It’s time to “love your underwear,” Everlane declares in its newest marketing campaign. The socially-conscious company debuted its line of cotton bras, panties and bodysuits on March 26.
For decades, underwear has “been designed with someone else in mind,” the women of Everlane wrote in an open letter to consumers. “But times are changing—and so should our underwear. “
Everlane is doing away with the embellishments: “No frills. No bows. No bulls---.”
The company’s ads feature unaltered images of women of all shapes, sizes and colors — with full bellies, stretch marks and cellulite.
The decision to offer honest photos of women’s bodies is likely to win over female consumers, said Angeline Close Scheinbaum, an associate professor of advertising at the University of Texas at Austin.
“For such a long time, the underwear industry has put up this image that in order to be sexy, you can’t be comfortable,” said Alexandra Spunt, head of Everlane’s creative team. “We wanted to show that that isn’t the case by casting these beautiful, natural, confident women who felt super comfortable in their own skin.”
An in-house team of about 15 employees — mostly women — put together the campaign for the underwear line, which ranges in price from $12 to $30 and is manufactured in an ethical factory in Sri Lanka.
More than 30,000 people were on a wait list for its cotton underwear ahead of last week’s launch, and Spunt says women in particular seem to have responded to the new ad campaign. (Its men’s underwear line, by comparison, is being promoted by more traditional models who are young, thin and muscular.)
It’s clear that consumers are growing tired of airbrushed images and unrealistic body types in advertising. Brands such as Dove and Nike have found mainstream success — and racked up millions of dollars in sales — with marketing campaigns that challenge traditional beauty ideals.
Meanwhile, sales at Victoria’s Secret — a company known for its sexy ads and lingerie-filled fashion shows — have been sloping downward for months. The brand’s sales tumbled 8 percent last year, following a flat performance in 2016. The stock price of its parent company, L Brands, has fallen nearly 60 percent since 2016.
And while Victoria’s Secret “angels” may have attracted customers in the past, today’s shoppers increasingly think of the brand as “forced” and “fake,” according to a Wells Fargo consumer survey.
Some have pointed out that Everlane’s message isn’t necessarily all-inclusive. Underwear sizes begin at XXS but max out at XL.
“At first glance, you look at the ads and say, ‘Oh, they’re using unconventional models. It’s not all bone-thin women with enormous breasts like you might see in a Victoria’s Secret ad,’ ” said Meenakshi Gigi Durham, a professor at the University of Iowa whose work focuses on media, gender and sexuality. “But then you look closer, and it still all falls within a fairly limited range of bodies.”
Durham also took issue with some of the wording in the company’s ads.