‘Perfectly Imperfect’ The Backlash to Conceived ‘Perfection’


Lifestyle and trends are strongly influenced by social-cultural changes, such as modernisation, technological innovation and social movements.

Trend analysis looks at the interaction of shifts in fashion, consumer lifestyle and culture and is a framework for understanding and interpreting fashion changes. The development of new trends usually involves three main sources that influence our cultural lives and lifestyles. These three main sources are high culture, pop culture and low culture. So anything from a movie, piece of music or a social movement can cause a Trend and in most cases it is all intertwined.

The Changing of Social Narratives

In economies that increasingly value community, fluidity, adaptability and sharing social shifts; raises key questions about the millennial and Gen Z/K female.

There has been an undeniable pendulum swing in which the past affirmed a woman’s value as tied to her role as a wife and is ending right in front of us and at present we are living through the invention of independent female adulthood.

Single is The New Black

The new standard coined by American trend forecaster, Faith Popcorn as ‘Single-arity’ is creating the new aspiration. New single role models have emerged to set the social standard and it has been predicted that in future, the president will be single? In the last decade Single households have increased by 30 percent worldwide. By 2020 there will be 331 million Single households globally (Huffington Post 2013). “Singles come from every nationality, age demographic, religion, sexual orientation and gender. But they have one thing in common: Living uncomfortable and ignored in a married person’s world. In 2013, it’s changing on every level”. According to Popcorn, single women have become the new bachelors, avoiding long-term committed relationships, focusing on careers and choosing marriage or motherhood as an option, not as an ultimate.

Pepper Swartz, affirms this in her 2014 book, Why Women Choose Not To Marry, “The rise of ‘the voluntary single woman has been happening in western societies slowly over time, concomitant with well-paying jobs, legal protection from economic or physical abuse, reliable birth control and the possibilities of fulfilling careers and adventures”

A Seismic Shift

Hanna Rosin’s much-quoted 2012 book, The End of Men, declares men are losing their grip, patriarchy is crumbling, and we are reaching the end of 200,000 years of human history and the beginning of a new era.

“Women want to be recognized as individuals rather than belonging to someone.”

There is a seismic shift: Women want to be recognized as individuals rather than belonging to someone. As a result of these trend drivers women recognise that they are not just a ‘body’, not just an ornament or an object to be fixed and judged — it is an instrument to live and do and be.

Women are beginning to reject messages that teach them otherwise, they are cancelling subscriptions, unfollowing on social media and spending their money elsewhere.

More powerful than that women are talking back to companies and speaking up in their own circles of influence. Believing that their reflection does not define their worth, and self-comparisons to unreal ideals get them absolutely nowhere.

These contemporary and empowered females believe that ideals are unlikely to change anytime soon and believe that they should alter their own perceptions of media and bodies with or without the media’s support.

The F-Word

2015 was unquestionably the year that feminism rose beyond a murmur and went mainstream, as a continuation from last year’s lifestyle trends, we see 2016 has been the year of singularity, shifting perceptions of beauty, the empowered female and the black female artist. All of who have managed to tell their own narrative across many channels and digital platforms, starting strong trends and altering the media narrative of women.

Perfectly Imperfect

As a result we have seen a backlash to conventional beauty, stereotypes and beauty archetypes in a quest for individuality and authenticity. ‘Imperfection’, the ‘quirky’, the ‘messy’ and the ‘flawed’ are taking on new appeal in a world that’s become neatly polished, overly photoshopped, curated and augmented has resulted in a quest and craving for unique models, imperfect actresses, celebrities without makeup, ugly selfies through manifestations such as the ‘anti-photoshop movements’.

“If a woman feels most comfortable in shorts that exhibit her cellulite or a face layered with makeup, we should not think less of them.”

So called, ‘Imperfection’ provides an unfiltered, all human version of reality that reflects all the diversity that’s seen in everyday life. Advertising, marketing, fashion and beauty industries have been challenged to aim for all women’s internal acceptance and to stop glorifying certain body types as what a ‘true woman’ should look like. This mindset can initiate the inclusion of women of all colours and transgender women. If a woman feels most comfortable in shorts that exhibit her cellulite or a face layered with makeup, we should not think less of them.

What is driving these movements? The answer is simple: the Internet, Social Media and platforms that allow for personal expression towards an audience. “You have a lot of women on social media who are finding each other, and forming alliances, and demanding that they be represented,” says natural hair blogger Whitney White. “So when you have women coming together like that, their voice is going to be louder.” Black women, in particular, spend an estimated $7.5 billion annually on beauty products, shelling out 80% more on cosmetics and twice as much on skin care as their non-Black counterparts. Yet, they’ve been grossly under-served by the cosmetics industry throughout history.

Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ has been identified (by billboard.com) as a Revolutionary work of ‘Black Feminism’. The feature film released earlier this year dares to make a new canon, finding references in the unphotographed past and referencing a future as land of no men.

Recognised as ‘Black Women’s Magic’, Beyoncé created a subtext that excited, beguiles, enthralls and challenges. No one can doubt that #Lemonade is committed to black women by illustrating a story of black womanhood.

Rallying testaments of self-love ‘Black Girls are Magic’and ‘Melanin poppin’. are trending in the black community on a national scale. For many millennial’s, being Black — and embracing said Blackness — has never been more relevant and empowered. Never have their influence and voices been more powerful. And never has the value of the Black consumer been more apparent.

This is an obvious trend driver within the African landscape as Africa is the continent of female entrepreneurs, and in fact, Africa leads the world in female entrepreneurship. 50% of all enterprises in Africa are women owned, according to the World Bank, and 25% of Africa’s women have set up their own businesses from scratch – that’s the highest rate on the planet.

Uganda, for example, has the highest per capita rate of women’s entrepreneurship anywhere in the world. These numbers will continue to rise on the back of a newfound confidence amongst women on the Continent.

In addition to this the majority of millennial moms are controlling the family finances, advertisers are increasingly looking for ways to connect with this key demographic.


At an AdWeek 2014 panel dedicated to ‘Femvertising’, this term was defined by moderator Samantha Skey, Chief Revenue Officer of SheKnows.com, as pro-female messaging within advertising. The experts present discussed the rise of this new form of advertising coined as “Femvertising” and how it has shaped brands’ approaches to female consumers.

‘Femvertising’ tells an authentic story and leading the way forward are major brands such as Dove and Pantene. Consumers are looking for ads that celebrate women and girls rather than objectify them.

Proudly Imperfect

Some noteworthy trends and social movements to watch are the following:

The #NoMakeUpMovement

The intimacy of celebrities sharing selfies with their fans on Instagram has gained momentum and many are photographing themselves sans makeup and hitting the upload button. Many celebrities and models took to Instagram without the help of their makeup artists, capturing their beauty in a whole new way.

Alicia Keys is a strong advocate of the movement expressing that many women are brainwashed into feeling like we have to be skinny, or sexy, or desirable, or perfect.

Tired of was the constant judgment of women, constant stereotyping through every medium Keys has chosen to challenge societal and celebrity rule and with the release of her new album, Alicia Keys come pushed the #NoMakeUp movement to the forefront.

No Freckle is the same

For centuries, beauty was sought in “flawless” skin, perfectly porcelain complexions glorified by highbrow fashion magazines. While freckles are fabulous, they haven’t always been considered the trademark of a gorgeous person. Women tirelessly slaved away, painting their faces with thick foundation and powder in order to achieve even skin tone so that they could fit into the mold of “beauty.”

“Freckled girls everywhere were constantly told they were not beautiful”

These unreasonable standards of beauty caused women with unconventional features to hide in the shadows or behind veils of makeup, shaming them into covering their skin. Freckled girls everywhere were constantly told they were not beautiful because of the dots that patterned their faces.

Natural beauty is an overwhelming trend within various industries at present and show no sign of slowing. As of late, freckles have become the must-have beauty essential to the point of a #FauxFreckle beauty and make up trend, see on runways worldwide with freckled girls finally getting the street cred they deserve.

Unusual Beauty

A beautiful face will never go out of style, however the models getting the most attention lately have been defined not by their adherence to the rules of symmetry but by their distinctive, jarring, and at times off-kilter looks. Unique models have always existed, but they’ve been the exception rather than the rule. Every so often a model has emerged who shakes things up. These were movements that ushered in whole new eras, but they were also the reactionary responses to outmoded visuals.

“There are so many models now that designers really don’t need to compete for an It girl. With such a vast spectrum of types available, designers have the opportunity to craft a unique brand identity through their casting. We see the really directional designers striving to march to their own drum beat rather than clamouring for the same handful of girls. Individuality is really crucial at the moment.”

Madeline Stuart is changing society’s perceptions of beauty – one photo shoot at a time. Madeline Stuart is an aspiring model from Brisbane, Australia with Down Syndrome. In her own words she wants the world to know that Down Syndrome is a blessing, something to be celebrated. Stuart has recently walked for the brand MARLENE H’ COUTURE during the 2016 Uptown Fashion Week Shifting perceptions of Gender Rain Dove walks the runway gender bending in both menswear and womenswear. However, the activist/model cares less about clothes and more about redefining the notion of “him” and “her.”

“Androgyny is certainly not a passing trend, but one that is going through another cycle with a new generation,” notes Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president and general merchandise manager for men’s at Barneys New York. Brands such as JW Anderson and Hood by Air encapsulate this concept, as does a new generation of models such as Willy Carter and Andrej Pejić.

#TheBodyPositive Movement

The Body Positive Movement is a feminist movement that encourages women and/or female-identifying people to adopt more forgiving and affirming attitudes towards their bodies, with the goal of improving overall health and well-being.

Whether women are nurturing their bodies and maintaining their weight, or finding a place in life where they are comfortable through working out, or changing their lifestyles to find a better attitude, the body positive movement focuses on building self-esteem through improving one’s self-image. The body positive movement targets all body shapes and sizes.

The movement is not only about working out and striving to be positive and creating a better lifestyle for oneself, but deals with health as well. According to Connie Sobczak and Elizabeth Scott, founders of the Body Positive organization, “Health, as defined in our model, recognizes the interconnectedness of physical, psychological, and emotional needs in human beings.” Even larger campaigns and companies including Nike Women are proving that strength isn’t limited to one size with the inclusion of diverse Instagram models that it’s promoting through its social media account.



Recent photos from the brand show plus-size model Paloma Elsesser and yoga instructor Claire Fountain. Both women work to change the oppressive narrative that too often tells women that they have to fit into a certain mold to be deemed fit. They do so by promoting a body positive lifestyle on their social accounts, posting confident shots of their bodies to show that individual beauty is more valuable than unobtainable standards.


Women generally love to hate their stretch marks but now there is a viral campaign that is helping us to love them. Two Mothers hoping to make a difference in the world of female body image started the Instagram account, which is dedicated to celebrating stretch marks and fighting back against an airbrush culture that wants to hide imperfections.

Love Your Lines has become more than just an Instagram account or a hashtag on social media, it is a global initiative teaching women to proudly embrace the body they are in and all its flaws.

Supermodel Chrissy Teigen is one of the many women who have gotten on board the trend, recently sharing a photo of her ‘stretchies’ on Instagram. This social media trend is promoting positive body image one stretch mark at a time.

Nicola Cooper is a trend analyst specialising in lifestyle, pop and youth Culture.

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