Four body-positive brands the UK high street could learn from

Hollie looks to global shops for the inclusivity she’s not seeing in the UK

These days, every brand and their dog has a ‘body positive’ campaign going on. But how many of these brands are legitimately harnessing body positivity, and not just using it as an on-trend marketing tool?

There are plenty of social media posts flying around featuring plus-sized models and appearing to promote inclusivity. But if you take a closer look at the practicalities — such as walking into a shop and trying on clothes in your size — high street brands can actually be incredibly alienating and exclusive.

But there are some brands that are doing it right — and that the UK high-street could learn from. Read on for four powerful brands from around the world that are harnessing body positivity — in the right way — for plus-sized people.

Nike

Image credit: The Guardian

Nike, the biggest brand on our list, champions women and inclusivity in sport by using rousing feminist mantras (shout-out to Serena Williams) and promoting intersectionality by showing people of colour, white, queer and non-binary gender in their ads.

Their plus-size mannequins, unveiled in their flagship store in London earlier this year, instigated a million different responses and discussions all across the internet (and, of course, not all responses were positive), but their intentions were made clear: to celebrate the diversity and inclusivity of sport, and represent all female athletes — not just stick-thin size 8s with thigh gaps.

Knix

Image credit:Instagram

Knix is a Canadian underwear brand known for its period pants and range of super comfortable bras.

Knix has always been a brand that puts women’s comfort and confidence at the centre of everything it does. Whether it’s wireless and supportive bras (like Knix’s highly-praised high impact sports bra for a range of different-sized boobs), or period underwear that is leakproof, moisture-wicking and anti-odour, the brand is disrupting underwear norms and designing revolutionary underwear that celebrates our bodies.

Unlike many underwear brands who rely on hypersexualisation to sell their products, Knix uses a diverse range of models with all sorts of different body types and sizes to promote their products on social media and on their site. Their inclusive imagery (which is untouched by photo editing software) celebrates the beauty of different bodies, showing their commitment to body positivity for all body sizes.

Universal Standard

Image credit: Instagram

In Universal Standard’s founders’ letter to their customers on their About Us page, they tell us that before starting their company, they “lived in a world in which access [to well-fitting clothes] was limited”.

And for many plus-sized people, this is true. In the US, where 67% of women wear a US size 14 (a UK size 18), the options are so limited that it suggests a complete lack of care or respect for anyone plus-sized (despite them making up the majority of the market).

Universal Standard is seeking to change that. This US-based brand wants women to be able to shop without anxiety, fear, or regret. That’s why they’re offering high-quality, well-designed wardrobe essentials to all women — no matter their clothing size.

Their thoughtful yet powerful size-inclusive approach is helping not only to change people’s retail experiences and promote body positivity, but to also empower the industry to embrace inclusion.

And Comfort

Image credit: And Comfort

High-end clothing is rarely offered to women above a certain size. And Comfort founder Karine Hsu recognised the struggle that plus-sized women had to find anything of quality for special occasions — most larger pieces were limited to cheap material, tacky prints, and synthetic fibres.

By offering versatile collections of clean designs and minimalist wardrobe staples in US sizes 10 to 28, And Comfort is giving plus-sized women options that they just didn’t have before.

Not only does the brand have style at the centre of everything it does, but it also places emphasis on sustainability. And Comfort uses sustainable natural fabrics from the same mills that luxury couture designers use, created in an eco-friendly way and with ethical production methods.

It’s reassuring to know that among all of the superficial use of plus-size models by profit-hungry brands jumping on the body positivity bandwagon, that there are some legit inclusive brands out there. The brands above are challenging fashion norms and harnessing body positivity — not just for their plus-sized customers, but for the retail industry as a whole.

These positive changes should be happening here in the UK too. As an industry, the UK high street needs to learn from brands like this, and apply these lessons to become more inclusive and body-positive.

Body positive movement isn’t just a phase: it’s here to stay. Let’s hope that the movement spreads, and it changes plus-sized shopping experiences for the better.

Where would you recommend for a plus-sized shopper? Send your hot tips over on our socials. 

Support more young people to have their voices heard

Rife is Watershed‘s online magazine created for young people, by young people.

We offer paid internships and publish work by young writers, photographers, illustrators, and filmmakers from all sorts of backgrounds, helping them get into creative careers. Rife has reached over 8,000 young people through our workshops, over 220 young people have made stuff for Rife on topics ranging from mental health to identity to baked beans, and last year, over 200,000 people visited our website.

In these complex and uncertain times hearing from and supporting young people who are advocating for social change and contributing fresh perspectives has never been so important. 

Through supporting Rife you can ensure that this important work continues and that more young people have their voices heard.