Dear Lane Bryant*,
While I am Australian and don’t have access to your stores regularly, I am still however one of your customers. I travel to the US every few years, and buy up big when I do, because the clothes are priced better and are of a better quality than many I can find here. I also purchase your bras regularly via a friend in the US, and should you offer international shipping, I would be a shopper there too.
I am a fat woman. I am a very fat woman in fact. But I am a very fat woman with plenty of money to spend on clothes and accessories.
However, I am not ashamed of my fat.
In fact, I can even laugh at the subject of fatness, because there is no shame in fat despite much of the mainstream media implying that there should be.
Which is why I am dismayed at your tweet earlier that is clearly disapproval at this shirt design by Natalie Perkins.
Now I know that the Australian sense of humour doesn’t always translate across the oceans. I learnt that the hard way myself when first in the US. Perhaps the design is not to your taste, that is ok too, taste is a subjective thing. But a little look around at the culture of where the design was coming from would have told you the intentions and story of the design. Where did you hear about the link? Did you look for information about the artist and find out anything about them before you made public criticism of their work? Did you consider who was purchasing the design and whether or not any of those might also be your customers?
The thing is, your customers are fat. They pretty much have to be fat to want or need your product. So wouldn’t it be wise to celebrate those customers? To show some respect for who they are and what they want?
By using euphamisms such as “curvy” and “real women”, you’re implying that “fat” is somehow shameful or negative. By avoiding any connection to the word “fat”, you’re implying that you don’t want fat people as your customers. However, your product is entirely designed for fat people… and fat people only. Please do not pretend that your customers are not fat people, or that you’re not selling your product to fat people. It’s insulting to us and it’s insulting to you.
Instead, if you want a loyal, happy-to-spend customer base, try embracing the very people who make up your core demographic by appreciating them for who they are, as they are.
There is a myth in marketing that you have to create a desire for something other than reality to sell a product. That by making people feel bad about themselves, they spend money on trying to achieve something that they are not. I want to challenge that thinking. I believe that if a company is willing to sell acceptance, and embrace their customers for who they are, to celebrate those customers, they’re building a positive customer experience. When I go shopping, that’s what I’m looking for. That’s what I’m going to want more of when I find it. That is what is going to encourage me to spend more. Not being made feel bad for who I am.
Have the courage to make a difference Lane Bryant*. You will be glad you did in the long run.
*This actually goes for all companies wishing to sell to a fat market.