Imperfectly
Normal

Perspective

12/14/17
BRANDS ARE FINALLY SHOWING THAT IMPERFECTIONS ARE PERFECTLY NORMAL
 

A Silicon Valley startup just earned $20 million in revenue by selling milk made from yellow peas. A shoe company featured a female model with unshaved legs in its latest campaign.

These developments may or may not be related.

Be it through milk, bread, soap, shoes or female bodies, companies are celebrating imperfections as assets instead of liabilities. Once considered ordinary, they now carry the extraordinary responsibility of creating a new normal – that something is amazing not despite, but because of, its flaws.

In the dairy world, the latest to join the lineup of non-dairy milks is a legume: the humble yellow pea. While plant-based milks like rice, almond and soy are good alternatives for those who wish to avoid dairy, many can’t drink them because of soy and nut allergies or because they don’t see the point of consuming milk that lacks protein. Ripple produces yellow pea milk – free of nuts, soy, lactose and gluten, and with higher levels of protein and calcium than most other non-dairy milks. Until Silicon Valley venture capitalists came along, this seemingly innocuous ingredient inhabited the desert of boring legumes. But now, with 2.5 million bottles of product already sold, it’s starring in its very own musical.

Bugs aren’t exactly the Western world’s snack of choice, but a Finnish bakery has decided to grind about 70 crickets per loaf into flour to bake bread with. Fazer Bakery plans to sell this insect bread in all its stores by next year. Cricket flour boasts more protein than normal wheat flour. Young and adventurous Helsinkians have tried it and many claim they don’t taste the difference. Could cricket bread be the West’s gateway food to making entomophagy (insect-eating) more common in the East? Only time will tell. But consider this: Insects could ultimately become an imperfect but important answer for farmers looking to use less land, water and feed than in animal husbandry. And that’s on top of serving the needs of gluten-intolerant consumers.

Two Dutch entrepreneurs decided to do something about the 250 million kilos of orange peels that the Netherlands generates from eating oranges every year. Available for sale in 2018, SOOP uses easily recognizable waste that many consumers dispose of every day, like coffee grounds and orange peels. The circular-shaped soap tells the story of a circular economy, where regularly neglected food waste can be repurposed while starting a conversation about sustainability. The same Dutch company, Beeblue, also makes delicious beer from some of the nation’s 380 million kilos of discarded bread. Another company, RUIK, wants to make sustainability sexy through “vegetable” perfumes. Its first one will use fragrant oil from scraps of orange peels. Who knew garbage could smell so good?

When big beauty and fashion corporations talk about body positivity, they can risk looking inauthentic. But Adidas does it subtly and elegantly. Take its recent advertisement featuring Swedish model Arvida Byström. She sports Adidas Originals Superstars – and unshaven legs. Even though the video and photograph triggered a backlash toward the model and even rape threats from online trolls, the campaign was commended for subverting notions of perfection and hairless skin. It makes strategic sense as a shoe company for Adidas to start with legs. For those interested, here’s a cultural history of people in the United States who have used naturally hairy legs as a statement.

Missguided, another fashion brand, has pledged not to airbrush its models’ “imperfections” off their bodies in website photos – including stretch marks, scars and cellulite. The Twitter verdict is still out. Many applaud the bold and inspiring #makeyourmark campaign; others like Mic point out that stretch marks will continue to be considered “imperfections” and cannot be destigmatized unless we stop treating them like a big deal.

This one is for all the girls on the brink of womanhood who thought their period blood would be blue because of all the misleading portrayals in mainstream advertising. In its latest advertisement, UK-based Bodyform became the first feminine hygiene brand ever to show good-old red-colored liquid in its product demonstration. Bodyform challenges a stubborn period taboo and ends the commercial with “Periods are normal. Showing them should be too.” Well, it’s 2017 and about bloody time. While periods are painful and unpleasant, having them is (im)perfectly normal.

Veggie milk, bug bread, bread beer, circular soaps, non-polluting perfume, unshaven legs, stretch marks and period blood – they all represent the birth of a new normal.

More Thoughts.

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