H&M quietly debuts “Beachwear” collection using plus-size model

H&M Beachwear 2013

Retailer H&M is making a bold statement by not making a statement at all. The clothing chain’s women’s wear home page has just been updated to include their latest “Beachwear” line, which if you click on it, includes a variety of beach clothing ranging from swimsuits to sheer knits to denim — all featuring plus-size model Jennie Runk. The remarkable thing about the line is that there is zero fanfare made about the line being “plus-size” or whatever — it’s simply “Beachwear.” How refreshing is that?!?

In her piece about H&M’s marketing strategy on Jezebel, Jenna Sauers writes, “I think it sends a positive message about inclusivity and changing standards of beauty to have a plus-size girl all over the landing page www.hm.com/us/beachwear. Not /plussizebeachwear! Just /beachwear.”

Plus-size model Jennie Runk for H&M

If you click on any of the number of outfits available in the H&M Beachwear line you will find outfits that are only available in sizes ranging from 14-24. It is a bit disappointing that the line falls under the “H&M+ SIZE 14-24” category instead of just “H&M SIZE 14-24,” but it’s all about taking steps in the right direction, right?

Jennie Runk models H&M non plus size Beachwear

Jennie Runk was a young teen when she first started modeling. At the time there was some concern about her weight, so what did she do? She put on a few pounds and went into “plus-size” modeling!

Jennie’s mom, Karen Runk, talked with St. Louis Today about what it was like when her daughter was first approached to be a model. “I worried about her self-esteem,” she says. “I was worried about eating disorders and worried about girls being told that they are not skinny enough. I didn’t want Jennie to have to deal with that.”

From St. Louis Today:

Karen said she was relieved when Jennie chose to become a plus-sized model. Jennie estimates that she put on about 10 to 20 pounds to become a size 10-12. Within a year, she had booked an assignment with Vogue. Since then, she has worked for Marie Claire, Cosmo Girl and Seventeen magazines and has been in national campaigns for plus-sized boutiques.

“When we tell people that she’s a plus-sized model, people do double takes,” Karen said. “The first thing people see is how beautiful she is, not her dress size.”

Plus-size model Jennie Runk for H&M Beachwear

On Jennie Runk’s Facebook page she just posted a link to this blog entry about unrealistic body goals and offered up this commentary:

I just stumbled upon this. It was written about a year ago, but I think still applies today. One of the biggest reasons I decided to model was because I wanted to be a role model. I wanted to be someone who makes people think “if she can succeed, so can I. And I don’t have to change who I am to do it, because I am who I am, and that’s pretty d*mn perfect!”

Reading things like this makes me so happy I made the decision to do what I do. It really warms my heart to know that people are getting the message that I and all the other plus size models are trying to broadcast – you are you, and you are perfect, why would you want to be anything else? Also, I want to thank whoever wrote this (I couldn’t find a name) for helping us get that message out, and for authoring such a personal blog, in hopes of helping others in similar situations :).

Jennie highlighted the difference in how models are measured in a 2009 interview with StyleList in which she pointed out, “Plus-sized models are not actually plus-sized women, we’re just bigger than the average model.” She also talked about her decision as a teen to add a few pounds instead of loase a few pounds to pursue her modeling career. “I wasn’t interested in trying to work my body down to a size 2/4,” Jennie says. “I’m still not convinced that’s possible for me. It seems like it’s a lot easier to maintain the figure of a plus-sized model. I’m naturally a size 10/12. It would be setting myself up for failure, and dieting is not that much fun.”

According to the Daily Mail’s piece about the “Beachwear” line, Runk told Vogue Italia earlier this year, “I think separating between ‘normal’ and ‘plus-size’ is getting a little old fashioned.”

It seems H&M (and many others) agree.

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