As you know I’m passionate about inclusion, normalization, and celebration of body diversity. I truly believe “healthy is an outfit that looks different on every body.” When companies like Shimano (bike components) are producing mini-documentaries like All Bodies on Bikes, and industry giants like Nike and Lululemon are expanding their sizing to be more inclusive, it feels like progress (albeit small progress, they still only serve up to a 3x). Companies like SuperFit Hero that carry the equivalent of a 7XL (bravo!) are legit changing the standards for athletic wear.
We are also seeing this shift reflected in the marketing strategies these companies utilize. Through their imagery through to their copy and culture, we’re witnessing a change. It’s powerful and empowering for athletes of all sizes. Case in point? As Lululemon makes a bid at the running market they’ve not only partnered with more traditional choices (read: the women who lead the pack), they’ve also partnered with kick-ass bigger boddied ultra-runner Mirna Valario.
But where there’s light, there’s always darkness (or at least shadows).
Other companies appear to be jumping on the “body positive” marketing strategy but yet don’t actually reflect that change in their product. They’re jumping on the bandwagon of using body-positive marketing, without actually serving the body-positive market.
While I love what the rising trend of body positivity has done to raise the conversation and change the dialogue, more often than not it feels like corporate lip service. A hat-tip to inclusion and representation, without follow through to their product. This begs the question, are they joining the “bopo movement” as a marketing strategy or because they believe in it?
Recently a friend sent me this mini-documentary produced by manufacturer Salomon about 3 women overcoming stereotypes in the outdoors. It was truly inspiring. YES to slaying stereotypes and changing the narrative.
One of the women featured was in a bigger body. They showcased how she was honouring her mental and physical health by being an avid hiker. Yet they still don’t offer beyond a 2X. Side bar: I only realized they carry it because I went looking for this information, I’ve literally never seen anything beyond an XL Salomon garment in a store. While that sounds great (yay, 2X!), from my experience their sizing is what is called “athletic fit” in the industry (read: it if fits small). So their 2X is actually more like an XL, if that. Not so inclusive in my opinion.
Here’s the problem: the explicit message of the documentary is “you belong here” and yet their clothing size range says “no you don’t.”
It is this type of inconsistency in marketing and product line that I find really discouraging. So, rather than simply be ticked about it and black list them, I emailed them about it. Because activism requires action.
Here’s what I said:
I wanted to write to tell you that I’m both wildly impressed and also disappointed.
I first want to say that I love your product. High-quality athletic gear is something I value as an avid outdoors-loving woman! And I’m disappointed.
Your video “Her Way” was about 3 women breaking stereotypes and included a woman in a bigger body. The mini-documentary was SO well done and was really powerful. Thank you for doing this important work to break stereotypes and redefine norms. It makes me think you too are interested in breaking stereotypes as a corporation – that is wonderful! We need more corporations like yours joining this necessary conversation.
And yet, your largest size is a 2x. And my experience is that Salomon is an “athletic fit” which means a 2X is really more like an XL.
I LOVE that you’re going after breaking down norms. And, I really wish you’d back it by offering apparel that fit more diverse bodies too. As an XL-2X body, I can wear your clothes. But I have MANY clients who are active, kick-ass, strong, adventuring women who could not.
Is it in your plan to expand your sizing to offer more inclusivity? If not, can you consider how you are potentially inspiring bigger-bodied women only to say that they DON’T actually belong because they can’t wear your clothing? Are you truly breaking stereotypes if you don’t serve this population? Just some food for thought.
Gillian Goerzen, Body Positive health + fitness coach
Here’s the pretty standard reply I got (within 15 minutes)…
Thank you for contacting Salomon. We have received your email and would like to thank you for taking the time to write to us.
The most valuable information we can receive from customers is feedback about how our products are performing in the field. Hearing product experiences allow us to see what our consumers would like to see in our designs and areas where we can improve.
We would like you to know that your feedback about sizes will be reported to our product manager. Hopefully, we will be able to improve our product line or offer more variety that better suit everyone’s needs in the future.
Again, we appreciate you taking the time to write to us and are always happy to receive feedback. If you have any questions or require additional help please directly reply to this email or give us a call. We will be more than happy to help in any way that we can.
Laoura, Salomon Consumer service
Am I surprised?
Nope. It’s a standard response. Will it make a difference? Don’t know. Time will tell.
But what I do know is that me taking the step to advocate makes ME feel like I’m making a difference and THAT matters.
Why am I sharing this?
My intention is not to slander Salomon as a company. Honestly, I had assumed their largest size was XL, and so the fact that they carry a 2X is some progress. And I’ll take some progress.
My ultimate intent is to shine a light on something I see as a really big problem. Because more and more companies are jumping on the “body positive” train and while I love that, when the marketing and product lines aren’t reflective of the same value, at best it’s ignorant, at worst it’s a cruel form of gaslighting. Bottom line? I fully believe in assuming the best in people and companies. So I’m going to assume they really do want to do better. And change isn’t possible if they don’t see the problem.
What if they aren’t aware of how this comes across?
I recognize my privilege to learn about these issues and be informed, perhaps they aren’t aware. So, (hopefully) with respect and kindness I’ve offered them something to ponder. My hope is that I’ve planted a seed (albeit a small one to a big organization).
I’m sharing this experience with you so that you too might see the incongruence between the “company line” and the “company culture/ philosophy.” And to encourage you to also call it when you see it – with curiousity, kindness, and respect.
Here are some ways you can give corporations and businesses feedback:
- Let businesses know you’re not “engaged” with your follows, and likes on social media – if they lose engagement they’ll begin to explore what is/ is not working.
- Vote with your dollars – if they don’t represent themselves in a way that you find to be kind, respectful, and integral, choose to re-allocate your funds to companies that do!
- Communicate your dissatisfaction with your voice – call, write a letter, comment – lead with curiosity, kindness, and respect. It’s ok if you’re frustrated and angry, but I rarely find that’s the way to affect change.
- Share blogs like this and start a dialogue.
- Have conversations and ask tough questions.
Whatever you choose to do, I invite you to notice it, and take some form of action. When we can begin to see incongruence we can divert our attention, we curate a world that truly reflects the values we wish to collectively uphold. What we normalize becomes normal.
If I receive any further communication from Salomon I will be sure to update this blog. If you would like to message them yourself, you can submit your feedback on their website here.