Advertising 101.

Advertising In The New World.


Advertising in the fashion industry is worth billions in revenue and in quarterly returns. Comprised as establishing beauty norms, it also “encourages us to adopt the standards created by various industries” (Shaw, 188).   However, these standards are often times unrealistic and bring toxic effects on how we compare our own bodies to others; making us highly judgmental on the way we look and perceive beauty.

After visiting several retail stores in WEM, a consistent exemplar for beauty was always present, such criteria’s are :

White : In other words, if you ain’t white, then you ain’t right.

To be fair skinned has always been one pre-requisite to be considered being beautiful in the fashion world. This internalized message also ignores other minorities to an effect, as they exclude diversity from their advertisement campaigns and banners. Hence, this racist connotation towards beauty also serves to impose and control the white hegemonic culture in the western world.

Skinny: To be thin, puts you on a higher scale. The more thin you are, the higher chances you have to be socially accepted and admired.


Sexualized youthful glamour: Most of the retail ads all portrayed youthfulness as a premise for beauty. Most of the implicit messages expressed in the ads were all in terms of idealized perfections fabricated by men who are motivated by corporate profits.

Moreover, coupled with the billion dollar anesthetic surgery industry, and various numerous forms cosmeceutical ads that we see on TV and in our shopping malls, we as women” are more likely to get face-lifts, eye tucks, rhinoplasties, collagen injections, botox, liposuctions, tummy tucks, and of course, breast augmentation”( Shaw,193).  As a result, we are not only putting our own health’s at risk by being more vulnerable to potential bacterial infection after post-comeceutical-surgeries, we are also adopting hazardous beauty expectations that are unfortunately impractical, let alone impossible to achieve.


It is important to note, that it is the “ disciplinary beauty practices” that Shaw mentions to be a systematic practice that most women engage in. By also being a benchmark for achieving the admired adjusted look, these practices also serve as being regulatory ” because they involve social control in the sense that we spend time, money and effort, [as we also evoke] meaning in these practices “– governing habits, that could cause more harm than good to the person, if they aren’t accurately assessed and balanced ( Shaw, 193).

My Opinion

In all honesty, after visiting these stores, I don’t really feel affected or personally lesser than the average skinny white girl that happens to be on the podium of most retail stores. By being East African, and somewhat medium size, I am comfortable in my own skin. I am not pressured to achieve the glamorized ideal of perfected beauty of habitually wearing makeup due to my daily ablutions; muslims are required to perform ablutions before their prayers 5 times a day as a means for self-purifications. In the same token, what must be accepted is the recognition of internal beauty instead of the outer. The tainted construction of beauty in these advertising ads are subjective standards, fixated to meet unrealistic norms.

On that note,

Ladies, Don’t be fooled.

Ayan Affi.

Work Cited :

Shaw, Susan M., and Janet Lee. “The “Beauty” Ideal.” Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and Contemporary Readings. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012; 188-195. Print.

Vanity Sizing

Have you ever felt the confusion and frustration of denim shopping? Have you ever felt the inevitable urge to run for the leggings rack? We all have. Shopping for jeans sucks because no two brands fit the same, and it’s all thanks to something called vanity sizing.Story_4_cs-vanity-sizing

What is Vanity Sizing?

Vanity sizing is something that clothing manufacturers are using to boost the self-esteem of consumers so they are more likely to buy their product. The clothing items are labeled with a smaller size than the actual cut of the item. So that adorable size 6 dress could actually be closer to a size 10! These numbers are deeply infused into female thinking, and they deflate or boost up self-esteem. Why does a number on a tag tell us how to feel about ourselves? Why does the scale tell us we are okay or not okay? I don’t think I’m the only one that feels cheated living in a society where we are told we are only beautiful if we are thin.

So what exactly was it that made manufacturers change their sizing codes? Was it an attempt to make women wish we could drop two dress sizes? Or the merging of youth and adult fashions, making stores like The Gap into a one-stop shop for mommy and daughter? The reason for this is that downsized labels make people feel better about themselves. On the flip side, larger sized labels made people feel worse about themselves, so they were less likely to buy their product. This makes shopping increasingly difficult for both women and men when manufacturers don’t use the same standards for labeling and sizing.

Clothing sizes in North America have changed over the years. A size 8 fifty years ago could now be as small as a size 2. So if you have a friend that’s in her 40s and she tells you she’s the same size 4 that she was in her 20s, just passive aggressively send her the links at the bottom of this post. A size 4 isn’t what it used to be, honey.article-2101091-11C1CBC5000005DC-126_634x554

My Opinion

I’ll admit, I am a victim to this marketing. It does make me feel awesome if I can fit into a size 8 instead of a size 10. I’ll probably even buy that item of clothing! Is that rational? Absolutely not. I should be worrying about the fit and appearance of a product, not the number on the inside that no one can actually see. The reason why I feel this way is because of the unrealistic beauty standards from companies like Brandy Melville or Abercrombie, who emphasize that the only way to be pretty is to be thin. Even though I absolutely disagree with that ideal, I still find myself a teensy bit excited when a smaller than usual size fits me.VANITY-SIZING


I am an intelligent, somewhat accomplished ginger. Why should I believe that I’ve magically gained 20lbs on my way from my house to the store? Why should I let these misguided companies fool me into thinking I’m a sack of potatoes? I shouldn’t and neither should you. I am now confused as to whether I am fat or thin. But the truth is, it doesn’t fucking matter. The size on your jeans shouldn’t define you as a person, but too many young women let it define them. Vanity sizing is a passive aggressive form of body shaming, and it should stop.

PS – Rock that muffin top, girl! Embrace your body!2014-02-20-methodgetsmuffintop05-thumb





  • Keely


Aerie: a New Nest for Feminists

American Eagle Outfitters’ sister-brand, Aerie, boasts its #aerieREAL campaign with taglines like “Love Me, Don’t Retouch Me”, “Time to get real. No supermodels. No retouching.” and “The Real You is Sexy.”

The #aerieREAL campaign began with the line’s Spring 2014 release, and started by featuring young women, Aerie’s target demographic, posing in Aerie’s products without the overly sexualized intensity of a lot of their competitors.  This new tactic featured their shopping bags declaring that “The girl with this bag has not been retouched. The real you is sexy. #aerieREAL”, further emphasizing the campaign’s main goal: to empower girls and young women.

AEO also makes a point of engaging with their audience in a variety of ways: they encourage their fans and customers to share their Aerie Real-ness with hashtags on instagram and twitter, for a chance to be featured on the Aerie blog in their favourite Aerie wear.  And that little bit of fame is a good feeling — one that can be easily associated with the Brandy Melville method of conducting their market research.

Starting and ending here with beachy looks, we on the #BoycottBrandy team feel the most positively about American Eagle and Aerie brands, because of these philosophies that they have adopted.  AEO makes sure that they are a responsible company, declaring their awareness of the impact that fashion has on people — especially young women — and body image through their “AEO Better World” programs.  On Aerie specifically: “Our aerie line is tailored to young women, so we take special steps to address their unique needs in creating a balanced, healthy life.”  Unlike Brandy Melville, whose philosophy is myopic and exclusionary, in a world that already constantly works to control, exclude, and disempower women, especially young girls.

AEO endorses programs like “Bright Pink“, a non-profit organization focused on breast and ovarian cancer prevention and education, and “HERproject,” an initiative for equality between men and women in global supply chains.

The #aerieREAL twitter feed is full of tweets from fans saying “this was definitely uplifting” and “please do more of these”, because working with girls to help them celebrate their bodies the way that they are is actually empowering and body positive, rather than just pretending to be.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 1.48.10 PM

This all being said, #aerieREAL is not without its own problems.  While racial diversity is evident in the campaign photos and ads, there is still plenty to be desired in terms of the diversity of body types being presented.  The next step for Aerie’s REAL should be to diversify the sizes of their models, and to get over their fear of the word “fat.”


I for one would love to see #aerieREAL take up the mantle of un-demonizing fatness, since they’ve already proven to be willing to take the risk of going against the grain by not retouching their models. To put it in their own words: “It’s time to feature beautiful images that reflect all realities” (my emphasis). I love the engagement that they’ve taken to their audience and want to see more, more, more of it!!!

Brandy Melville, as well as other labels, can definitely learn a thing or two from AEO’s progressive model.  Besides saving themselves money on graphic designers, who have to put hours into the model retouching, clothing companies can enact change in the way women’s bodies are perceived, and how women perceive their own bodies.  If we embrace everyone’s “imperfection” and keep rolling on with this celebration of realness as normal, the world will be a safer, more positive, more uplifting place.

More Links for You, as Always…

AEO Better World

Aerie on Twitter and Instagram 

xoxo – Kristin

France banning anorexic model ads?

Banning anorexic model ads will likely take an affect in France.

In the process of passing a bill that would prevent anorexic model ads to be seen in public and outside settings, France siding with Israel and Spain, are one of many countries who are against any form of publicity that promotes unhealthy living habits.


Money shot.

Fines are said to be up to 80,000 US for any infringement against the bill and also jail time for the agents doing the promoting.

Message For Brandy Melville,

I really hope that this bill does gets passed on and legislated upon other neighbouring countries as well. Also, I feel that banning the advertisement of anorexic models, really does serves a purpose since it limits the unhealthy outlook towards body image and fat shaming. By banning the portrayal of anorexic models, we are also saying no to fat shaming .

So take that Brandy !!!

Ayan Affi.

For more information about this issue, refer to :

Fashion: For Women, By Men?

For an industry that basically runs on marketing towards women, fashion is surprisingly full of men.

According to TIME Magazine’s “All-TIME Top 100 Fashion Icons List” (as of 2015), 51% of these icons are women. A majority indeed, but only by a percent.  And as we delve deeper into the more detailed statistics, it becomes clear that the entire thing is still fairly skewed, with white, middle-aged men in the most influential and active roles in the system.  Organized into the five categories that TIME has employed, here are the numbers:

  • 26% of top fashion designer labels are women*, of which 16% are women of colour.  Women of colour make up 4% of the total list of top fashion designers.

  • 100% of top models are women, of which 3% are women of colour.

  • 75% of “muses” are women, of which 13% are women of colour. 

  • 15% of top photograhers are women. Neither of the two women in this thirteen-person category are women of colour.

  • 100% of top stylists and/or editors are women. None of them are women of colour.

  • Overall, this adds up to 7% representation of people of colour on the entire list.

*Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, as with any of the other listed pairs of designers, are counted as one.

This makes me upset.  This makes me upset because in this world of ours, women are expected to be constantly conscious — if not obsessed — of their appearance.  And we can’t win, either: if I’m too worried about how I look, I’m shallow; if I’m not trying hard enough to look nice, I’m lazy and ugly and “not like a girl.”  It goes both ways as well:  men who dress themselves well are often assumed to be gay or less masculine in some way or another and if he tries to look nice, he’s accused of being too much like a girl — as if that’s a bad thing.

This is especially upsetting because as a woman with even a mild interest in fashion, I can’t believe that the people behind the ads that are everywhere are resoundingly white and male — especially when white boys are, more often than not, the most annoying when it comes to a) dressing themselves and b) demanding that women dress for them, and not themselves.

Actually, when I think about it further, I really shouldn’t be that surprised.

“Sex sells” is a phrase that’s heard a lot around advertising, and if we take into consideration the high number of women who are in more passive roles in the fashion/modelling industry — 25 of the 30 models and ‘muses’ listed by TIME — I can’t help but think that this is due to the tendency for women’s bodies to be over sexualized. So once they are used in this way in an industry that sets the status quo for what women “should” look like, they also become perpetuators of that sexualization, regardless of intention.

The three categories of icons dominated by women are as models, editors/stylists, and muses. As such, these categories are all passive in comparison to the number of men who make up the designer section.  These roles in the industry, while definitely important, are relatively passive because in each of these roles, women are being given items to critique, to wear and model in, or they are the “inspiration” for the designers to create from.   Rather than giving women the role of creator, or giving them more control over the fashion industry, they are looked at and admired — and in doing so, they are easily reduced to objects to be manipulated by the men of the industry.

The women dominating the editors/stylists category is also problematic for a few reasons.  While it is excellent that women’s are the discerning eyes who decide the “do’s and don’ts” and “ins and outs” through their editorials and blogs, we should be concerned that TIME’s top ten editors are all white women. Harper’s Bazaar’s “14 Fashion Blogger Instagrams to Follow Now” also features an all-female list of bloggers, however just over three quarters of that list are also white women.  What does this say about the people in fashion whose opinions matter?  Women of colour don’t get much of a say anywhere, after already being erased by the visual media.

The low numbers of female designers and female photographers on this list also indicates a high priority for the male gaze.  Not only are men the ones in control of the clothing that the predominantly white female models are going to wear, they are also in complete control over the photos produced that will eventually move into the advertisements plastered all over magazines, websites, and other social media.  Why aren’t more women being recognized? Why aren’t more women getting into these jobs and onto these lists?

So then how does this relate to #BoycottBrandy?

Brandy Melville’s model-recruitment strategy starts and ends with young girls — and even this company was founded by two men.  The girls they choose for their marketing research are typically 15-16 years old according to an article by , and if the actual Brandy Melville Instagram (brandymelvilleusa) is any indicator, all of them are tiny, long-haired white girls.  But who can really be surprised that this is the aesthetic that they are going for, and that most people seem to be pretty okay with its exclusionary standards, when we look at something like TIME’s top 100 list and see mostly white people?

The number of skinny white women who are in the fashion industry who made it onto TIME’s list encourages the kind of advertising that Brandy Melville (and companies like it) puts out.  By excluding women of colour from advertising, modelling, and marketing ideas, the fashion industry reinforces a status quo of whiteness, blondeness, and thinness that cannot continue to go ignored.  While there is nothing wrong with empowering young girls to make decisions and tell large corporations what they want — can we get a hell yeah for diminishing the condescension and dismissiveness that teenaged girls have met with for so long?? — the tiny white, bougey percentage of all teenaged girls that fashion is catering to with this kind of advertising is still nowhere near enough.

Kate Moss and Gisele Bundchen can continue to strut their stuff all they like, and I will support them and girls and women who look like them wholeheartedly — just as soon as more women like Velvet d’Amour, Saffi Karina, and Jennie Runk are also celebrated as widely and often as Victoria’s Angels and Brandy’s “Beach Girls.”

Links for you! 

TIME’s All-TIME 100 Fashion Icons

Huffington Post’s Top Plus-Sized Models

Harper’s Bazaar 14 Fashion Blogger Instagrams To Follow Now Smells Like Teen Spirit: Inside the Secret World of Brandy Melville

And for more absolutely wonderful plus-sized models who should be getting more priority and attention and love from the masses, check out one of my favourite tumblr blogs:

xoxo — Kristin

Ayan’s Field Trip -Part 2

Brandy Melville : Oh the Horror.


As it was my first time at Brandy, my first impressions there was the uncomfortable aura that I felt while browsing my way in towards Brandy. First of all, the sales associate had this uptight nature about her. To be specific, the consistent frown on her face like I was this extraterrestrial creature from Mars that seems to foreign for her to even grasp or acknowledge.

Additionally, there was no smiles that was shared or even someone approaching to help me -mind you, there was only 4 customers in the store that time 😦

As I perused my way to find the right attire to try on, what I found interesting subject to talk about was the limited amount of clothing sizes and styles. In a city where frigid weather is quite so common to edmontonians, Brandy did a poor job on providing winter gear and outfits suitable for the city’s winter conditions.

In contrast, what I did see was mini skirts, crop tops and t-shirts – nothing bad about these garments- but by Brandy only displaying these very few clothing attires, Brandy is then basing a restriction to most potential customers that have different clothing  needs. In the same token, we can further go on and say that these same restrictions may then pose as being binaries to service the modern female identity. For example, by showing more skin, Brandy is imposing to its customers that you are more feminine and adored compared to your female social counterparts. In my opinion, I feel that the relentless social construct that Brandy plays a huge role on deterring most people from entering it’s store or even so buying their products; a sad case that I unfortunately realized after my first visit.

Changing Room – Call that the Naked Room.

photo 1

When I asked the sales associate for a room to use, she pointed her finger towards the back of the store. Without no aid or even someone to accompany me, I discreetly made my way towards the back of store.

Impressions : She should get fired, rude and bitchy. Where is customer service?

Inside the Changing room …

Impressions : There was no privacy at all. The drapes weren’t even properly draped. I felt naked 😦

Successes :

As I tried on the jeans, I was surprised to see that it fit me. However, the price was off my range. The jeans fit me snug, but it was not that bad compared to the initial responses that I thought I would get from trying their clothing.  ,

To Note: it wasn’t a one size fits all, so the reason behind my fitting would be explained by their size catering.

General Impression.
photo 2


My first experience at Brandy : FAIL.

Customer service : FAIL.

Clothing experience : 3/5. Brandy could do more with producing more clothing suitable for our weather conditions and changes in seasons.

Ayan’s Field Trip Part 1.


My visit to HNM was overall quite as normal just like most of my casual trips there.

The pressure of fitting in their clothing wasn’t relatively concerning on my part. Also, as I was walked my way towards their store, girls from different cultures and sizes were all lined up to get the latest trends. The sales associates were amiable and greatly helpful in contrast to what I experienced at Brandy. In the other hand, most sizes were adequately suitable for the general population. Another token that puts HNM in a far better score compared to its competitors are the reasonable price ranges that puts the customer at bargain frenzy- regardless of what size holds true for you, you can still have a great deal during every shopping experience. This inclusive disclosure on HNM’s part is quite remarkable. Despite being in the uptight culture of ‘fitting into the skinny ‘-HNM holds firm ground when establishing their vision of being a non discriminatory clothing store powerhouse. By examining their clientele and their employees, it was pretty clear to me that HNM is at a far better place when it comes to ethnical portrayal within their models.


As I made my way out of the store, I was curious enough to examine their newsletter. Plundered with cosmetic ads, this newsletter is considered of being a heavy catalyst that “ helps shape the social construction of beauty.” Nevertheless, even though there was diversity within their fashion models, the “bodily standard” to be to thin was present and consistently portrayed somehow systematically within every model I saw.

Ayan’s Ratings..

Price $$ : Reasonable – 5/5

Experience : Fun and enjoyable. 4/5

Overall Impression : Would go back there again 🙂

Reference : Shaw, Susan M. ” Women’s Voices :Feminist Visons.” Classic and Contemporary Readings. Mc.Graw Hill Education; 6th Edition. Print