The woman who popularized the “Fatkini” trend in 2012 has a new project for 2018: swimwear for all (quite literally).
Gabi Gregg, the woman behind popular fashion blog GabiFresh, is collaborating with the brand Swimsuits for All to create a line called Power Play, which aims to inspire confidence through its flattering designs and inclusive campaign.
To find models for the new bikinis, one-pieces, and coverups, Gregg held an open casting call in Los Angeles — and more than 500 women showed up. Some even flew across the country for a chance to be chosen. So how did Gregg whittle down the list? “I didn’t go in with any specific expectations or limitations because I really wanted to have an open mind when I was casting. The only thing I knew for sure is that I wanted to have a diverse range of women, especially when it came to body types and race and size,” Gregg tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
But the requirements weren’t just about looks. “We asked each woman why she was there, what wearing a swimsuit meant to her, and a little bit of her story. That way I was able to gauge her confidence and how she would be on camera,” Gregg explains.
Ultimately, Gregg selected nine women who ranged from size 10 to size 26 — which are all available in the collection. For Gregg, it was important to her to not just show “the typical hourglass body” but “women of all shapes, sizes, and races” so that women everywhere “could see themselves reflected.”
But while Gregg and Swimsuits for All have made the effort to show “real” women in their swimwear, they’re an exception to the rule. One noticeable example of a company that seems to be taking the opposite route is the cult, celebrity-favorite label Solid & Striped. The brand came under fire earlier this year after releasing a campaign featuring 12 thin white models — and only one model of color (Jourdan Dunn). The images struck a chord with many people who called out the campaign for its lack of diversity and representation. This prompted the brand’s CEO to issue an apology, promising to “do better.”
In the case of Solid & Striped, Gregg says that it was “beautifully done” and that the “women are gorgeous,” but added that it’s still “disappointing to see a swim campaign with all the same size, and mostly the same race.” But she also sees a silver lining: “The backlash, and the kind of controversy around that campaign shows how far we have come as a society. People are raising their voices and saying, ‘Hey, we want to see more diversity; this isn’t cool.'” She adds that if that image was used a few years ago, “it would’ve just been seen as normal.”
Although there have been strides — such as Ashley Graham‘s 2016 Sports Illustrated cover, more diverse model casts on the runway, and established brands like Loft moving into plus-size clothing — Gregg says there’s still more work to be done.
“We definitely need to see more diversity in all campaigns across the board and specifically in swim, as swim is a different category where we have a lot of skin exposed and women still feel a little insecure about their ‘flaws,'” says Gregg. However, she adds, brands like Swimsuits for All can “help push the needle and move the industry forward and show that you can have fun and look beautiful and be confident in swimwear regardless of your size.”
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