A lot can be said about the past decade, the good, bad and ugly but what cannot be ignored is the way radical changes hit entertainment, fashion and beauty industries for the better. The decade saw inclusivity and diversity transforming from buzzwords to actionable permanent strategies for companies and industries along with accountability measures in place , plus a great deal of expectations from the society at large. In this new decade no brand can survive without an easily quantifiable progressive brand equity strategy. The most notable strides that have been made across the board deserve a highlight and below, we look various progressive industry changes that took place in the 2010s.
The defeat of ageism in the fashion and beauty industry
The beauty of a woman is often judged against a set of unreasonable standards. ‘Prime’, a concept with which women are deemed hot property according to age. In an industry that is ruled by aesthetics and physical appearances ageism certainly runs deep. However, the 2010s were about defying ageism, as grown women showed their beauty freely and broke barriers. We saw innumerable shifts in the beauty scene overall, however older woman who owned campaigns, the runway, billboards, magazine covers deserve a special mention. ‘Older’ in this case refers to women in their late 40s who are usually forgotten or otherwise discarded in the beauty and modelling industry, often mentioned in remembrance as though they’ve ceased to exist.
Maye Musk, the mother of Tesla and Space X founder-billionaire Elon Musk, with her striking platinum white hair is one such woman. Her five decades long modelling career took a more illustrious turn in the 2010s. In 2013 she appeared on Beyoncé’s video for ‘Haunted’and in 2016 was signed to IMG modelling agency. By 2017 she was announced as the oldest ambassador for the coveted American beauty brand “COVER GIRL”. Musk, now 71, applauded the diversity and being chosen as the face of the brand and said: “They haven’t had a model this old in their campaigns… [sic] I think that women will be really inspired to see that even at 69 you can get a beauty campaign”.
In Calabasas, reality TV star and entrepreneur Kim Kardashian West celebrated age diversity in 2018 by recruiting her mother Kris Jenner and Grandmother Mary Jo who’s well in her 80s to pose alongside each other on a campaign ad for the launch of concealers from the star’s KKW Beauty line. Other campaign shots for the launch followed a similar motif featuring a diverse cast. Apart from the show of different skin tones and body types, older women formed part of the campaign. The effort was a hit with women across all ages, proving that make-up is for women of all ages.
In 2017 Italian luxury designer Versace had a major runway reunion bringing back Carla Bruni (52), Claudia Schiffer (49), Naomi Campbell (49), Cindy Crawford (54) and Helena Christensen (51) often referred to as “THE SUPERS” to close the Versace SS18 show. And it was an epic fashion moment!
The rise of Plus size
The surge in the demand for body inclusivity gave the plus size market a major boost, helping the industry grow in leaps and bounds. The 2010s were a perfect time to be a plus-size model with major glossy magazine covers such as Vogue, ad campaigns and the runway featuring pioneering models such as Ashley Graham, Iska Lawrence and Paloma Elsesser.
In South Africa Yoliswa Mqoco led the charge for plus-size influencers, becoming one of the pioneers of the influencer industry locally and changing the fashion landscape one perfectly executed Instagram picture at a time. The audacious stylist was amongst the 8 women who were fronted one of South Africa’s biggest fashion retailer Jet. The “Jet Love Yourself” Valentine’s campaign wearing underwear which dropped in February 2016. The campaign which was aimed at celebrating all women and promoting self-love for all body sizes created a social media frenzy and prompted countless conversations around body positivity.
Modelling agencies began to take ‘Curve’ models seriously and thus they were able to secure larger contracts and work projects. For example, one of the industry’s most notable supermodels Ashley Graham secured the coveted Sports Illustrated annual edition cover becoming the first plus-size model. She also went to become the first plus size model to appear on Vogue US. She has also walked the runway for prominent fashion designers such as Christian Siriano, Tommy Hilfiger and Dolce n Gabbana. As of 2020 she has an estimated networth of $10 million according to Forbes magazine, ranking higher than plenty slim models. Proving that significant industry and agency support is vital for the bankability and growth of curvy models. Although challenges still exist for plus-size models, the overall progress is commendable.
Granted that many retailers began to invest in plus size collections the lack of a totally inclusive size range remained a major drawback. To address the gap reality TV star and businesswoman Khloe Kardashian launched a denim line in 2016 with business aide Emma Gerde called ‘Good American’, a line that was an instant success for its 00-24 size inclusivity. The brand successfully catered to the scores of bigger women whose sizes were often ignored in the clothing industry. The line went on to break records by being the first denim collection to sell out within 24 hours in the world. Not only that but it pushed other retailers to reconsider and improve their size inclusion scope. Win!
In the undergarments space, Rihanna had a bigger statement to make. By staging a lingerie show like no other – take that Victoria’s Secret!The runway flowed with scores of non-sample size models for her spectacular Savage x Fenty shows. A refreshing departure from the size zero haven of slim models seen at Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and the notoriously miniscule casting of plus sized models on mainstream runway shows.
Mainstream LGBTQI representation became ubiquitous
The make-up industry experienced a major boom in both interest and sales, particularly from millennials and Gen Z. With that came transformation and representation in terms of ambassadors and more space different players to participate freely and openly in the industry. The rise and success of indie brands swept in an unprecedented revolution, forcing major brands to be more gender inclusive in order to compete.
Many of us were introduced to Youtube sensation James Charles when he was announced as the first non-female ambassador for Covergirl in 2016 joining Katy Perry. Then 17yrs old, Charles had already amassed 427, 000 followers on Instagram (currently has over 16million) with his colourful and creative make-up looks. This move arguably smashed open the doors for male make up enthusiasts in terms of securing the bag with major make-up brands.
What ensued shortly after was a huge industry shift as other major brands followed suit, such as Maybelline New York which named Manny Gutierrez (famously known as Manny MUA) as their first male ambassador. Several make-up brands began to recognize male beauty influencers and incorporated male models in their beauty campaign ads.
L’Oreal Paris celebrated inclusivity by tapping into transgender model Hari Nef an ambassador for the mega beauty brand’s diversity campaign. The 1-minute long ‘Your Skin, Your Story’ ad aired during the 2017 Golden Globes awards ceremony marking the first time ever for a transgender model to be a spokesperson for L’Oréal Paris in USA. Nef was also the first transgender model to be signed by IMG modelling agency. The model-actress-activist has continued to soar ever the scene since she broke out in fall 2015 runways for Adam Selman, Hood by Air and Eckaus Latta.
And in the TV scene ‘POSE’ a critically acclaimed TV show about LGBTQ ballroom culture, gave us Billy Porter who instantly became a fashion sensation with his memorable and daring style. The rest of his co-star’s broke boundaries elsewhere with Indya Moore who plays ‘Angel’ on the FX hit show becoming the first transgender person to be on the ELLE cover in May 2019.
Beyond traditional gender norms
It is often said that the changes of a society are often reflected in its fashion and beauty and this was the case in the 10s. Genderless fashion is not a relatively new concept, it dates as far back as the 17thCentury Japan, to the 70s and in modern fashion with designer Rick Owens as one of the pioneers. However, gender fluidity went from being an anomaly to permeating the mainstream in late 2010s. Non-binary fashion took the industry by storm, from Balenciaga, Gucci and Vetements with their gender breaking collections fashion shows, to even the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) adding a unisex/non-binary category to its calendar for NYFW. Fast fashion giants such as H&M and Zara also made attempts with genderless collections, although they were met with constant backlash for their one-sided interpretation of genderless fashion which falls in the dated masculine tropes.
New York-based designer Telfar Clemens of Telfar is one of the designers who have been at the forefront of genderless fashion. In an interview with Highsnobiety in 2018 the designer amongst other things lamented the separation or ‘categorization’ of genderfluid clothes, emphasising that for him it is just – clothes, “It’s not about putting a dress on a guy or whatever — it’s just clothes that look good on everyone.” he said.
In the beauty industry, French luxury house Chanel unveiled a make-up line intended for men titled ‘Boy de Chanel, a declaration of that “beauty is not a matter of gender, it is a matter of style”. But it was the British online fashion and cosmetic retailer ASOS which had a more impactful approach to genderless beauty with the release of its first ever colour makeup collection which was complemented by an inclusive beauty campaign in 2017 for their Face + Body line. The line was also not categorized by gender on their online shopping platform. The campaign visually challenged gender norms by casting both men and women wearing colourful make-up and received praise from many for offering significant queer representation on the ad campaign.
As the number of people feel more comfortable and freer to live their truths it’s imperative for brands to be adequately inclusive in their offerings. According to a recent survey by GLAAD a media monitoring group for LGBT people, over 12 percent of millennials identified as gender-non-conforming. Therefore, a conscious effort by brands to give customers an abundance of beauty products and sartorial choices that allow them to explore their identity and style without gender restrictions is a crucial.
Hijabs became mainstream, beauty, modelling and sports
The diversification in the modelling industry over the past few years is notable in various ways. One of the remarkable changes to come out of the 2010s is the embracing of hijabs. It was late 2016 when a major beauty brand made the call to show Muslim representation in mainstream beauty. CoverGirl chose Nura Afia, a Muslim beauty blogger to be a part of their diverse group of brand ambassadors for the #LashEquality campaign. Nura was the first hijab-wearing ambassador to appear in commercials and billboards for the American beauty brand.
For the longest time a hijab has been associated with women’s oppression by mainstream media but models like Somali-American Halima Aden helped break the stereotype. A woman of several notable firsts, the model grabbed headlines in 2016 for being the first woman to wear a hijab and burkini in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant. The following year, then 19yrs old, the model was the first hijab-wearing model to sign with IMG global agency and within days she made her debut at the New York Fashion Week for Yeezy Season 5, becoming the first hijab-wearing model to walk NYFW.
The model broke even more barriers within a short space of time by being the first hijab-wearing model on the cover of Vogue Arabia and British Vogue and the first model to wear the hijab and burkini in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. As the industry welcomed her Aden asserted the need for inclusivity and said, “we all deserve representation”.
Representation matters, constructive and positive representation matters even more. As more marginalized communities find a voice on social media, Muslim girls are betting on the strong presence of young Muslim girls on the platforms to normalize the hijab, break boundaries and carve a place for themselves. Ultimately everyone wants to feel empowered and the appearance of hijab wearing women in mainstream media makes a strong case for modest fashion.
The future is here
It is safe to say there is no going back as far as transformation is concerned. Across all industries it has become a non-negotiable for brands and companies to show diversity and inclusivity throughout the value chain. The next decade will be shaped by these values and the revolution will continue to reflect in fashion and beauty. As a company’s brand equity continues to rely significantly on progressive social politics, and as ‘wokeness’ continues shape the competition edge, the diversity in industry offerings and the marketing thereof will continue to be fundamental.