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American Eagle lingerie line features natural beauties

January 21, 2014

Some things, it is assumed, just belong together. Take the fashion and beauty industries where it's almost impossible to think of creating ads without models whose images have been retouched to a level of physical near perfection not achievable in nature. The whole point, the reasoning has always gone, is consumers are not interested in buying products from models that look like them.

Of course, there have been a small number of brands and retailers that have challenged this thinking. Dove's "Real Beauty" ad campaign is well known in the U.S. In the U.K., Debenhams got press coverage when it added larger size mannequins to its flagship store in London.

More recently in the U.S., American Eagle Outfitters announced it was launching its "Aerie Real" lingerie with models of various sizes promoting the spring line. While the models are all professional and beautiful, the retailer made the decision to not use any retouching to further enhance the images.

"We left everything. We left beauty marks, we left tattoos, what you see is really what you get with our campaign," Jenny Altman, the style and fit expert for the Aerie Real line, told Juju Chang of ABC News' "Good Morning America" program.

A video on American Eagle's YouTube channel invites viewers for a "Real Talk with Amber," a beautiful, young woman who says women should be "unapologetic for who they are" and "what they look like."

[Image: #AerieREAL -

American Eagle is bringing the campaign in practical ways in store including having bra specialists on hand to help customers find the right fit based on their particular build. Online, it is offering images of the same bra style worn by models in different shapes to aid in the buying decision process.


Discussion Questions:

Are female consumers, particularly younger women, ready for a new type of advertising that better reflects their lives and looks versus selling fantasy? Will this approach to advertising become more prominent or will retouched beauty remain the norm for the foreseeable future?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Which type of advertising, reality or fantasy, has the greatest potential to drive sales of beauty and fashion products?


NO! Because when we buy a product we buy the dream. Most of us don't like reality.

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Mel Kleiman, President, Humetrics

Not being a female consumer, I'm somewhat reticent to make sweeping generalizations about what it is women (of any age) are or aren't ready to do.

That said, one would hope we could end the collective social madness that makes not just women -- but very young girls -- ashamed of who they are and how they look.

And, that obsession with what somebody somewhere determined to be "beauty" doesn't just impact women. Young (and not so young) men also fall into the same trap and reinforce and exacerbate the problem.

So, while I don't feel confident addressing this issue, I do hope American Eagle is right and that the world has grown sane enough that people can start feeling good about themselves irrespective of their superficial appearance.

What we forget is exactly how cultural the definition of beauty is, i.e., beauty is an artificial and arbitrary standard. One imagines what a traditional Samoan would think if he or she were confronted with a heroin chic model. They would probably rush them to a hospital.

American Eagle may just be trying to sell lingerie, but they are inadvertently perhaps making an important social statement. Sadly, as long as they are in the minority, it's going to be a totally uphill fight.

America is obsessed with celebrity. What we fail to remember is where the roots of celebrity came from. Mary Pickford, the silent film star, was perhaps America's first modern female celebrity. When she started in movies actors and actresses were rarely identified by name. The studios rightly assumed that if the public knew who they were and liked them, the actors could demand more money from producers.

So celebrity -- and the idea of celebrity beauty -- was directly tied to economics -- just like it is today. Best of luck to American Eagle, but don't look for the trend to spread just yet.

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Ryan Mathews, Founder, ceo, Black Monk Consulting

As the father of two daughters, I hope Mel is wrong, but fear he may be right. Self-image for most young women is negative (at least in comparison to how others see them).

While American Eagle is using models (who don't reflect the reality of most women) at least they are not "adjusting" the images to make them appear "better." While we all want to dream it is better, are even our dreams distorted by airbrushing and other visual enhancements?

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Steve Montgomery, President, b2b Solutions, LLC

I think it's a wonderful idea, and I do believe that consumers are ready. So many young women have low self-esteem and body image these days and anything to show that the images they see on TV and in print aren't real is fantastic! I applaud American Eagle for their stand on showing women that it's okay to have flaws, and that everyone is beautiful in their own right!

Kimberly Long, Project Coordinator and Sales Support, Alert Tech

If younger consumers distrust advertising in general, they may be ready for this approach to beauty. However, will the ad actually get the attention of the target market? Assuming it does, and assuming consumers believe the claims of no retouching and beauty, it may be effective. However, that is a lot of skepticism for one ad campaign to overcome.

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Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D., President, Global Collaborations, Inc.

American Eagle's target customer is likely ready for a fresh, genuine, real approach to advertising. Beauty brands like Dove, though atypical within the industry, have paved the way, and are tapping into a growing desire by consumers for advertising that is authentic.

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Jeff Hall, President, Second To None

I suppose one could argue that this is part of a longer-term trend toward "naturalness." It isn't necessary to imagine what someone looked like when they first got up because they still look the same (i.e. they don't shave or change from their PJs to go out)...or maybe not.
Anyway, the campaign will last until AEO sees a .01% decline in their comp sales, or some analyst (or "activist investor") blames tattooed models, and demands they be replaced.


There is both an ongoing desire for perfection, and a growing desire for self-acceptance driving marketing effectiveness in beauty and fashion. It need not be an either/or proposition. Rather, the individual brand must project an authentic message to their engaged customers and the consumers they wish to reach. VS is not likely to start using "real" models, nor would that fit with their branding. AE utilizing this campaign to project their branding is perfectly in alignment with their ethos.

Mike Osorio, Senior VP Organizational Change Management, DFS Group

I don't know if female consumers are ready for a new type of advertising, but I'm sure the focus groups and all helped decide. When I read "We left everything. We left beauty marks, we left tattoos...," I found that amusing. It's not that they left those things, but instead they specifically looked for women with these attributes so they could appear to better reflect the lives and looks of consumers.

David Livingston, Principal, DJL Research

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