Corporate Social Responsibility
Debenhams Sustainability Report
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Diversity and Body Confidence


Our mission to create a “Life Made Fabulous” for everyone regardless of gender, age or background has been well received by customers. For years Debenhams has played a pioneering role in championing diversity and promoting body confidence. From featuring fashion collections on men and women of diverse backgrounds, body shapes and ethnicity we have teamed with Help for Heroes to feature rehabilitated troops in a menswear campaign and worked with women up to the age 70, a paralympian athlete to portray our womenswear offer and size 18 model to showcase our swimwear. Diversity Campaign 2013 Debenhams broke convention by becoming the first high street retailer in the UK to promote its latest fashion collections by using models in a diverse variety of ages, sizes and looks. The imagery turned its back on the industry norm of young thin models, instead featuring an amputee, three models over 40 – including one nearing 70 – and a paralympian athlete. In addition, swimwear shots celebrated curves by using a model who was a size 18. The move builds on other industry firsts from Debenhams, including the use of a disabled model when it launched Principles; size 16 mannequins in stores to more accurately reflect the shape of customers; the banning of airbrushing on swimwear imagery and lingerie campaigns featuring a 50+ model. For the retailer’s “High Summer Look Book” Debenhams worked with inclusivity campaigner and fashion industry commentator Caryn Franklin. We aimed to further challenge perceived norms of the fashion industry showing that a broader range of body and beauty ideals is a good thing. Our customers are not the same shape or size so our latest look book celebrates this diversity. We would be delighted if others followed our lead. Hopefully these shots will be a step, albeit a small one, towards more people feeling more comfortable about their bodies, Director of PR, Debenhams. To showcase the range of sizes and labels at Debenhams this season, we chose models to inspire us with their own unique looks and personalities. I loved seeing the way that clothes emboldened each woman and man and I loved being on a shoot where no two models were the same, said Caryn Franklin. As a commentator on the importance of seeing a broader range of body and beauty ideals in our media, I never underestimate the power of great clothes to bolster self-esteem, or the impact of imagery that celebrates difference, added Caryn. Minister for Women and Equalities Jo Swinson said: Once again Debenhams is showing that beauty comes in all forms; different skin colours, ages, body shapes and sizes. It was one of the first to introduce size 16 mannequins, and continues to send a clear message to the rest of the retail industry that many customers want to see more diverse and realistic images. I have long been concerned that idealised, unrealistic media images play a significant part in lowering self-esteem and reducing women’s confidence and contribution at school, at work, and in society. The government works with a range of industries, including retail and fashion, to promote more honest and varied images of women. The models in the Look Book are truly diverse, each with their own unique style and personality, and I hope they inspire others to feel good about their bodies. Debenhams scoured top model agencies in search of a group of professional models who go further to be representative of diversity, and to convey a message empowering every man and woman to feel able to wear the latest trends, but to make it right for them through style. Debenhams moved its campaign for healthy body image to be press-facing, The look book featured:

  • Alternative model, Kelly, born without her left forearm and discovered when she won TV show “Missing Next Top Model”.
  • Paralympian amputee Stefanie Reid made her modelling debut for Debenhams in the campaign.
  • Jada, size 18 model and face of the 2013 Plus Size Fashion Week.
  • Tess, a size six petite model, measuring in at just over five foot tall.
  • Valarie, 69 and Maxine, 44, highlighting looking great isn’t anything to do with age
  • Philomena, a size 18 model, who wants to be Britain’s first black plus size supermodel.
  • Hugo 47, and six foot four Lucio.

Body Confidence

Debenhams received a Body Confidence Award in 2012 and in 2014 became a sponsor and supporter of the Be Real! Campaign for Body Confidence. This year Debenhams has also been awarded a B-eat Beacon Award from the charity which helps young people and adults in the battle against eating disorders. As a result of its work in this field Debenhams now sits on the Government’s “Body Confidence Advisory Committee”. Debenhams scooped top honours in the retail category of the Campaign for Body Confidence awards in April 2012. The judges believe our on-going Inclusivity Campaign showcases imagery that is inspirational and realistic by using models who are older, curvier or in Shannon Murray’s case – visibly disabled – to inspire modern day British women. Using models (and mannequins) that Debenhams’ customers can identify with is about more than taking a socially responsible stance. Inclusivity is a business decision that makes commercial sense because it appeals to a wider audience. For example, The Stylist photo shoot with Caryn Franklin highlighted our understanding of customers over 50 by promoting a whole range of clothes suited to individual aspirations, rather than a single range designed for a particular age. Similarly, our ‘before’ and ‘after’ images of airbrushed swimwear models struck a real chord with customers. The campaign reinforced our message that Debenhams does not use airbrushing to alter the physical look of our models. Consumer campaigns like these are important for increasing trust and confidence. So too is our work behind the scenes with government and the British Retail Consortium (BRC). Debenhams actively supports the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image and we are a signatory to the BRC guidelines on responsible marketing to children and the Mumsnet Let Girls be Girls campaign.