The Thinking Consumer II: The consequences of our actions

Following your comments to my previous post, I got to think a bit more about how I feel and what I can do about it.

In my quest to manage those dissonant feelings I’m having towards Mango, I decided to make a list of what it is exactly that is alienating me, and what it is that still attracts me. Sort of a pros and cons or cost-benefit analysis.

Pros:

– Clothes design/quality/price/variety; 

– Spanish company (yes, this is important to me; more Iberian brands please!);

– On the actual online shopping site, they follow the Iberian trend (also followed by Zara) of not showing the model’s face, employing a healthy-looking model, and don’t exaggerate unrealistic posture poses that would distract from the clothing items; It’s a no-fuss, no-eating-disorder-promoting approach that I appreciate; 

– Company managed outlet site; I haven’t heard of many other brands having this type of feature and I think it’s great. It’s basically items from previous seasons that don’t go to waste just because the new ones have replaced them in stores. 

Cons:

– Their marketing campaigns, which are at odds with their online shop approach…

  • What are they really promoting? Can I really ignore them? I mean, even their “Mango Street” community feels unrealistic and staged in every photo. It seems to be limited to young women who are making their way in a modelling career. But what is this initiative really promoting? Is this freeing us all from the strict guidelines of the fashion world by allowing any one of us to have a say? Or is it just an extension of that dictatorship? 
  • Does it push young women to feel that the only way they’ll be acknowledged is through thinning bodies and awkward poses? After all, the ultimate decision on what photos are featured lies with Mango. It’s not like WhatIWear of Fashionfreax communities where every member is featured. And, judging by the available sample, it does appear they have been quite selective. 

I must say that this, however, is not a problem limited to Mango. The majority of clothing brands are doing this, and have done so in the past.

There have been attempts to get the fashion world and clothing industry to acknowledge their impact on body image and take steps to reduce the negative consequences of it. Unfortunately, those attempts were more forced upon the fashion world by society and government, than them actually taking the initiative. 

In Iberia, for instance, the online shop approach mentioned above, i.e., using healthy models, can be traced to the Spanish attempts to reduce the impact of fashion images on eating disorders. Back in 2006, Spain banned unhealthy skinny models from the Madrid Fashion Week. A couple of years later, in 2008, Spain implemented new guidelines for the clothing industry in an attempt to reflect a more accurate base for sizing and hoping for decreasing the negative impact the clothing industry has on women’s body image. 

All good attempts, but are they really working?

While that online selling approach is praise-worthy, the actual marketing approaches, the images that actually reach people, don’t seem to reflect any of those pushes for the fashion and clothing industry to take responsibility.

 They implement some changes to keep all those awful women’s rights groups and politicians happy, but in what really matters, they don’t change a thing. 

It reminds me of an adolescent whose parents have told she/he couldn’t go to the party, but she/he goes anyway, leaving some cushions on the bed and getting out through the bedroom window.

This image from Zara’s recent campaign, for instance, is particularly alarming. It appears that even the little girl was given some make-up contouring retouches to make her cheeks look more hollow. 

I wonder if there will come the day when fashion brands will acknowledge their responsibility and contribution to the impact media has on body image and, consequently, eating disorders (for a review of the scientific literature on this topic, click here). 

I like to be a thinking consumer. And I like to acknowledge my responsibility, no matter how small, on how my actions might influence other people.

I guess what I really want to know is: are my purchases preventing some young girl/woman from being confident about herself and focusing on being healthy, exercising and have a balanced diet? Or are they pushing her to do whatever it takes to have her picture picked up? 

I don’t want to stop enjoying my favourite clothing brand. I’m having so much fun with it!

Winter Aesthetic with Mango and That's Chic

But I don’t want to, in any way, be responsible for the suffering of so many young women out there! 

Personally, my list of pros definitely overpower the cons, as their campaigns don’t seem to affect how I see and conduct myself. But what about the effect on others?? I am not and don’t want to be a mindless, careless, selfish consumer! 

Perhaps the one thing I can do for now, is continue to think, write and promote discussion on this. 

I’ll start with you. What do you think? Do you care about the campaigns of the different clothing brands? Have you noticed whether they influence you in any way?

Thanks for reading

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