Fashion designers and retailers are upgrading their plus-size offerings – Los Angeles Times
For an industry that champions inclusiveness, fashion brands are still warming up to the plus-size market. While some designers and retailers still arenât sold on the market, the category is a robust one. Considered to be any size from 14 up, plus size was a $21.4 billion business last year, compared to $17.4 billion in 2013, according to the NPD Group. Interestingly, plus-size teens are a driving force, accounting for 34 percent of the market in 2015 compared to 19 percent in 2012, according to NPDâs 2015 Womenâs Special Sizes Study.
Designers like Michael Kors and Christian Siriano featured a range of body types on their fall runways. For her fall Comme des Garçons collection, Rei Kawakubo sent models down the runway in Picasso-esque curves and bulbous creations, which she sized up in show notes as âThe future of silhouette.â H&M included two more shapely models â Kate Syme and Stella Duval â in its buy-now-wear-now collection, while Nike started selling its 1x through 3x plus-size collection via its site earlier this month.
Looking to make plus size more about fashion and less about size, Prabal Gurung said he intentionally turned to Vogue to break the news of his limited-edition collection with Lane Bryant. Going even further, the magazine featured Ashley Graham among the seven models that appeared on its March cover.
Graham also walked in Korsâ fall show and the designer, whose Collection range runs from size 0 to 16, says he will continue to represent a diverse set of women.
âIâve always dressed a variety of women of all shapes and ages. The diversity of age, size and look of the models on the runway should reflect a heightened version of reality that is representative of the world at large. Ashley is a sensational beauty who is a strong part of todayâs fashion mosaic,â said Kors. âMy job as a designer has always been to design clothes that work for a wide range of women. I think more and more retailers are realizing the importance of this.â
âI think itâs about time that larger sizes are represented in presentations during fashion week,â said Tricia Smith, Nordstromâs executive vice president and general merchandise manager of womenâs and designer apparel. âWe donât view it any differently than the need to be more inclusive across the board, whether it is ethnicity, size or body type and I hope it continues. In our opinion, plus sizes should not be considered a âcategory.â Weâre working hard to represent a broader range of sizes in all of our best product.â
Gurungâs hope is that his involvement will allow people to look at beauty differently. âThe definition of beauty is no longer size two, four or zero. It comes in different sizes. I just saw [the sector] becoming very stigmatized and treated in a very inferior way. It was snickered at. There was nothing positive in the way that it was handled. I just felt it was time. The world was shifting. To not be part of the conversation about diversity and inclusion is just so out of synch, out-of-touch and archaic.â
The strength of the category is not lost on him either. âItâs a $20 billion business and growing. Sixty-seven percent of American women are in this category and we are lamenting about the retail industry dwindling. It is pure, simple logic to me.â
Applying the same integrity and message of inclusion that goes into his signature collection, Gurung said, âWhat really surprises me is how still close-minded our industry is about this. Like it or not, our industry has a herd mentality. Weâre afraid to take risks, weâre afraid to follow our instincts because the handful of critics and tastemakers might not agree with you, or you may be shunned. For me, none of that mattered because I know all of them and they have been nothing but great to me. If I was rude and led by fear, I wouldnât be in America.â
Across the board, plus-size consumers would like to have more stylish options in their current wardrobes and half of them want to buy apparel from brands that make both regular and plus-sizes. Teens are most likely of all age groups to feel that brands design plus-size clothing as an afterthought and âplus-size clothing should be offered in the same styles available for my smaller friends,â NPD reported.
Frank Doroff, Bloomingdaleâs vice chairman, said, âBloomingdaleâs has plus-size offerings both in store and online. In store we have dedicated shops from vendors like Marina Rinaldi, Eileen Fisher and NYDJ, which our customer has responded well to, and we have seen growth in our online business over the past year or so.â
After Siriano enlisted 10 large-size models for his February runway show â twice as many as last season â consumers and retailers âloved itâ and orders more than doubled as a result, he said.
âEven if the customer was just a size 10, they were more interested in seeing the clothes on different bodies. Weâre just in a different world now, where a fashion show has become more consumer-based,â Siriano said. âIâm so surprised that people care so much about it. That is good and bad. The fact that it is such a topic that people need to talk about is interesting. But Iâm sure for these women who are bigger on the runway, thatâs not so great for them. It kind of goes both ways.â
This summer he made headlines by dressing Leslie Jones for the âGhostbustersâ premiere, after she tweeted that designers did not want to suit her up for the red carpet. âThatâs very embarrassing to admit you canât get clothes. That takes bravery. She was subject to Internet hacking. People were releasing photos of her,â he said. âShe was being really beaten down for what she looks like and thatâs just so sad that our society sometimes goes in that direction against people because we all look different.â
Unlike in the past when Sirianoâs standard size was a 6, now 10 is the highest selling size and an increasing number of international stores are ordering more size eight items and above. The company will now cut styles up to a size 26, a selling point that has also helped Sirianoâs bridal sales at Kleinfeldâs âbecause a lot of brides canât find a dress,â he said. âMost of the retailers used to go up to a 12, but sizes six, eight and 10 were the standard.â
With a customer base that includes Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates, Neve Campbell, Viola Davis and Julianne Moore, Siriano said, âIâve always dressed women of size, different ethnicities and from all walks of life, but now people are noticing it more which is great.â