|3rd January 2012||#1|
Join Date: July 2005
The Fall of Fashion Bug
As the old adage goes, those who do not heed the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.
This is a case in point.
Everyone who follows the plus-size industry will have heard the recent news that Charming Shoppes, the parent company of Lane Bryant, Catherine's, Cacique, etc., plans to sell off its Fashion Bug division:
While this development was entirely predictable, given the chain's dismally uninspiring recent ad campaigns, the news is still jarring. Fashion Bug was Charming Shoppes' first brand, its founding label. Other marques were purchased later, most notably Lane Bryant in 2001, as well as Catherine's in 1999. And despite Lane Bryant's name recognition, Fashion Bugs were far more numerous than Lane Bryant stores at the time of the LB acquisition.
Thus, Charming Shoppes' decision to sell Fashion Bug is analogues to a situation whereby the Sears corporation would sell its eponymous Sears brand, but retain Kmart, Lands' End, etc.
However, as we stated above, this was a completely predictable event. The real reason why Fashion Bug fell is identified in the New York Times article linked above:
How regrettable that "narrowing its shopper demographic" translates to "narrowing its plus-size models." Fashion Bug has failed to produce a single truly, subversively size-celebratory image in years.
Try this experiment: Head over to Fashion Bug right now. What do you see? Lanky size 12s and 12/14s who resemble straight-size girls. Not a single subversively pro-curvy, size-positive image appears anywhere on the site. Fashion Bug advertising has been like this for years. And while neither Lane Bryant nor Catherine's exactly constitute the cutting edge of size celebration, at least their models are a step above Fashion Bug's faux-plus limitations.
No wonder customers lost interest in Fashion Bug. Every public forum or social-networking site that covers the full-figured fashion industry has long been pervaded by requests for fuller-figured plus-size models. Yet in lieu of heeding this consensus in feedback, Fashion Bug went in precisely the opposite direction, veritably running from its customers and featuring smaller, taller, thinner-looking faux-plus girls.
This is the kind of anti-plus thinking that only makes sense to people who have an innate antipathy to womanly curves and will not believe any degree of public entreaties for bigger models, but will stubbornly cling to their own faux-plus mindset, right up until the bitter end.
And in the case of Fashion Bug, the bitter end has come.
What a sad fate for a brand that was once the most size-positive, pro-curvy retailer in the United States.
Incidentally, the Times article links to a local Philadelphia newspaper story from 2009 which covered the Fashion Bug efforts toward "narrowing its shopper demographic." As that article reveals, the Fashion Bug revamp was even worse than one could have imagined:
In other words, not only did the brand begin offering an image of women who weren't actually plus-size (despite the fact that it was targeting plus-size customers), but it also intentionally presented a . . . "mature" image. And mature is inevitably a euphemism for "old."
No wonder the Fashion Bug promotions were so disappointing. Instead of showing plus-size women that they were young and luscious, the chain presented them as being older and diminished. And this was supposed to inspire customer loyalty?
Furthermore, at the time of this "reinvention," Charming Shoppes already had a "mature"-oriented brand: Catherine's. Why the pointless duplication?
Monday-morning quarterbacking is easy, but in retrospect, nothing about the brand's strategy makes any sense.
Perhaps the most galling aspect of the entire sorry mess is that Charming Shoppes had a clear precedent to consider, a precedent so instructive that, had Charming Shoppes heeding its warning, the company might have avoided sinking the Fashion Bug brand.
We stated above that Fashion Bug was once the most size-positive, pro-curvy retailer in the United States. That is no exaggeration. For a long time, Fashion Bug's advertising was far superior to that of Lane Bryant, infinitely more size-celebratory, both before the Charming Shoppes takeover of Lane Bryant and afterwards.
It is the past glory of Fashion Bug that makes its decline and fall such a tragedy. But what adds an extra touch of pain to this story is the fact that Fashion Bug is tied in with the greatest missed opportunity that the fashion industry has ever endured.
Fans have seen each of the following images already, many times over. However, with the current incarnation of Fashion Bug reaching the end of the line, it is worth considering this promotion in full--a campaign that produced the most breathtaking images of feminine beauty that the world has ever seen--to apprehend the heights that Fashion Bug once reached.
The full measure of the beauty of the image only becomes revealed, however, when it is viewed up close. Once she blossomed into a fuller size, Shannon Marie acquired the most gorgeous figure that any plus-size model has ever possessed, but this scan testifies to the fact that the loveliness of her facial features outshone even the perfection of her soft physique. It is in the beauty of her countenance that earns Shannon the distinction of being the loveliest woman ever photographed. Her visage was gorgeous even when she was a straight-size model, but the extra fullness that she acquired as she grew more opulent enriched her features, enhancing the seductive curve under the chin, cultivating an even more feminine roundness to her look. This is not only the most angelic face that we have ever seen, but also the most sensual, with a well-fed, fleshy appearance that is utterly intoxicating. It is not an exaggeration to say that the beauty of all other models is measured by the degree to which they resemble Shannon Marie.
A second image in the flyer confirms that the one way in which the plus-size fashion industry has advanced over the past decade is in the quality of the clothing, as this black ensemble is regrettably formless. Nevertheless, Shannon Marie transforms this into yet another image of superlative beauty. Observe that four of the five images in this campaign show her in states of repose, attesting to her seductive indolence. This image in particular conveys an alluring suggestion of the model's weight. Shannon possesses the loveliest figure of any plus-size goddess, and though only her forearms are visible in the image, observe their full, untoned roundness, the most pleasing, feminine shape imaginable. The stone embankment upon which she rests has the look of ancient Roman masonry, further associating the image with Classical Antiquity and Shannon herself with ancient deities of beauty.
Here too, the supreme magic of the image only stands revealed when we view it up close, at a size that permits one to appreciate the loveliness of the model's face. No other model has ever so deftly captured the Mona-Lisa-like look of an almost-smile, but Shannon adds a captivating pout to the expression which betokens her mischievous side. The dark eye makeup emphasizes the mysterious aspect of the model's allure, a shadowy side that most fair-haired models cannot generate. Here too the richness of her facial features is evident, with a slight hint of a curve under the chin. Her clavicle is wholly submerged in soft fullness--the tell-tale characteristic of the lavishly indulged goddess.
As noted above, Mode magazine, in the final year of its publication, was but a shadow of its former self, having diminished the size of its models to present-day faux-plus proportions. (Indeed, for all that Mode is remembered as the finest plus-size fashion magazine ever published, it must bear some of the blame for instigating the faux-plus phenomenon.) However, the two Shannon Marie Fashion Bug ads which the magazine published in 2001 recalled Mode's most size-positive origins.
Radiant, isn't she? Shannon possesses the most flawless complexion with which any model has ever been blessed. Her peaches-and-cream skin veritably glows with a soft effulgence, as if it were lit from within. Here again is that bewitching pout, a smile pressing upon the model's soft, full lips--naturally full, not artificially created. The hairstyle is an intriguing update of a beehive, a look that takes up the model's tresses but still indicates the voluptuous profusion of her golden mane. And oh, those eyes: translucent, with an extraordinary yellow-green hue, the most singular eye colour we have ever seen, the only shade even more beautiful that fair blue.
Four of the five images of this campaign appear to have been shot in an attractive, historicist locale with gorgeous Neoclassical touches (possibly the Biltmore Hotel, a Miami landmark favoured by fashion photographers), but one of the two Fashion Bug ads from Mode shows the model in an indoor setting, garbed in various hues of purple. The green chair harmonizes with the violet fabric, and the golden touches in the image, including Shannon's tresses and the sunlit wall in the background, complement both. Her tresses are brushed forward, caressing her soft face, framing it, and flowing freely over her shoulders.
We will never forget the first day that we saw this image. We audibly gasped. The look of radiant fullness in the model's facial features is intoxicating. As goddesses indulge themselves and blossom into a curvier size, their visages may take on a rosy glow of self-satisfaction, which is the quality that the model's countenance exhibits here. Shannon possesses the most perfectly formed bone structure that any model has ever possessed, yet in this image, the supremely sensual extra weight in her face has enriched the innate beauty of her features, rounding her perfect jawline and filling out her cheeks, the final impression being a luxuriantly well-fed look. Even her lips appear plumper than before. The look that she adopts is one of voluptuous desire, a carnal fleshiness that makes the heart race. No other model, garbed in such a casual outfit, could create such a masterpiece of seductive sensuality. For the final, most size-positive touch of all, note the swell of roundness at her midsection (though partly obscured by the pose). This image represents Shannon Marie at her most richly proportioned.
The final image of the campaign will be abundantly familiar to Judgment of Paris readers, as it has been posted on this forum on many occasions. It remains the most breathtaking image of timeless beauty ever created. This is our own photograph of a Fashion Bug poster which appeared in the stores right at the time that the flyer and the Mode ads were published. It was clearly part of the same shoot, given the familiar Neoclassical setting. In this poster, even more than in the print ads, the stonework recalls fragments of ancient Roman masonry, as if Shannon Marie were reposing on the physical remnants of Classical Antiquity. The dress is a tad loose (the lone shortcoming of the image), but its red hue bespeaks the model's voluptuous nature, for only a goddess with unbridled passions and appetites could blossom into such an opulent size. The seductive slit of the dress at the bottom exposes a hint of the model's luscious legs. Loose though the dress may be, it embraces the model's reverse-view curves, partially perceived in the image, creating a curve which suggests the overall fullness of the model's figure and imparting to her an alluring sense of weight. The finest feature of the dress is the fact that it is sleeveless, thus baring the model's opulent, fleshy arms--the most beautiful arms that any goddesses has ever possessed, their shape entirely due to natural fullness, free of any trace of unsightly "tone."
Ultimately, one shouldn't be too critical of anything associated with Charming Shoppes. While the mishandling of Fashion Bug in recent years has been regrettable, the company has simultaneously fielded Sonsi, and Sonsi, in turn, has sponsored the existence of FFFWeek, which staged the most exciting and size-positive runway show in the history of the fashion industry, a show where the models began at a size 14, and which prominently featured Judgment of Paris favourites (Kelsey Olson, Katherine Roll, and Lindsey Garbelman) in sizes 16 and 18, and sent those models down the runway in sleeveless, body-conscious styles--even in lingerie.
"Better use?" The best use of some of the company's capital would be to book more gorgeous and genuinely full-figured models and to feature them in unforgettable campaigns, such as the wondrous promotion from 2001 which we have highlighted in this thread. From this, all else will flow.
Let us hope that whichever company purchases Fashion Bug will review the company's past advertising triumphs--this campaign in particular--and seek to emulate it. If it does, then the public will rediscover the appeal of this once-popular brand, and the label will enrich the world with further gorgeous, size-celebratory images, just as it did in its heyday.
- Shannon Marie Galleries
|1st February 2012||#2|
Join Date: October 2010
The Avenue Goes Under
I have to agree that if there has ever been a definitive embodiment of the plus-size ideal, an unsurpassable representative of timeless beauty, it's Shannon Marie. Her facial features exhibit supermodel perfection, but they are also full and round, with visible weight and a pretty curve under the chin. And her physique has a full, fleshy roundness that is archetypally feminine.
I thought of the sad fate of Fashion Bug today when I read that another plus-size retailer, the Avenue, has gone under:
As the article notes:
Another article suggests that at least someone has a clue as to why this has happened:
The truth is buried in one word in this passage.
"Marketing." There you go. Many chains are weathering the same economy that Avenue is facing, but they're doing fine while Avenue is tanking.
What unites Fashion Bug and Avenue is a common problem: they're both stuck on using faux-plus models. At least Fashion Bug has a history of better casting decisions in the early part of the 2000s. But Avenue has been locked into its rigid, faux-plus standards ever since the later days of Mode. For a decade, all I've ever seen in Avenue advertising is lanky, straight-size-looking girls, with no visible fullness in their figures. Not one at a size 18, nor a 16, and even if there were any 14s, they were the tallest, skinniest kind.
This approach has turned me off the chain entirely. I could never support a brand with such anti-plus advertising policies, a chain that takes the money of women size 16+ but acts like it's too ashamed of visibly plus bodies to ever show them in its clothing.
August Max Woman, Fashion Bug, Avenue . . . what is with the people who run these companies? Why do individuals with such an obvious distaste for generous womanly curves end up helming plus-size brands? Why can't these people work in minus-size fashion, which is clearly the aesthetic that they prefer, and have people who actually love the plus-size aesthetic in charge of full-figured fashion labels?
Clearly the faux-plus approach is NOT yielding positive sales results. (On the contrary, it's killing every company that tries it.) So if nothing else, the hard lessons of August Max Woman and Fashion Bug and Avenue should put an end, once and for all, to the myth that curvy women only want to buy clothing when it's shown on false-plus models and reject advertising with true plus-size models. On the contrary, the dire straights of these curve-shunning brands shows that women reject faux-plus frauds, and DO want to see advertising with models whose visibly full figures reflect their own physiques.
Last edited by HSG : 1st February 2012 at 20:10. Reason: URL edited
|17th April 2012||#3|
Join Date: November 2008
Re: The Fall of Fashion Bug
Well, it appears that someone has purchased the bankrupt Avenue chain.
I shook my head in dismay when I read this portion of the article.
If this new president is the same person who presided over the fall of Fashion Bug as it declined into using faux-plus models, then my hopes for the future of the Avenue are not great.
If she really wants to make the Avenue "the leading U.S. retailer for plus-size women," then here's a basic first step:
Use genuinely full-figured plus-size models!
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