Fashion in Buenos Aires is no frivolous matter. Apart from being the fashion capital of Latin America, the first season of Project Runway Latin America was held in Buenos Aires and almost a third of the reality show’s participants were Argentine. Home-grown designers have no shortage of venues to showcase their work: Buenos Aires Fashion Week, Argentina Fashion Week, and Buenos Aires Moda all attract national media coverage. And most recently, the Buenos Aires government has launched Buenos Aires Runway, where the country’s newest designers exhibit their work via regular fashion shows and conferences. Considering what big business fashion is in Argentina, it’s perplexing that retailers sell clothes that only about 30% of average-sized women can wear.
That’s right. Seven out of ten women struggle to find their size in the latest trends. What’s more discouraging is that this reality exists in spite of municipal and provincial laws created specifically to eradicate designers’ and retailers’ preference for smaller sizes. The size law in the capital requires that retailers stock eight sizes (usually AR 36-50/UK 8-22/US 6-20) and the law in the province of Buenos Aires requires sizes AR 38-48 (UK 10-20/US 8-18); both laws mandate standardized sizing. Compliance is frighteningly low at less than 25%. Despite that the provincial law has been on the books for six years and the municipal law for two years, it’s obvious that the current consequences for not adhering to the law—fines and store closures—have not increased size law compliance. Which is why Any-Body Argentina, a grassroots movement born out of the Endangered Bodies global campaign is employing an alternative tactic.
Instead of taking a punitive approach our size law campaign focuses on the positive. Our original aim was to reward stores that demonstrated 100% size law compliance but we discovered we had set the bar too high. Over several months, our team investigated stores throughout the capital trying to find one store—just one—that fully complied with the law. We couldn’t. So we adjusted our focus and short-listed a handful of near-compliant brands, both Argentine and international to further research, with VER and Portsaid sharing the top spot. So as not to rely solely on our independent investigation of stores, we collected data by conducting interviews with teens and women both inside and outside of a major shopping center and we widely distributed an online survey.The results confirmed our investigation: 50% of women shopped at the top two stores we identified.
On July 1, 2011 we launched our size law campaign by officially recognizing these two Argentine brands, VER and Portsaid for offering the most extensive range of sizes in the country. We awarded them with a sticker that can be found in their store windows, which allows consumers to easily identify women-friendly retailers. Both brands presently display the Any-Body Argentina sticker in almost 100 stores throughout the country and we continue to collaborate with the two brands to support them in reaching full size law compliance.
The reaction to our campaign has been encouraging. Within weeks of launching, the country’s three major newspapers covered our initiative: Clarín, La Nación, and Página 12, in addition to television coverage by CNN Español and Moda Bit. Even more exciting is that a major Argentine brand has approached us wanting to be recognized; currently we’re working with the brand to ensure it meets a basic level of compliance. (We have also identified other clothing brands, both for teens and women, that we would like to see displaying our sticker.) And of course, the continual feedback from Argentine teens and women keeps us inspired. My favorite to date is from Vanina C: “Thank you for defending our rights so that women have the freedom to choose.” We’re ecstatic that women have choices at VER and Portsaid but we also recognize that the current fashionable options are still limited.
On this side of the equator, spring is just a few weeks away. As the new season’s collections hit the racks we’ll be there, investigating the range of standardized sizes offered. Our commitment to achieving size law compliance is more than about eradicating size discrimination. In a country with the second highest rate of eating disorders in the world, where over 90% of women are on a diet, and more than 50% would like to be one dress size smaller, size law compliance translates to greater mental and physical health for Argentine girls, teens, and women.
 Originally called Endangered Species.
 Data collection is ongoing.