Urban Outfitters, Deceiving Consumers?

By Marcella Kukulka

Starting 2017 off with a bang, Urban Outfitters released a new campaign, “Class of 2017”, with a diverse line-up of models aimed to celebrate body positivity.

The video, released on the official @urbanoutfitters Instagram account on January 2nd, received a great deal of praise for featuring 16 unique models in the campaign such as transgender woman Hari Nef, teen-activist Anaja Hamilton, female-rapper Tommy Genesis, and plus-size model Barbie Ferreira.

Urban Outfitters launched the campaign with the caption, “The new year is here! We’ve brought together a group of fresh faces who are creating change and challenging the status quo,” tagging Hanes and Champion as collaborators for the shoot.

While UO may seem progressive by giving a plus-size model like Ferreira a prominent role in the ad, there was one main problem that caught negative attention by consumers and fashion critics around the world.

According to her agency, Wilhelmina Models, Ferreira has a 33.5 inch waist and 47.5-inch wide hips. Meanwhile, UO only stocks up to a size large in this t-shirt, measuring a 33-inch waist and 43-inch hips. To clarify, this means that Ferreira would be too big to fit into the Hanes’ t-shirt worn in the campaign.

Basically, Urban Outfitters is using Ferreira to promote clothes that she would not even be able to buy. Additionally, this means that any curvier women perhaps feeling inspired by this campaign would probably leave a UO store empty handed and feeling deceived.

On January 9th, Urban Outfitters responded to the controversy officially stating, “We are pleased to feature a diverse cast of creatives in this campaign, and we hope to continue to feature people who reflect the range of customers who shop at UO. We do offer XL products in select styles and we are in the process of increasing our offering. We recognize that extended sizing is a right step for us and we’re in the process of making the shift.”

However this statement seems strange since it actually seems as if Urban Outfitters consciously decided not to stock up t-shirts above a size large. This is despite the fact that Hanes t-shirts are available in any size up to a triple extra-large.

As Revelist first pointed out, “It’s no surprise that Urban Outfitters wants to hop on the body-positive train.” Plus-sized models, like Ashley Graham and Tara Lynn, are increasingly being given cover space as retailers are finally realizing that being body-positive is profitable - and decent. For example, competitor Aerie saw a 26% increase in sales during 2016 directly after introducing its un-retouched “Aerie Real” campaign.

The launch of the “Class of 2017” campaign is a great way for Urban Outfitters to start promoting body-positivity; something desperately needed in a fashion industry strictly run by one-size archetypes. However, the clothing corporation shouldn’t be receiving positive publicity for a campaign promise that is just another empty gesture. The average American woman is now a size 16:  Urban Outfitters, it’s time to step up your game!

All images in this article are credited to Kaitlin Jahn, a freelance photographer for The Avenue

The model featured in the article is Marcella Kukulka