Currently at L. Royalty we’ve been working on a new plus size collection, which has gotten us talking about diversity in the fashion industry. To learn more, I decided to do some research on one major brand that’s spent the past few years working to transform the fashion industry: Aerie. This week, I’ll be focusing on inclusivity in modeling and fashion as shown by Aerie and the brand’s “Role Models”. Since 2016, the company has chosen a number of different models to represent their brand. Their first role model was Iskra Lawrence, a British plus-sized model who is still part of the campaign today. They seek out women who are more than just models, but can also be an inspiration to the girls and young women that shop at Aerie.

The 2020 #AerieREAL lineup includes 13 models, and shows more diversity than almost any other major fashion brand has ever offered.

This year, eight new models were added. Among them were actresses Lana Condor, known for her role in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018), and Beanie Feldstein, who was in two of my favorite coming of age movies, Lady Bird in 2017 and Booksmart in 2019. Transgender model and activist Hari Nef is also one of the 2020 additions. Ali Stroker, another new model, was the first wheelchair user on a Broadway stage, and won a Tony for her performance. Next is Manuela Barón, a sustainability activist who makes beautiful art out of trash. Another model is Dre Thomas, whose organization Smile On Me provides sanitary products to girls living in poverty, and empowers them to be their best selves. Next is Tiff McFierce, the first Black female Resident DJ in the NBA, who is currently working at Madison Square Garden for the New York Knicks. Finally, Keiana Cavé is a scientist who has worked on everything from cleaning oil spills to inventing the first non-hormonal birth control pill. I think all of these women were great choices for the brand, because they each have their own causes that they’re fighting for to make the world a better place. Each one brings their own unique voice and experience to the table, to make for a well-rounded group that are more than just gorgeous women, they’re also committed to making a difference in the world today. From body positive activists, to barrier-breaking musicians, to a scientist on the forefront of clean energy, each one of them serves as an inspiration for girls to follow their own dreams.

In 2014, Aerie made the bold choice to stop retouching any of their photos, which is still out of the ordinary, especially for a lingerie brand. This sparked the brand’s activism that eventually led to the introduction of their #AerieREAL Role Models that are featured today. Their choice to not retouch photos transformed their brand and has set them apart from competitors. You can almost feel the difference when you’re in an Aerie store, the pictures on the walls feel refreshing, because no one in them is entirely perfect. Every model is beautiful in their own way, but they’re still people, not airbrushed or retouched beyond recognition. As I was growing up, being able to shop at a place where you can see photos of models with curves, birthmarks, freckles, or stretch marks definitely made an impact on me. Teenage years can be hard on girls, as society’s expectations of what women are supposed to look like pressure them from every angle: on tv, in magazines, and online. I’m happy to see that Aerie continues to use their fashion and platform to uplift the girls who shop at their stores.

They’s also started a new initiative this year, which grants $400,000 to customers who are leading the fight for change in their own communities. 20 winners will receive $20,000 each. Participants filmed videos for Aerie, telling them how they work to improve their communities and what the money could do for them before going through a second stage of interviews, and the winners will be announced in the fall. They’ll also have a chance to be featured alongside the brand’s Role Models to share their stories and the causes they’re fighting for. I didn’t know about this before, but now I can’t wait to see who’s going to win and how they’ll use the money to make a difference!

Overall, this was some of my favorite research I’ve gotten to do for L Royalty! Being able to read about a brand I know and love and learn about so many inspiring women I’d never heard of before was so interesting. As much as I enjoy buying used clothes to be more sustainable, and to shop at small businesses whenever possible, it’s great to see that a major brand like Aerie is working to enact real change in the industry. They’re one of the biggest lingerie brands in the United States, and are particularly popular with Gen-Z. In many ways, being an underwear brand for young women is a responsibility, and one that Aerie is taking seriously by committing to empowering women with their campaigns. Instead of over-sexualized photos with unrealistic bodies that pressure girls to look and act a certain way, they show role models, living their lives comfortable in their own skin.

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