One brand’s attempted social awareness project backfires horribly over the internet.
Everything is a controversy nowadays in the politically sensitive climate we live in. But some issues require more than just a simple eye-roll. When presented with yet another fashion house’s bigoted stance on social issues, it can be easy to blame it on the fashion world itself. But when the controversy grows, instead, out of a place of intended social justice…that’s when the lines blur.
LPA, a relatively young brand started by Pia Arrobio, a former partner at Reformation, was on a roll for a while. Being friends with influencers like Emily Ratajkowski, Arrobio was quickly able to capture the attention of other socialites like the Kardashians and the Hadids, and propel her brand to relative fame. The brand, LPA, is co-owned by the e-commerce giant, Revolve, and follows the wave of insta-savvy brands that have built their following off social media. With that spotlight, however, comes great responsibility.
As an attempt to combat internet trolling and bullying, LPA and Revolve launched a special collection in partnership with Emily Ratajkowski, Lena Dunham, Paloma Elsesser, Suki Waterhouse and Cara Delevingne. Its aim was to take the hurtful troll phrases often thrown around on the internet and reclaim them as an act of power. Afterall, “one of the most powerful ways to heal after a historically ugly word has been used against you, is to reclaim that word and turn it into something that empowers you,” says Queer Icon Zolita.
A good idea at its conception, LPA x Revolve failed to execute the very delicate idea properly…resulting in the two brands being dragged to hell and back by loyal followers and other spectators. The mistake at-hand? Using a skinny white girl to model an anti-fat shaming shirt, with the slogan “being fat is not beautiful, it’s an excuse”.
— Jameela Jamil (@jameelajamil) September 12, 2018
The images for the campaign were released on Revolve’s website without a run-by with the creators of the project and took the entire team by surprise when media backlash started pouring in. And who can blame them. On the heels of this, Revolve issued an apology and immediately removed the merchandise from its site.
A little over a week after the Revolve x LPA incident, another more classically regarded brand, Diesel, released its own campaign video treading the same thin water, but this time, doing it correctly. The flamboyant video, which took the internet by storm late September, was celebrated by many for its unapologetically loud nature and the wide selection of talent and influencers that were cast. The representation of celebrities and influencers from all walks of life—all facing different types of bullying—showed the multifaceted nature of online bullying nowadays and how no-one, not even celebrities, can escape it. Even though the campaign did receive some criticism for specific casting choices—namely in Nicki Minaj, who has historically been wrapped up in online bullying cases which she instigated—the feedback remained mostly positive.
So, what Diesel do correctly that LPA failed to convey? Quite simply, they curated the cast of their video to underscore the message of the campaign. Each of the talent represented their ‘hate words’ accurately because it was genuine. LPA, on the other hand, cast irrelevant models to represent a very weighted slogan, bringing the message out of context, and ultimately ostracizing the very audience they wanted to appeal to.
The takeaway in all this can be easily summed up to underscore the importance of casting, but it’s more than that. What appeals to consumers these days in the world of socially-aware campaign building is authentic storytelling and familiar faces—especially ones that are directly representative of the causes they are advocating for. Diesel was able to tap into this, ultimately crafting a campaign that touched their consumers more personally.
Photo: Courtesy of Getty