Fashion Company Betabrand Uses Female PhD Candidates as Models

Female PhD students used as models

March 13, 2014

A San Francisco-based fashion retailer is making headlines for using a different type of model to launch its new spring line.

As reported by AdFreak, online retailer Betabrand enlisted women with a Ph.D. or who are working towards a Ph.D. to model their new spring collection. While the company has featured everyday people as their models since its inception in 2010, noted The Globe and Mail, this is the first time the company -- and perhaps any company -- has featured a collection entirely modeled by highly educated women. According to Yahoo Shine, the models include a woman with a doctorate in education from Columbia University Teachers College, a nuclear engineering Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley and a cognitive psychology Ph.D. from Stanford.

"When you look beyond the ranks of the professionally beautiful, photography becomes a lot more fun," said Betabrand founder Chris Lindland in a statement that was quoted by AdFreak. "Our designers cooked up a collection of smart fashions for spring, so why not display them on the bodies of women with really big brains?"

According to Today, Betabrand hardly uses professional models. For both convenience and affordability reasons, the company asks employees, friends or neighbors to model. CoCreate also pointed out that the company has a Model Citizen campaign in which customers submit photos of themselves wearing Betabrand's clothes. Some 17,000 images have been submitted so far.

"Thanks to iPhones and Instagram, people are capturing each and every bit of their lives and sometimes they're wearing our products," said Lindland to CoCreate.

The idea to use highly educated women as models began six weeks ago, when Lindland was photographing a friend for one of Betabrand's products and she happened to be working towards a doctorate degree, reported Today.

"The next thought, naturally, was to have only Ph.Ds and doctoral candidates model our spring collection," said Lindland in AdFreak.

The company turned to its Facebook fans for a casting call out and received responses from 60 women. According to Today, 18 applicants were selected -- nine from San Francisco and nine from outside California. According to AdFreak, doctors, lawyers and MBAs have written to Lindland, asking to be the next muse.

As The Globe and Mail pointed out, swapping out professional models for real everyday people is part of a new trend in fashion marketing. Take Dove, for example, which is now well-known for its "Real Beauty" campaign, which features models that are outside the stereotypical norms of beauty in an effort to broaden the definition of beauty and improve self-esteem among women of all ages. Aerie also made news with a similar effort in which the company pledged it would not Photoshop its models. Aerie also uses curvier women to model clothes in larger sizes.

These so-called "aspirational" images are a new tactic that has grown increasingly important to marketers, since, as The Globe and Mail pointed out, they are more likely to be shared among friends on social media, which has a much larger impact than a typical advertisement.

Indeed, the social media community has given Betabrand the thumbs-up, though AdFreak noted that there will still be some critics. The Globe and Mail noted that Dove, too, was criticized for its campaign, but it helped the company be a part of a larger conversation about advertising and its affects on women's self-esteem. It is likely that Betabrand's unconventional models could elicit a similar reaction.

"From an aspirational point of view, it's a very fun and meaningful approach," said Lindland in Today.

Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin


"Don't have a PhD? Sorry, you can't model for this brand,", March 12, 2014, Susan Krashinsky,

"Each Model for Betabrand's New Spring Collection Has a Ph.D.,", March 11, 2014, Roo Ciambriello,

"Smart Move: Betabrand Clothing Uses PhDs as Models,", March 11, 2014, Beth Greenfield, -- betabrand-clothing-uses-phds-as-models-214637295.html

"Smartie pants! New clothing line's models are all women with Ph.Ds,", March 11, 2014, Amy Eley,

"The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty,",

"Using Female PhDs as Models, Betabrand's E-Commerce Edges Closer to Becoming the Flickr of Fashion,", March 7, 2014, Lydia Dishman,

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