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Plus size fashion getting into mainstream in the US

"The industry has been slow to learn lesson, things are getting on track. The women’s plus size fashion market has witnessed growth of over 38 per cent from two years ago, reports Smith. The plus size market is the fastest-growing segment in the US, but it still accounts for 1.6 per cent of the market, which is mysterious when around 67 per cent of women in the US wear a size 14 or larger. Nordstrom is now expanding its plus-size selections to include 100 brands and integrating them in with its core size range, rather than segregating it into a separate woman’s department, where the shopper is reminded that she doesn’t belong where the real fashion is."

 

Plus size fashion getting into mainstream in the US 002The average American woman wears between size 16 to 18, according to research by assistant professor Deborah Christel, at Washington State University’s Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles. She has made it her mission to make the industry aware about inherent fat biases by teaching a class to expose weight discrimination as a social justice issue. For too long, the industry has been entirely blinded by the fact that a consumer can be plus size and passionate about high-quality clothing and have the money to shop for it, said Katie Smith, retail analysis & insights director, Edited. Social media has helped fuel discussions around inclusivity, acceptance and is challenging old stereotypes. The Gen Y and Z consumers are far more open-minded and inclusive than any other consumer before them. And their impact on luxury, advertising and beauty has been, and will continue to be, enormous. The increased body-positivity these consumers are creating is finally hooking the fashion industry.

The industry has been slow to learn lesson, things are getting on track. The women’s plus size fashion market hasPlus size fashion getting into mainstream in the US 001 witnessed growth of over 38 per cent from two years ago, reports Smith. The plus size market is the fastest-growing segment in the US, but it still accounts for 1.6 per cent of the market, which is mysterious when around 67 per cent of women in the US wear a size 14 or larger. Nordstrom is now expanding its plus-size selections to include 100 brands and integrating them in with its core size range, rather than segregating it into a separate woman’s department, where the shopper is reminded that she doesn’t belong where the real fashion is.

The company, however, said it will still maintain a separate plus-size department for convenience, but its ‘size-inclusive’ initiative will give size 14 shoppers access to the same styles as her size 2 shopping companion. A company statement stated that petite and plus sizes shouldn’t be considered special categories. They are just sizes. Now Nordstrom shoppers can select from extended size offerings from inclusive brands like Topshop, Rag & Bone, Theory and J. Crew’s Madewell on the same rack. Specialty fashion retailer Express is also broadening its range of sizes from 00 to 18, but only in 130 stores out of its total base of 600 full-priced and factory stores.

Designing requires great expertise

Designing plus-sized clothing requires greater expertise and awareness of how to dress the real woman’s body, not designers’ favorite 6-foot-tall, size-00 model. According to Tim Gunn, long-time chair of fashion design, Parsons the New School of Design, there is no reason larger women can’t look just as fabulous as all other women. The key is the harmonious balance of silhouette, proportion and fit, regardless of size or shape. Kim Camarella-Khanbeigi, founder, Kiyonna and an early pioneer in plus-size fashion, stated that the fit is science. You can’t just grade up and expect the style to flatter and fit the same. Today, her brand is displayed at 250 stores nationwide, as well as being available on its own website, Amazon and Zappos. The business opportunity to dress the curvy woman is great and growing.

Business of luxury plus size fashion

As per data, only about 0.1 per cent of the luxury and premium market is plus sized. What luxury brands don’t seem to pay attention to is that plus-size shoppers are already their customers, be it of their beauty, perfume, footwear, accessories or leather goods lines, rather than apparel. While it is true that affluent women are less likely than lower-income women to be plus sized, it is safe to assume that at least 25-33 per cent or more of the nation’s affluent women don’t fit into the luxury industry’s standard 0-12 size range. Gucci for one has paid attention and offers an increasing range of styles in large and XL sizes. It will also help Nordstrom fill its racks as it broadens its plus-size offerings. Smith asserts that plus-size celebrities and influencers now have very visible global platforms for voicing their frustrations with an industry that can’t dress them. With social attitudes towards inclusivity shifting rapidly, luxury brands don’t want to lag in this opportunity.

 
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