The Real Deal

Fashion brands cast non-models in new campaigns

More brands are promoting racial and physical inclusivity in their marketing efforts as they adjust to young people’s shifting demographics and values. In an evolution of this trend, fashion brands are casting real people in campaigns over models, reflecting Cassandra’s finding that youth are seeking more realistic depictions in advertising.


Instead of models, J. Crew invited friends of the brand to walk the runway. The company’s spring/summer collection adorned everyday people—albeit attractive ones—whose day jobs included engineering, bartending, and attending high school. This variety of real people provided a higher level of engagement at the show, unparalleled to when J. Crew had previously used traditional models. By stepping outside of their norm, J. Crew grew consumers’ affinity for the brand by giving people who actually wear their garments on a daily basis a chance to step up to the catwalk.


American Eagle’s sister brand, Aerie, saw sales spike when it began featuring natural models free of Photoshopping. Now, the company is taking its promotion of body positivity a step further by incorporating real people into its marketing. Its latest campaign, “Share Your Spark,” highlights 40 women who come straight from Aerie’s staff as well as customers of the brand. Each woman stars in her own video in which she bares her body in the brand’s garments and shares motivational messages, from stories of overcoming personal struggles to words of encouragement about loving yourself no matter your shape or size.


Founded in 1904, the Georg Jensen brand has stood the test of time. The company is known for creating stunning jewelry and silverware, and now it’s gaining attention for its digital ad that fuses the beauty of their products with the strength of remarkable women. The ad features women from across the globe including award-winning director Suzanne Bier, top chef Dominique Crenn, and Iranian motocross rider Behnaz Shafiei. These women, adorned with pieces by the brand, are shown in their natural roles and are told they can never be “too much” of themselves—a powerful message from a prolific brand.