[By Alyson Linke]

It’s a chicken and egg question: which came first, the size-0 sample size or the dangerously underweight fashion model? Part of what makes the world of fashion so compelling is that in many ways, in the words of magnate Karl Lagerfeld, it is all about “dreams and illusion.” But for the rest of us mere mortals, the alienating (and frequently downright deceptive) practices of fashion marketing and PR campaigns can have ugly side effects.

We recently discussed Victoria’s Secret’s 2014 Perfect Body campaign and the backlash the company has received. Since then, it would appear that other brands have started listening to consumers who want a greater variety of body types reflected in ads and have responded in kind; Seventeen magazine has pledged to stop Photoshopping its models, and American Eagle offshoot Aerie has begun casting a more diverse group of models and has also nixed digital retouching. In the case of Aerie, the decision to cast “real girl” models may be credited with a 32 per cent sales increase in the first quarter of 2016.

In an effort to bounce back from the “bodygate” controversy of 2014, Victoria’s Secret’s recent #TrainLikeAnAngel campaign features a series of YouTube videos and step-by-step infographics which highlight the fitness regimes of several models known as the “angels.” The campaign also encourages women to share their own tips and photos on social media using the #TrainLikeAnAngel hashtag. The campaign acts as a one-two-punch promoting the Victoria’s Secret fashion show as well as the Victoria Sport athletic-wear line. It also frames the training process less as a means of looking a certain way in underwear, but more so as a lifestyle, with emphasis on the benefits of setting goals, motivating one another and the therapeutic release that comes with exercise.

More importantly, the #TrainLikeAnAngel campaign signifies a shift in favour of transparency and authenticity in Victoria’s Secret’s campaigns and within the arena of fashion PR. While Victoria’s Secret’s model casting continues to be disturbingly singular and is far from a representation of what most women can relate to, the “maybe she’s born with it” mystique has given way to a kind of realism that is refreshingly humanizing – and there’s no reason why that can’t fit in with the dreams and illusions too.

(Photo by torbakhopper via Flickr)