Even though the talks about a “plus size” or “modern” women is not a new thing, it seems for us, that there has been a silence in the media for a while. And nonetheless, it is not the case why we are writing here. In this blog post we want to address this topic from the designers’/retailers’ perspective — what challenges they face concerning the plus size fashion and is the plus size market actually big enough? In addition, our friend Egle (MODEX) from Scotland shares her knowledge about her little vintage clothes business, size issues and what changes she has already noticed in the fashion industry.
Plus size market
“The average American woman is about 25 pounds heavier than she was in 1960. Yet women’s plus-size clothing, generally defined as size 14 and up, still makes up only about 9 percent of the $190 billion spent annually on clothes.“(Business of Fashion) Latest statistics from 2013 state almost the same numbers — $16.2 billion in sales for the year ended November 2013, which grew up 7.2% from the year-ago period, according to market research firm the NPD Group (Forbes) So why the sale numbers are still so relevantly low? As Business of Fashion magazine argues further, the problem is not the plus size girls , who are not interested into fashion. It is the fashion industry, which doesn’t seem to be interested in them. Some might say, that the companies have spent a lot of time, money and marketing on making clothes to the slim/average girls and it is much easier to continue to do so.
However, Business of Fashion adds more to this. “Stereotypes about larger women not wanting to dress fashionably keep companies from making clothes that are flattering to them. And in turn, that discourages them from spending more.” (Business of Fashion)
Because the concept of the plus size fashion is so relevantly new, for some companies a decision to include larger clothes to their collections still causes many challenges. “<…>Alison Diboll, founder of Gabriella Rossetti, a new high-end line of women’s clothing ranging from size 12 to 22, agrees that it’s a tough choice for retailers. The Gabriella Rossetti line offers plus-size skirts for $250 and jackets for $650. But Diboll acknowledges that designer clothes for plus-sizes can be more complex than smaller sizes. “You can’t just take a size 6 and upsize it for (a size) 20 and expect it to work,” she says. (Jsonline) .
In addition, a decision to produce large size clothes is not easy for the companies/designers. “Whether to carry plus-size clothing is a risk calculation for most retailers, said Daniel Butler, a vice president for the National Retail Federation. “Most retailers can’t afford to fit everybody,” he says.” (Marie Claire)
Furthermore, Gary Dakin, who runs the modeling agency JAG, which represents only women size 6 and up, argues, that larger clothes can be expensive for designers as well. “Practically speaking, making these clothes for curvey figures is a challenge for designers who are used to catering to women who are all limbs — especially if they need to produce a lot of them. It involves another fit model or another set of samples.” (Gary Dakin)
Lastly, designers still do not have enough knowledge about plus sizes clothes and how to make them, so they would fit the customers. According to the Jsonline article, some designers/retailers are even hiring special experts to help their designers to learn how to actually make fashionable clothes for plus size women, which shows, that some of them are trying to learn and adapt to the new changes in fashion industry, and for most designers, it is still a new thing.
How long you are in fashion business, and what has changed concerning clothes sizes over that time?
Egle: I have been studying International sales management and also I own online vintage clothing shop, therefore, let’s say, I have been in the ‘fashion business or industry’ for over 5 years. I have noticed that the ‘real beauty and real body size’ is more appreciated nowadays, which is completely beautiful! There are wider varieties of sizes or let’s say ‘larger’ sizes for full figured woman. It means, if you are a curvy woman, you can also look as amazing as ‘model figure/skinny’ girl.
Tell us, what aspects do you take into consideration, when choosing products for your online shop?
Egle: As currently I am based in the UK and almost all of my products are vintage (vintage sizes are so much smaller than current sizes), I usually go for a variety of sizes. The average British woman is UK size 12, I need to take this into consideration (you need to order more of UK sizes 10–12–14 ). Of course the other main aspect is your own sales data – what is the most popular size within your shop.
Is there a return policy on your website? If yes, how often your customers return your products because of the wrong size? What are the main reasons for that, in your opinion? Do you track reasons of the returns?
Egle: I believe it is very important to have a return policy in any business. We do get few returns a month, some of them because of the fit or sizes. To prevent this issue, we usually describe the garment and add all the measurements in the product description window. As I have mentioned before, we are working with the vintage clothing, therefore, it is a must to provide all this information because of the difference in current sizes. We have a return policy data collected. It is a great piece of information you can work with in the future – helps with future orders and loss prevention.
What is the size scale which your customers can choose from? (e.g. xs-xl) what is the reason for that?
Egle: As I am based in UK we currently have sizes from UK size 6 to UK size 18–20.
On which clothing size system do you usually rely, when you buy your own clothes? (EU, UK, US etc…), why?
Egle: At the moment I rely on UK sizes, as I know how the British sizes fit my body.
Finally, do you often shop online? Why?
Egle: Personally I do shop online quite often. It is relevant, easy, sometimes even cheaper and saves all the hassle.
Even though it is challenging for some designers/retailers to implement the plus size to their production/collections, it is clear, that the plus size customers are demanding to look fashionable as well. Women want to see real women, who look just like themselves, and because of all the methods and power consumers have of publicly expressing their opinions, they have spoken up and they have been heard. The influence of the celebrities and famous bloggers, such as model Kate Upton, singer Adele, blogger Nicolette Mason and many, many more, have changed our understanding of the real beauty.
When talking about the companies, let’s take ,for example, two of the biggest clothes brands in the European fashion, like Asos and H&M, to review how they integrated plus size clothes.
Four years ago Asos launched a plus-size category called Asos Curve (sizes from 14 to 24). According to the company, they are fitting everything on a size 16 model, and in this way, ensuring the right fit and comfort to their customers. Another well known company, H&M, shook the fashion world first in 2012, when they featured a plus sized model in their swimsuit campaign. In addition, H&M has been running as well H&M plus size clothes in every collection since 2011 online and from 2012- in stores.
The fashion world in changing from year to year, step by step, and it is being polished and shaped by our demands and needs, or even life habits. Who knows, what’s waiting for us in the future. However, at least we can be sure, that now women have more power than ever to demand for the clothes, which fit the “real, modern women”.