Nat Angel is 40, a size 16 and has thousands of women peer into her bedroom while she strips down to her knickers trying on clothes for fashion labels.
That’s because the Sunshine Coast woman is a social media influencer leading a new wave of “authentic” fashion marketing.
She tries on clothes in her bedroom to show the fit and feel of garments and posts the vision with honest commentary on her Let Me Try Before You Buy groups on Instagram and Facebook.
Fashion labels pay her a flat fee to do this — not a commission — and have no control over what she says.
“I’m very passionate about helping women find joy with their bodies, to find joy in getting dressed to help them feel fashionable, because, to be blatantly honest, the Australian fashion industry is refusing to do it and they’re missing out on sales,” Ms Angel said.
“The interesting thing is that the more honest I am, the more sales the brands get.”
Fashion industry needs authenticity to survive
Jana Bowden, an associate professor of marketing at Macquarie University, warned that the fashion industry needed to be more authentic with consumers in order to survive the current economic climate.
“There’s going to be significant challenges for the retail sector … and frankly this is the only way the sector is going to be able to survive,” she said.
Retail spending in April plunged by nearly 18 per cent compared to the previous month.
A number of fashion retailers went into voluntary administration over the past six months including Harris Scarfe, Jeanswest, Bardot, Colette and G-Star Raw.
Dr Bowden said on the back of that decline, the coronavirus pandemic and a recession, a consumer’s connection with a brand was “crucial”.
“The fashion industry has been reluctant in the past to showcase real-sized women,” she said.
“The culture of the fashion industry has always been heavily skewed towards that waif-like, perfect size six and eight model as the epitome of what women have to look like.”
The irony though is that the average size of Australian women is a size 14 to 16.
She said Ms Angel’s down-to-earth, unbiased approach resonated with the market because it injected a “real experience”.
A bird’s-eye view resonates with women
Ms Angel said she had built a reputation for fostering self-confidence and positive body image in the 40+ woman.
Authenticity was key during the live Facebook events, which resemble a bird’s-eye view into a fitting room — she even strips down to her knickers on camera to keep it real.
“I want to build the trust of the woman watching me — she’s the most important person for me,” she said.
“The only way that I can do that is by telling her the truth and sometimes that’s to my own detriment, sometimes I have made an absolute fool of myself.
“It’s not about being sexy, it’s not about being perfect — it’s just giving them an opportunity to view the clothes in a realistic setting on a woman that hopefully they they can relate to.”
Women feel ‘rejected’ in retail stores
Ms Angel, who started the online groups last year after getting “reacquainted” with her post-baby body, said “women have given up and … they just get dressed for the purpose of clothing their body”.
She said many women in the 40+ or size 14+ demographics felt “rejected” in a retail store because of unrealistic marketing so often purchased online, but even that had its drawbacks.
“The online space still has a lot of room to improve because women go online and, again, the images are generally on the younger, slimmer woman — very rarely is there measurements provided … so women give up, it’s too hard,” Ms Angel said.
“They’re [retailers] missing out on sales because women can’t identify.
“If you’re a 40-year-old woman or 50-year-old woman, you cannot identify with a girl.”
Retailers opt for authenticity — and like it
Dayna Barlow, operations manager at Tree Of Life, the first interstate chain store to engage Ms Angel for a Facebook Live event, said it had resulted in new clientele for the brand, which in these tough economic times, was “amazing”.
“The feedback I was reading from so many customers was, ‘I never thought to shop in that store, I always thought it was aimed to young people, I always thought they had small sizes’,” Ms Barlow said.
Owner of Sunshine Coast-based label Sweet Charlotte, Desley Walters, said she turned to Ms Angel during the pandemic when her three stores were shut.
“It’s had a significant impact on our [online] sales, especially when I needed it most,” she said.
“It certainly helped me get through that period when my stores were closed.”