May 30, 2013 at 3:11 PM ET
H&M wants to make reality more mainstream.
The company’s chief executive said the Swedish-based brand strives to showcase a variety of body shapes in its advertising, but he admits it's been difficult to follow through.
“Some of the models we’ve had have been too skinny. That’s something we think a lot about and are working on,” Karl-Johan Persson said in an interview with Metro. “We want to show diversity in our advertising and not give people the impression that girls have to look a particular way.”
Last month, the label quietly released its beachwear collection featuring Jennie Runk, a curvier, “more buxom model” with more realistic body proportions, Persson noted. Current ads now feature Beyoncé, “who’s a bit curvier as well,” he said.
“We have a huge responsibility here. We’re a large company, many people see us, and we advertise a lot,” he said.
Persson noted there’s still room for improvement, acknowledging the need for more discipline to correct past “mistakes” in the retailer's choice of models.
“In some cases, there are models where we say, ‘H&M doesn’t work with such models.’ So we’re not blind to the issue,” he said. “But I have to be honest and say that some of our models have been too skinny. That’s not OK.”
An H&M spokeswoman said the company did not have any comments beyond what Persson told Metro. However, she did address media reports that the Swedish-based brand retouched photos of a bikini-clad Beyoncé to shrink some of her famous curves, angering the superstar in the process.
“Our purpose has always been to portray Beyoncé as the strong and beautiful woman she is,” the spokeswoman said. “It has been a good working process and a close cooperation. Both parties are happy with the pictures."
Model size has been trending recently after another retailer’s CEO was quoted as saying his brand refused to make clothing for large women because it didn’t want overweight women wearing their brand.
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids,” Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries said in a 2006 interview with Salon that went viral after being highlighted earlier this month in a story by Business Insider.
“Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”
Persson didn’t address those comments directly but said the topic of using more realistic models gets raised constantly.
“We’ve talked a lot about it here at H&M. I say, healthy model, always! And everyone here feels the same way.”