Selfridges Department Store

IMAGE-CONSCIOUS: Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority, a self-regulatory group funded by the ad industry, has ruled in favor of Selfridges after a customer complained about a model who appeared in a marketing e-mail from the store in January.

One person complained that the model looked “unhealthily thin,” and asked whether the image was “socially irresponsible.” The model appears in long, asymmetrical Prabal Gurung dress with cutout shoulders and a slit on the side.

In its defense, Selfridges had said the image did not seek to draw attention to the model’s frame, and that she was not “positioned in a way intended to exaggerate her slimness.”

The store also said the loose fit of the dress would distort the actual size of any model regardless of his or her size. Selfridges added that “the general public’s perception of weight – and whether or not an individual looked ‘unhealthily’ thin – was a subjective matter.”

Prabal Gurung

The image by Prabal Gurung was featured in a newsletter by Selfridges and became subject to criticism for the model’s thin figure 

The ASA rejected the customer’s complaint, saying the model appeared to be in proportion. “Although the model was slim, she did not appear to be unhealthily thin or significantly underweight, and therefore concluded that the ad was not irresponsible,” the group said.

Following the ruling, Selfridges said: “We welcome the representation of healthy bodies in all shapes and sizes.”

Selfridges is one of a variety of brands and organizations, including Jack Wills, TripAdvisor, Apple, L’Oréal and the British Humanist Association, to be caught in the crosshairs of the ASA.

It takes one person to complain about an ad for the organization to launch an investigation and make a judgment. Often, by the time the ASA ruling comes through, the ad or marketing campaign is already history.

Selfridges has long been a supporter of diverse body types: Last spring, it ran an ad campaign called EveryBody featuring images shot by Norbert Schoerner of nonprofessional models representing a range of body types. The campaign promoted the opening of The Body Studio, a 37,000-square-foot space at the Oxford Street store that stocks a range of clothing and accessories for women of various sizes and figures.

In 2014, Selfridges ran an in-store campaign known as The Beauty Project meant to draw attention to different versions of beauty in men and women.

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