2019 fashion predictions: why inclusivity will be the hottest lingerie trend next year

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Lingerie is a sector of the fashion industry that has long been associated with lithe-limbed models and barely-there garments fashioned from strips of pastel-colored lace.

But is the tide turning?

Over the past 12 months, the industry has undergone a noticeable shift in terms of its attitude towards diversity, with multiple brands focusing on cultivating a more approachable and inclusive image.

At the forefront — as ever — is Rihanna, whose new Savage x Fenty lingerie brand put on a show-stopping debut catwalk presentation during New York Fashion Week this September, featuring a diverse cast of models of varying skin tones and body shapes, including Joan Smalls, Duckie Thot, Molly Constable and a very pregnant Slick Woods.

Meanwhile, lingerie giant Aerie hit the headlines back in the summer with the launch of an “Aerie Bras Make You Feel Real Good” campaign featuring a diverse lineup of models scouted online. The cast included a woman in a wheelchair, a woman wearing a colostomy bag and a woman suffering from the skin condition vitiligo — a move that was widely applauded by consumers.

Labels such as Third Love, Curvy Kate and TomboyX have also been gaining traction for offering inclusive underwear options that suit a range of body sizes (and, in TomboyX’s case, are gender-neutral).

That isn’t to say that the old traditions have disappeared completely. Underwear giant Victoria’s Secret put on its annual Fashion Show in New York this November, featuring a bevy of ‘Angels’ including Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid and some of the biggest supermodels in the world. Yet the show seemed to have lost some of its sheen with audiences.

Marred somewhat by the outrage that greeted marketing director Ed Razek’s comments that there was no need for transgender or plus-size models in the show, the TV rendition of the catwalk presentation drew an audience of 3.3 million, compared to approximately 5 million in 2017. Last month, Victoria’s Secret’s parent company L Brands reported third-quarter results with a net loss of $42.8 million(R617 595 440), an announcement swiftly followed by the replacement of its CEO.

In response to Razek’s comments, Heidi Zak, co-CEO of ThirdLove, penned an open letter in The New York Times saying: “Haven’t we moved beyond outdated ideas of femininity and gender roles? It’s time to stop telling women what makes them sexy — let us decide.”

If consumers decide they agree with her, then the lingerie industry could look very different by this time next year.

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New York Times Sunday, full page letter from @heidi to @victoriassecret – Dear Victoria’s Secret, I was appalled when I saw the demeaning comments about women your Chief Marketing Officer, Ed Razek, made to Vogue last week. As hard as it is to believe, he said the following: “We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.” “It’s like, why doesn’t your show do this? Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy.” I’ve read and re-read the interview at least 20 times, and each time I read it I’m even angrier. How in 2018 can the CMO of any public company — let alone one that claims to be for women — make such shocking, derogatory statements? You market to men and sell a male fantasy to women. But at ThirdLove, we think beyond, as you said, a “42-minute entertainment special.” Your show may be a “fantasy” but we live in reality. Our reality is that women wear bras in real life as they go to work, breastfeed their children, play sports, care for ailing parents, and serve their country. Haven’t we moved beyond outdated ideas of femininity and gender roles? It’s time to stop telling women what makes them sexy — let us decide. We’re done with pretending certain sizes don’t exist or aren’t important enough to serve. And please stop insisting that inclusivity is a trend. I founded ThirdLove five years ago because it was time to create a better option. ThirdLove is the antithesis of Victoria’s Secret. We believe the future is building a brand for every woman, regardless of her shape, size, age, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation. This shouldn’t be seen as groundbreaking, it should be the norm. Let’s listen to women. Let’s respect their intelligence. Let’s exceed their expectations. Let women define themselves. As you said Ed, “We’re nobody’s ThirdLove, we’re their first love.” We are flattered for the mention, but let me be clear: we may not have been a woman’s first love but we will be her last. To all women everywhere, we see you, and we hear you. Your reality is enough. To each, her own. -Heidi @heidi

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