British department store Selfridges made headlines for its genderless fashion collection in 2015, and now it's back to fight the same fight for equality through Incredible Machines: Selfridges' new underwear advertising campaign, exclusively released on Vice on the morning of Apr. 19. The short film features five very different women from all walks of life, each undressing while discussing their relationship with their bodies.
The cast consists of legendary designer Michele Lamy, trans activist Charlie Craggs, body positive model Naomi Shimada, WAH Nails founder Sharmadean Reid, as well as Thai boxing champion and Muslim activewear designer Ruqsana Begum. These women are revolutionary in their own right, not only for existing outside of sociocultural norms, but for actively taking part in changing how the world perceives femininity.
By flying the feminist flag high through their work and their lives, the ladies are a perfect choice to represent the diversity of women who not only exist in our world, but also have to shop for underwear. Instead of making a female underwear campaign that visibly catered to the male gaze — as so many seem to do — director Kathryn Ferguson shot an empowering four-minute film to exemplify the strength women have, both internal and external.
Vice's i-D released the video alongside a quote from Ferguson regarding her inspiration for the film. "For so long, underwear advertising has been dominated by sexualized imagery of women in heightened poses and impossible designs," she said. "When in reality, this is worlds apart from the everyday act of putting on your pants and the choices we make in the morning."
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She continued, "I hope the film helps to cut through the noise and show amazing women appearing stripped back, as they are, speaking truthfully. All five have achieved great things and for that reason I wanted to go back to basics — finding out how they felt about themselves. I would love people to feel inspired by these women; leaving them more positive and celebratory of their own bodies."
This underwear advertising campaign video doesn't seem to be swapping out the male gaze for whatever the department store may believe women want to see, either. Instead, it's a film meant to inspire women, created by women. The sense of having something being sold to you is completely lost.
That isn't to say that this film isn't going to be successful from a commerce perspective. Personally, I definitely want to shop at Selfridges more now — not just because an advertisement convinced me, but because I respect the ethics, morals, and message that the brand is trying to present. After all, femininity doesn't look like any one thing.