Topshop, the British retailer with around 500 stores in 37 countries around the world, is known for reasonable prices, a coveted young customer base, and a rapid expansion rate that's the envy of many competing clothing chains. But starting last fall, the fashion giant ran into a serious problem with body image.
When images of a new style of Topshop mannequin surfaced last October, many observers pointed out that the mannequins—absurdly thin, taller than 6’0"—were unrealistic and ridiculous. Last week, after seeing the figures in a store in Bristol, a customer-service rep named Laura Berry posted a comment on Topshop’s Facebook page criticizing the ways in which the mannequins encourage young women to aspire to a “cult image.” Here’s part of Berry’s post, which received thousands of likes and hundreds of shares on Facebook:
I'm calling you out Topshop, on your lack of concern for a generation of extremely body conscious youth. I'm old enough and wise enough to know I will never be this size, but as we've all been impressionable teens at one point, I'm fairly certain if any of us were to witness this in our teenage years, it would have left us wondering if that was what was expected of our bodies... Perhaps it's about time you became responsible for the impression you have on women and young girls and helped them feel good about themselves rather than impose these ridiculous standards.
Though it's unclear whether or not Berry and the company ever communicated privately, Topshop announced this week that it will stop ordering the mannequin style in question. The company is sticking to its claim that the mannequin is “based on a standard UK size 10” (!?!) while simultaneously insisting that it was never meant to “be a representation of the average female body.”
Topshop can take comfort: Its mannequin faux pas wasn't as grave as that of La Perla last year. The luxury lingerie brand removed a mannequin with protruding ribs after it alarmed customers in a New York store.