Aerie outshines Victoria’s Secret in inclusion and diversity

Aerie unveils new #AerieREAL campaign featuring models with a variety of body types and ethnicities.

Alyse Kaminski | Staff Columnist

I remember around the time I was in seventh grade all I wanted was a pair of yoga pants from Victoria’s Secret’s brand, PINK. All the “cool” girls at school had them and I wanted to look like them, so I begged my mom to take me to the mall and drop about $40 on some black leggings with hearts and rhinestone letters on the waistband that read PINK.

As you can probably tell, I have always had an impeccable fashion sense.

In the following years of being a teenager, I became an avid shopper at PINK. My friends and I spent hours in our middle school and early high-school years roaming around the PINK store in the mall looking for sweatshirts, joggers and everything in between that the store offers.

More recently, my female friends and I are obsessed with Aerie, American Eagle’s brand for undergarments and comfy clothes for girls and women. Not only is the quality and style better, but it is an inclusive brand that promotes body positivity.

Looking back at being an impressionable 13 year old, I think the Victoria’s Secret and PINK marketing strategy of featuring skinny airbrushed models had somewhat of a negative effect on me. I know they’re not the only brand that conducts business this way, but it has to do with what they’re selling and who they’re selling it to.

Victoria’s Secret is a brand directed towards adult women, and PINK is for teens. PINK models make girls want to look unbelievably attractive in their awkward teen years and make us hope that when we are finally out of them, we will look like a Victoria’s Secret Angel.

It’s pretty toxic. Those models made me want a totally flat stomach — something I was never born with. They made me want to erase any pimples and change the shape of my nose. I didn’t understand that Victoria’s Secret Angels most likely put themselves through rigorous and dangerous diets and exercises. I didn’t understand that airbrushing existed.

So, when Aerie began the #AerieREAL, it was exciting. I remember one of the first ways they marketed this was by highlighting the fact that their models were not airbrushed. Their skin looked natural. They wore little makeup. They also had realistic bodies.

Today, when you scroll through Aerie’s website, you’ll see a variety of types of girls. There’s girls with freckles, girls with down syndrome, girls with physical disabilities, girls who are muscular, girls who are bigger and older women.

Aerie promotes the idea that all girls and women can be beautiful in their own way. They’re erasing stereotypes of what women should look like. They make girls — including me — feel pretty. That’s something PINK never did when I wanted to feel pretty the most.

And it seems like PINK’s marketing strategies are no longer beneficial to them. What once was a booming business is now deteriorating, According to Business Insider, between 2016 and 2018, Victoria’s Secret’s market share decreased from 33% to 24%.

In the fall of 2018, Ed Razek, the chief marketing officer at the time, made comments about excluding plus-size and transgender women in the famous Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. His reasoning? Because the fashion show is supposed to be a “fantasy.” Honestly, if Victoria’s Secret wants to continue being exclusive and judgmental, then that is their problem. They’re not keeping up with the times in a generation of girls who want to be represented in the fashion industry. Their sales will continue to dwindle.

Aerie’s business model of inclusivity and body-positivity is helping not only their image, but their net worth, as well. CNBC reports that Aerie, which was valued at $200 million in 2017, increased their worth to $500 million by 2018. That is a pretty dramatic rise and I only see it going up from here for them.

Seeing brands promote self-love is a breath of fresh air. I enjoy shopping at Aerie because going to their stores and shopping there online doesn’t make me feel like Shrek. So, I hope there are girls out there begging their moms to take them to Aerie because they want to be like the models that represent that company. They very well may grow up with a better body image than I did.

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