Celebrating their 30 year anniversary, River Island has launched a campaign honouring diversity with the tagline “Labels Are For Clothes”. Collaborating with international anti-bullying charity Ditch The Label, the high street brand is encouraging their consumers to reject social conventions and embrace their true selves.
Shot by photographer Richard Burbridge and styled by Ondine Azoulay, the campaign features 12 new spokespeople who appear subject to social stereotypes. Each shot is accompanied with a clothes label featuring the tagline, which is also available on t-shirts and sweatshirts. £3 of every sale of these items will be donated to Ditch The Label, who provide emotional and physical support to those impacted by bullying.
Although featuring a diverse range of models, inclusive of all ethnicities, genders, sexualities and body sizes, the campaign fell rather short in attempting to remove labels from our society. The collection is categorised between ‘Men’ and ‘Women’ which instinctively places labels and constrictions on what clothing each sex should wear. Although featuring Stav Strashko, an Israeli trans model, with the caption “I Was Born Male. 100% Woman”, the collection does little to inspire customers to dress for their own gender expression.
The collection is rather dated, with no clear attempt to dismantle the social conventions placed on fashion based on gender. The items listed under the men’s section are stereotypical, bland, and clearly aimed at those who believe wearing pink is a radical political statement on gender conformity. Although featuring a genderless model, there is no attempt to bridge the social taboo that exists between being male and expressing femininity.
The men proposed to us in this campaign conform to stereotypical masculine archetypes, which poorly reflects the direction of major fashion houses during this year’s past fashion weeks. Instead of incorporating a soft approach to men’s fashion, clearly outlined in Moschino’s AW18 collection, River Island baits gender deconstruction while still appealing to a conservative audience.
However while saying that, this campaign does make clear attempts to end discrimination based on your ethnicity and cultural heritage. Introducing Zara Sheriff, River Island’s first hijabi model, into this campaign is extremely topical as it urges customers to not stereotype based on the appearance of others. Hopefully, this exposure will inspire young women to be proud of their cultural heritage, and teach others to respect different cultures.