— Gap (@Gap) August 4, 2014
Fashion’s body image issue is back in the news.
The Gap faced a barrage of criticism for the tweet above featuring what People magazine is calling an “ultra-thin model.” In response, people posted things like, “In what world do people look like this? Perhaps you could select models who represent regular gals & not a skeletor ghost” and “Looks like she needs a hamburger and some sunlight.”
The Gap immediately issued a statement via Edie Kissko, a company spokesperson: “Our intentions have always been to celebrate diversity in our marketing and champion people for who they are. Upon reflection, we understand the sensitivity surround this photograph. Customer feedback is important to us and we think this is a valuable conversation to learn from.”
The statement doesn’t really say anything; it’s not an apology and doesn’t dig too deeply to explain the photo. And that’s fine. In this case, the backlash was unreasonable.
Models are traditionally thin. They shouldn’t be dangerously thin in a way that puts their health in danger. And we should not then take unhealthy images and push them out to the public as a standard of beauty.
But The Gap didn’t do that. The fact is, some people are thin, some very thin. This model could be one of those people. Maybe it’s the dress she’s wearing. Unlike La Perla, which, back in May, dressed a mannequin with exposed ribs in sexy lingerie, The Gap put a model in a modest dress. It’s possible that anyone who wears a size six or smaller would resemble this woman in that dress.
Either way, the response — name-calling and teasing — doesn’t further the conversation and certainly doesn’t mean that the company should rush to apologize. Perhaps The Gap does need to take a more critical eye when determining which images will appeal to the audience. A different model is in the dress on the company’s e-commerce site and it doesn’t appear anyone had a problem with her. She looks pretty thin also. The two women might even be about the same size.
Just because someone complains doesn’t mean they’re justified. In some cases, a company can issue a statement and then agree to disagree. The Gap seems to have done that and it’s the right course of action.