Representation matters. It shapes, or at least, re-affirms norms and realities. And can help break barriers. In today’s society, integrating diversity into your marketing campaigns, showing a full representation of age, sex, and race in your product offering and ads is expected by many.
But not by everyone. Like with any social issue, when you decide to tackle it instead of avoiding it, you may rub some people the wrong way. As we all know, it’s part of doing progress for businesses.
It’s true to representation, inclusion, and diversity, not only when you speak about age, for example. But also, when your inclusion means “all sizes.”
Still, this market is becoming more and more important for brands, and many leading ones are putting it front and center. Probably, the fact that the US plus-size apparel growth rate is twice that of the total apparel market has something to do with it.
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Leading The Way
When looking at who is leading the way, we can turn to Fashion United’s report, that “54% of all of H&M’s women clothing is between XL and 4XL, with 64% of their tops available fitting these sizes on its online store.”
In October, the Swedish retailer also launched new Curvy Fit denim made with South African women in mind. The new line that offers several different colors and denim styles was designed with less gaping at the waistline and more room in the hips/thighs to better fit larger women.
Meanwhile, though Miss Selfridge only goes up to size 18, 47.7% of their clothing is between 16-18. It shows their consideration towards all body types, with almost half of their clothes made larger.
Shein, the B2C fast fashion eCommerce platform, is also doing a great job at representing a wide range of customers compared to its competitors, as 37.2% of all online products are available in sizes ranging from XL-4XL. The fashion retailer also offers plenty of plus-size dresses.
Not as Easy as 1-2-3
One apparel niche that is starting to embrace the plus-size market is fitness. Here, the challenge is a little trickier since consumers are accustomed to seeing fitness ads with very fit models, making full representation even more important.
And indeed, we now see more and more athleisure brands that are considering customers of all shapes, sizes, and body types, creating larger clothing to provide a wide array of customers with the ability to shop their products confidently. But they are not all getting only positive responses.
Recently, Fortune magazine announced Lululemon Athletica has started expanding the sizes of the clothing it sells. “As a brand, who are we to determine the exclusive nature of the product purely based on size?” said Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald.
“Those are the people we want to recruit, and our sizing was preventing us from recruiting people who have similar states of mind. The value to the organization in doing this is it reinforces who we are, how we want to show up.”
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The reviews on our most iconic styles are in (and, yes, our design team has been cc’d). These six styles in sizes 0-20 are just the beginning. Keep your eyes peeled and excitement high. We promise there’s much more coming soon.
Although the Canadian brand that practically created the athleisure trend had good intentions when making plus-size clothing – many had mixed feelings regarding the announcement.
For instance, Halie LeSavage, retail writer at The Brew Tweeted:
this Lululemon push on “inclusive” sizing is overdue…but still misses the mark imo. from reporting I’ve done on extended size expansions at other retailers, going up to a size 20 is hardly “inclusive” in the eyes of many consumers. (1/3)https://t.co/6TFikQdsZF
— Halie LeSavage (@halie_lesavage) October 28, 2020
Indeed, many other customers would agree that going up to a size 20 for its six most popular women items isn’t fully inclusive and not enough.
Still, this is a massive deal for fitness brands that many would assume are meant only for the physically fit. And when embracing all body types, such brands are prone to receiving reactions that aren’t so positive.
Gymshark, the posh fitness clothing and accessories brand based in the United Kingdom, also runs big sizes. And it had a different experience when posting about it.
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“Because we are all both soft whilst also being incredibly strong. One side is not weaker, less valid or less worthy. Both exist together perfectly.” – Beautiful words, beautiful body, beautiful soul – @_nelly_london – @Gymsharkwomen #Gymshark
Some comments mentioned in Cosmopolitan on the post above include: “Confidence won’t unclog your arteries”, wrote a man, garnering hundreds of likes. “Won’t buy any more products from Fatshark after this post. Unfollowed,” said another. “That girl has no business representing fitness. I’m all for body positivity, but this is supposed to be a fitness brand… that lady is not fit whatsoever. I assume Gymshark is now a brand for overweight people?”
Disappointing, indeed. But progress is a process.
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