Which is why, he says, the company hired Jennie Runk, a 5-foot-10-inch model who wears a size 12 to 14, to be the star of its swimsuit campaign.
“I think there needs to be more models of every shape, size, color, type, everywhere, in all of the media,” Runk told ABC News.
Runk is an outspoken defender of having a healthy body size and a vehement critic of the mean-girl culture that says otherwise.
“Once I got to really know and love my body, I realized I am the only person who can judge me,” she said.
Persson points out that aside from using Runk, the company is also now using Beyonce, who is “a bit curvier” in its ads as well.
“I believe the models in our advertising should look healthy,” he said in the article.
Cynthia Bailey, model and CEO of The Bailey Agency School of Fashion, said, “When a CEO of a major clothing company like H&M makes this kind of stand, people are forced to pay attention and it’s definitely about time.”
This begs the question of whether the moves made by H&M’s young CEO will bleed out to the rest of the fashion industry.
“Customers care about these issues,” Persson said. “And that puts pressure on us as companies.”