It only took two days for people to find something to be mad about on Forever 21’s new Instagram account for its plus-sized clothing line.
On Tuesday, the retailer opened the “Forever 21 Plus” Instagram page in a well intentioned attempt to showcase the collection. How foolish of them: A vocal minority of its 10,000 followers are taking umbrage with the models on the page, criticizing them for not being “plus” enough.
The anger was particularly pronounced in comments on one Instagram post with a model wearing jeans and a lacy peasant top, looking perfectly average sized. “I don’t understand how this girl is plus,” someone wrote, followed by a cascade of similar comments about her normal size.
“That’s not at all plus size!! That’s ridiculous! She is a great normal healthy size!! She is probably even smaller than my size!!,” wrote another.
In another post featuring the same model, more complaints dotted the comments. “She is a beautiful women, clearly not a plus size!!,” wrote one. Another took a shot at the brand for lowering her self-esteem, “Wow I must be mega-size.”
Forever 21 has since deleted the post referred to above, which was this picture:
The sentiment appears repeatedly throughout the account, with more than 50 comments echoing this sentiment on another picture: “This pisses me the fuck off she’s average size not plus.”
Now, predictably, there is even backlash against the backlash. “Everybody needs to relax. They didn’t say ‘morbidly obese size’ it just says ‘plus size.’ She’s not a size zero obviously she is a bigger girl. It’s not a negative thing to say ‘plus.'”
Forever 21 didn’t immediately respond for comment, but it was probably prepared for some backlash since there is no industry standard definition of what makes a model “plus” sized. The word is an “amorphous, culturally charged term,” a brand crisis manager told Digiday last year, meaning there will be people who will praise brands using the word, and plenty of others that clearly don’t.
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Forever 21’s Plus collection starts at size 12. The broader industry trend among other retailers is to begin plus-sized collections at size 14.
Update 3:45 pm E.T.: Forever 21’s vp of merchandising Linda Chang responded with this comment:
“We always appreciate our customers reaching out when they have a concern and therefore have removed some of the images and are working to ensure all of our future posts accurately represent the Forever 21 Plus customer. As a majority of the content on our social media accounts are user generated by our loyal customers, we encourage them to continue to share their own photos to provide a true representation of our clothing, embracing beauty in all shapes and sizes.”