Levi’s Curvy Controversy

With the headline “All Asses Are Not Created Equal” Levi Strauss jeans came out with a new line of jeans this August called Curve ID. Straying from their typical, straight-legged, no-curve style of the past, Levi came up with “a new revolutionary custom fit system based on shape, not size.”

The company studied women from around the globe using surveys and 3-D body scans to identify three “distinct body types that account for 80 percent of women’s shapes.” The three shapes are Slight Curve (for those less endowed with junk in the trunk…aka me), Demi Curve, and Bold Curve (we’re talking J-Lo). Each of the shapes comes in sizes ranging from 0-16.

In an exclusive interview with a reporter from the popular blog The Frisky, Mary Alderete, Levi’s vice president of Global Women’s Marketing, said, “Our main message was to educate the world, because this is a real shift for the industry, where women normally buy jeans by waist size and leg opening, we needed to educate women that there’s three ways to be any size and that our jeans are made to fit the curve of a woman’s body.”

Sounds like a great idea to me. Even Ellen Degeneres featured them on her show. Personally, I think it’s about time we go by a woman’s shape and not her “size” which changes from brand to brand.

So, what’s the problem?

As soon as they hit the market, these jeans “based on shape not size” stirred up quite the controversy. Bloggers and feminists complained that the Levi models in their ads were only representing “slender” and “Caucasian” females, when “plus-size/larger [women] are arguably the ones with more curvy figures.” Others complained that the size range of 0-16 was not broad enough and that more women fall outside of that size 16 measurement. Others opposed to the new jeans were angry that the women with darker skin were not “front and center” of the ad campaign.

True — if you take a look at the Levi Curve ID website the first models on the page are (I hope I can safely say this) light-skinned and slender. However, if you scan through site there are plenty of pictures of women of all ethnicities, shapes and sizes.

Let’s add to the controversy:  what if they had put Latina and African-American women on the front of the new “curve” jeans? Don’t you think some in the media would have labeled Levi racist and said that they were stereotyping ethnic women as the ones who are “curvy?” On top of that, I’m sure Caucasian women would have come out complaining that “they have curves, too.” They are even whining about the headline “All Asses Are Not Created Equal,” stating that Levi is trying to say some backsides (Caucasian) are better than other backsides (other ethnicities). Talk about blowing things out of proportion — Frisky blogger Jessica Wakeman and I agree that the headline is “simply referring to the jeans, i.e., everyone has different-sized butts and we need more diverse jean options.”

I mean these people would have found something to complain about either way because that’s how they work, making it a lose-lose situation for Levi. GAP also has come up with a “curve” option and their three front-running models are light-skinned, too. However, no one is crucifying GAP for that.

My opinion is that Levi did a great job researching body types and creating this new campaign based on shapes and not sizes. Their roll-out was new, edgy, out there and meeting a need.  It’s true: “curvy” is still a word with negative connotations in America while it’s embraced in other countries and cultures.

Alderete wants to change that:

“Ideally that word [curvy] would be an aspirational [sic] word in our culture as well, as it is in other cultures. In that regard, I’m proud we came out with a declarative statement that really embraced women’s curves and that we’re committed to fitting women of all shapes and sizes, as opposed to dictating what the jeans offering is for women.”

Props to Levi for sticking to their guns and being proud of their campaign to not only introduce a new line of jeans, but to change societal thought embracing women’s curves.  Those bloggers and feminists who have a problem with the ad campaign need to get off their pedestals and look at the campaign for what it truly is.

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5 Responses to Levi’s Curvy Controversy

  1. lrstarr says:

    I’m glad you addressed the Levi’s situation and I completely agree with your stance. There really is no winning in advertising. Rarely will an ad portray every body type and represent the full ethnic spectrum. Instead of deeming the campaign and product as positive strides toward healthy body image, critics must scrutinize the political correctness. It’s sad that we’ve reached a point where ads are ridiculed to this degree if an ethnicity is excluded. Are we expected to have an ambassador from every country in our ads simply as a precaution? As ideal as that may be, it’s unrealistic and forced. That being said, as future creators of our own campaigns, we must be wary of such criticism and attempt to please and respect the masses so our message isn’t lost in a pile of negative opinion.

  2. jweishar says:

    I totally agree that if they had used an African American or a Latina advertise this line of jeans it would have been an even bigger controversy. I think being “curvy” has become more acceptable in our culture and Levi’s is doing a good job of acknowledging that.

    On the other hand, I could see why some people would be upset, just because the models on the homepage are still skinny. They still appear to be the “model stereotype,” just not as stick thin as most models. I was a little annoyed seeing that the models still looked like a size 2 when that is highly unrealistic for most women with curves.

    Overall, I think what Levi’s is doing is good and will be appealing and refreshing to women. I think you’re right that people will find something to complain about either way, but they should really take it as a step forward for women to feel more comfortable with who they are.

  3. jjmock says:

    I agree with you this is a no win in this situation. If I were Levi’s, I would stick with this because it is great. It is a catchy tag line that grabs attention and reaches a point that everyone thinks about while trying on pants. I think a one-size-fits-all mentally does not work.

  4. kpang says:

    The topics of ethnicity and body image are especially controversial when it comes to advertising, and people will jump at the chance to criticize when they see something they don’t like along these lines. Maybe Levi’s would have avoided the controversy if they had made the more diverse, curvier models more prevalent on the Website, or they could have ditched models all together and used real-life testimonials from jeans wearers throughout the Website. The three models on the homepage were not women that I would consider at all “curvy,” and if it weren’t for the link on this post, I wouldn’t have found the pictures of the more diverse women. In the end, not everyone will be happy, but I agree that people should look at this campaign for what it truly is.

  5. clangefe says:

    I definitely agree with you that there was no way Levi’s could have pleased everybody. I think it’s great they are thinking outside the box and have come up with something more personal for their customers.

    I do think different women should be represented in the ad because, well, that’s the whole point … but putting someone in the ad who is of a certain ethnicity and weight to be P.C. seems a little much. Yes, they probably should have more than just a white, thin girl represented, but excluding her altogether would be racist as well.

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