I don’t consider myself to be an overly sensitive person, but recently I had an experience that made me second guess this self-acclaimed fact.
It started when I received a response from a retailer from one of my pull requests. As a stylist, a big part of my job is working with retailers to showcase their product through different mediums. Sometimes it’s on TV, in a fashion editorial, my blog, instagram, or a live presentation. My favourite part of working with brands is the challenge of featuring their product in a way that the masses may not have previously considered. Sometimes retailers decide not to participate in whatever project I’m pitching to them, and that’s totally cool.
Most recently, I invited stores to participate in a maternity style session at Bayshore Shopping Centre. Hosted on a busy weekend, we wanted to encourage newly pregnant mamas to be that they don’t have to sacrifice their personal style for 9 months. There are a plethora of non-conventional maternity options in our world of fashion to get you through 9 months of a changing body without having to purchase an entirely new wardrobe that you may or may not love. Don’t get me wrong; maternity offerings are improving a great deal, but why limit yourself to them? Why immediately categorize yourself in the “maternity” box? With the army of celebrities that are continuously rocking baby bumps on the red carpet and on the street with serious style cred, the fashion landscape is changing, and pregnant ladies are part of that.
Shortly after I had sent out my pull requests, I began to receive responses, and this one from a Canadian retailer incited an emotional reaction that I had not anticipated. In addition to politely declining the pull request because the concept didn’t fit with the brand’s DNA, I was sent their brand statement so I could properly understand why this wasn’t a good fit. Here it is:
“… outfits young women with a taste for fashion, a sense of personal style, and a desire to be on trend. Smart, sexy, and noticeable, our curated assortment of trend-inspired collections and authentic brand experience, makes women feel confident and beautiful from day to night catering to all their lifestyle needs.”
It wasn’t because I would have to find another store to pull from, and it wasn’t because I didn’t appreciate their commitment to a strong image; I was irked because there was nothing in their brand statement didn’t apply to pregnant women. Does this mean that pregnant women cannot be young, have a taste for fashion, a sense of personal style, or a desire to be on trend? Do they not want their pregnant customers to also feel confident and beautiful from day to night? And finally, last time I checked, being blessed with a healthy pregnancy is a lifestyle, and the result of having to dress a changing body isa subsequent lifestyle need – doesn’t their “curated assortment of trend-inspired collections and authentic brand experience make women feel confident and beautiful form day to night catering to all their lifestyle needs.”??
I understand that from a business and marketing perspective, brands need to remain laser focused in the initiatives they take on due to an oversaturated market and competitive retail sector. But it was the added description of their brand statement which, instead of its original purpose of justifying a business decision, shone a spotlight on completely discounting pregnant women as customers that are “young women with a taste for fashion, a sense of personal style, and a desire to be on trend.” Why don’t any of these qualities apply to pregnant women?
Had they left it at not wanting to participate because it wasn’t a good fit for their brand, I would have accepted it. There were a few other brands that did this too – which was annoying, but it was the intentional inclusion of the brand statement that so blatantly excluded my maternity audience.
Despite the fact that I am nowhere near carrying a baby, I felt the unpleasant sting of discrimination after reading this email – it was quite unexpected. I had to check myself – was I being overly sensitive? I don’t think so, because following that feeling of indignation for having my audience excluded simply for being pregnant, came disappointment. Disappointment that a Canadian retailer didn’t want to take advantage of a booming demographic that ultimately makes almost all of the purchase decisions in Canadian households. (Delve into that data here).
Like all things however, the show must go on, and I found some awesome stores that were willing to work with maternity style despite the fact that they don’t market themselves as “maternity”. Thank you H&M, White House Black Market, Old Navy, Browns Shoes, and The Hudson’s Bay for being open to this project (which went off beautifully, by the way), and for allowing me to use your product in a manner you may not have originally intended. It’s the best part of my job, and the fact that I’m trusted with the privilege of using your product in a particular way while still maintaining your brand is one I take seriously. As serious as fashion can be, anyway.
Note that this is solely my opinion and does not represent the opinions of any parties mentioned in this post.