The Campaign Chronicles: Women’s swimsuits aren’t accessorised with a bulge?

Welcome to Campaign Chronicles, a series that deep dives into trending creativity within the industry, debating the impact within the culture and communities they target.

Adidas has come under fire for its latest Pride campaign. The brand made a decision to put a male-presenting model with chest hair and a bulge in a swimming costume, instead of a woman.

This caused a tidal wave of complaints, many labeled it as “woke nonsense” and some brand loyalists even reached for the boycott button and burnt their Sambas in protest (obviously posting it to social).

But what’s the ‘tea hunty’? While there’s been a small appreciation for the collection’s design, the overshadowing trigger is the perceived contribution to the “erasure” of females. More simply put, how the campaign shots for the Rich Mnisi Swimsuit made a ‘mockery’ of women.

The problem isn’t so much the man in the swimsuit, as there should be freedom in what we chose to wear and how we present ourselves. The problem comes when a brand’s articulation is poor. How they chose to represent a minority. Or more so, how they decide to construct a campaign.

In complete agreement with professional swimmer Riley Gaines, a creative fix would have been to simply shoot the campaign as unisex. To be more inclusive of the gender spectrum when developing the art direction and thinking about casting. Why not feature a more diverse range of models?

In this case, the discussion around the campaign distracted the attention away from its true purpose. The South African design talent behind the collection wanted it to inspire ‘LGBTQIA+ allies to speak up more for the queer people they love and not let them fight for acceptance alone”. Instead, he alongside the global sports brand received a tirade of criticism. 

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