The Problem With the “Racially Ambiguous” Aesthetic

The Problem With the “Racially Ambiguous” Aesthetic

By Omar Taleb


At nearly 20 million Instagram followers, FashionNova arguably has as strong of a reach as the thousands of influencers they partner with to peddle their brand of sexy-casual clothing to a predominantly Gen-Z audience. 

Growing up on social media, Gen-Z is attuned to the codes and conventions of visual platforms like Instagram, where certain aesthetics, poses, and styles are rapidly disseminated. These codes aren’t necessarily named, but years of conditioning allows Gen-Z to understand and interpret coded images; a “vibe” or “energy” is the Gen-Z euphemism for a desirable, visually-communicated aesthetic. 

Social media-first fashion brands understood this very early on in the Instagram era, and it’s something that marketers continue to struggle with. It’s a tightrope to walk across: to be sexy, but not too sexual; to look expensive using wealth signifiers like designer bags and shoes, but not come off as unrelatable; to look candid, but still camera-rea...

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