Future Narrative

The Average Everybody

A few years ago, I predicted the need to focus on the average every body. At the time, plus size had become an incredible opportunity, and the women in that segment were so excited to be seen, businesses were launching loads of collections to target this historically (and still) underserved consumer. This was part of the body positive/fat positive/body neutrality movements that started to hit the mainstream around 2016.

What we saw back then was exciting, but what was missing from this shift were the people in between, those that are now being recognised by the mid-sized fashion movement. Mid-sized fashion is really a focus on women sized US 8-14 (UK/AU 12-16), which is not even the average in the US, as 67% of women are size US14 (UK/AU16) and up.

This shift from aspiration to acceptance has had such an impact that even Victoria’s Secret has undergone a rebrand to make itself more palatable to the modern woman.

As someone whose legs are of an unwieldy length, there are few things more self-esteem decimating for a teenager than spending Saturday afternoon trawling the mall, and failing to find trousers that fit. I do understand that this is a first world problem, but there have been more than a few occasions in the late 90s/early 00s where I tearfully left my local boutique, pocket money hot and unspent in my wallet because there was simply nothing there for me. And I am not alone.

From The Diet Industrial Complex Got Me, and It Will Never Let Me Go

“The awful lady used to look at me with so much pity, like I was dying instead of just overweight. “Maybe something a little more flattering,” she used to say. My mother brought me clothes she thought would “work,” and I cried as I tried them on, discarding all but one or two items. Meanwhile, the awful lady shoved hangers back on to the racks and told thin girls they looked “just darling.”

After I was thin, I could just take things I liked and go into the dressing room and put stuff on and it would fit me. Sometimes things were even too big. And if something didn’t look good on me, I was like, “whatever, this piece of clothing sucks.”

This first world problem is something that many people are having to navigate anew as they emerge from the world of cosy pops and back into leg prisons.

It’s also led to the rise of new influencers like Remi Bader, whose hilarious ‘Realistic Clothing Hauls’ are a salve for anyone who has found themselves feeling hopeless and miserable in a dressing room after not being able to find anything that fits.

Where women of prior generations would beat themselves up over not fitting into the clothes, influencers like Bader are clapping back at the retailers for not making clothes that fit them.

As this consumer becomes even more empowered, brands should be doing more than treating her like an influencer and bringing her in to work on fit.

People are now coming to terms with their pandemic body shapes, and retailers need to make sure that the try-on experience is one that is even more compassionate and responsive through this period. For instance, Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh said that more than a quarter of customers are a new size since the start of the pandemic.

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Anne Helen Petersen wrote (yet another) fantastic article about the Millennial Vernacular of Fatphobia (which if you are a millennial, you may find hugely triggering). In the conversation around all of this, there seems to be the perception of a trajectory that’s been taking place. We are meant to be moving from this idea of one kind of idea of beauty (white, skinny) to a broader sense of acceptance of multiple kinds of beauty, which to an extent is happening, and that’s wonderful.

But it’s not a wholesale shift, and it’s important to see the nuance in it. It has never been more abundantly clear that the gulf between a person and the “best” version of themselves is simply their willingness and ability to access a cosmetic surgeon, which in meme land is usually represented by a young Kardashian with the caption: “You’re not ugly, you’re just poor”. 

Twitter avatar for @fillbeforeshillRoy Blackstone @fillbeforeshillElon Musk is the perfect example of “you’re not ugly, you’re just poor” Image

June 29th 2020

84 Retweets891 Likes

You don’t have to build character by coming to terms with a wonky nose, crooked teeth, a less than full smile or a wrinkle. All of these can be swiftly removed by a professional and it’s now pretty socially acceptable to do so. The conversation around this is becoming increasingly normalised by influencers like Tinx, who talks candidly about her quarterly visits to Dr Lara Devegan, and how she loves her smooth botoxed neck.

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Fundamentally, I think this openness is a good thing as it means that people understand what it takes to look attractive in this way. But it’s also important to consider what it will mean for the future as we continue to express ourselves in increasingly visual ways (it’s much harder to pose in a flattering way or use photoshop in the pivot to video, which Instagram recently announced).

I’m not here to call out the cosmetic surgery and tweakment industry (I’m not a hypocrite), but to say the disordered expectations that I faced in my youth around beauty and thinness are evolving for the next generation rather than disappearing entirely.

Rather than clapping ourselves on the back that we’re no longer starving ourselves to look like Ally McBeal, we should be considering the insecurities that are driving young people to fill their faces. In a Zoomified virtual world, there has been an uptick in the number of people seeking Botox and its friends as they spend more time confronted with their reflections on the computer screen. 

Even as body acceptance becomes a dominant part of the narrative, new trends are threatening to upend the progress made, with the Y2K trend continuing to gain popularity, and denim waistbands threatening to drop back to early noughties levels. I really hope people will think twice before buying into this. To any young people reading, you don’t yet know the trauma of having to hoist your jeans to hide your butt crack while bending or running while holding your waistband to maintain your modesty (and I’m still praying that the whale tail does not extend beyond editorials). Young TikTokkers are already articulating their concerns about how these Y2K trends celebrate the heroin chic ideal and how they will navigate the pressure to lose weight to look good in these clothes.

Moral of the story: Progress is not a straight line and the juice is always in the nuance. 

Covid-normal: Returning to the office

I hesitate to frame anything as ‘post-pandemic’, because more people have died due to Covid-19 in 2021 than in 2020, it’s just now happening in countries that might be less visible to us in Western markets. But, writing this from Australia (current lockdowns aside), the government has been starting to push to get people back into offices (particularly those in the CBD). 

I wrote a lot of forecasts about the tension that would emerge around this last year, but I think the challenge for companies is perfectly encapsulated by this little story. One of my best childhood friends, a civil servant, has been going swimming with me in the mornings. We get up really early, swim out from Williamstown Beach, watch the sunrise from the water, swim back in, ditch our wetsuits, get coffees on the beach, and are home and at our desks by nine. We do this at least twice a week, maintaining this even through the depths of winter. Every swim is an awe-inspiring, soul-rejuvenating, life-enhancing, joyous experience (after we stop swearing about how cold we are). It’s been the great unexpected gift of returning to Australia (and sorry to anyone who follows me on Instagram). We see starfish in the water, we play with the local dogs at the cafe and we talk (while also creating a safe space for me to wear my garish multi-coloured Crocs with my leopard print towel poncho). 

But the government is now saying that he will have to return to the office. Naturally, my friend is pushing to maintain remote working because if he has to return, those mornings will become a relic of the pandemic era. And he is not the only one, companies are set to face an interesting period as they navigate the future of the office. Those that push too hard to take away the freedoms gained over the past year and a half are likely to experience huge exoduses. 

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Current Obsessions:

Flamingo Estate and everything it sellsI’ve been sending gifts to US friends from this company through the pandemic and just discovered they ship to Australia. I’m obsessed with the house, the tomato candle and the messaging around the recently launched Summer of Pleasure campaign. I love it as a narrative of conscious return to the sensual, a nice move on from the horny vax summer.

flamingo_estateA post shared by @flamingo_estate

The Subversive Joy of Lil Nas X’s Gay Pop Stardom: The lede! The pics! Lil Nas X! all worth your attention. 

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The Most Dangerous Writing App: Don’t stop writing, or all progress will be lost. Forever battling my worst procrastination instincts. 

Mad Men. Furious Women.: Not a positive obsession, but an obsession. I hope this article inspires change, and shame on anyone who dismisses what Zoe has written. 

The Cutting Room Floor episode with Leandra Medine: I haven’t listened to it yet, the prospect of doing so makes my whole body cringe but it’s going to happen and I’m going to want to chat about it. 

Great Jones Cookware and the Illusion of the Millennial Aesthetic: The D2C backlash that’s popping off, with the Great Jones beef lighting the match. Am starting to wish I had of bought Rimowa suitcases instead of Away (not that I’m going anywhere any time soon).