There’s plenty of data pointing to the growing need for plus-size fashion, whether it’s Plunkett Research’s findings that 68% of American women are wearing a size 14 or above, or that, according to market research firm NPD, one-third of women consumers believe they’re plus-size.
Companies like Modcloth, Target and Reformation are attempting to fill that clothing need for plus-size women by introducing more sizes or coming up with brands like Ava and Viv at Target specifically dedicated to this group. Eloquii, the plus-size women’s fashion brand acquired by Walmart last year for $100 million, is taking it a step further by teaming up with Refinery29 to introduce a crowdsourced, 27-item collection geared toward women wanting something more casual to wear on the weekends—an area that Yesenia Torres, design director of Eloquii, said was missing in the market. And while retailer and publisher collaborations aren’t anything remotely new, Torres said this one stands out because of how the two brands went about crowdsourcing the information.
“In any collaboration, you have the designer, the brand, and whoever they’re collaborating together [with] and then [they] put it out to the customer,” Torres said. “Whereas here, we brought in the customer first.”
To begin, Refinery29 tapped into a group of 11,000 members who are sizes 12-plus to ask them what they wanted from a plus-size market. From there, the two brands picked 29 individuals who helped fine-tune the collection until settling on 27 items ranging from jackets to dresses to skirts. The line is available in sizes 12-28, with prices from $49 to $129, and available across Eloquii and Refinery29’s website, as well as its wholesale partners, Nordstrom, Stitch Fix and Gwynnie Bee. The two brands declined to share sales terms or whether Refinery29 is selling any of these items on a wholesale agreement.
While the project from start to finish took about a year, Torres said the actual development process only took about five months—allowing Eloquii to continue being a brand that can move fast and react to consumer feedback. That’s the allure of direct-to-consumer companies, after all—the ability to react rapidly to consumer sentiment—which Torres said the company still has despite being owned by Walmart. As part of the rollout, Torres said the company will use reviews and customer service in its five stores as a means of knowing whether the collection was successful.
The plus-size industry for women used to be led by retailers like Lane Bryant. But, now direct-to-consumer upstarts from 11 Honoré to Henning, a new workwear brand started by Lauren Chan, a former fashion editor at Glamour, are changing the rules of how plus-size women can buy—and wear. According to Coresight Research, in 2016, plus-size fashion increased by 6%. And to top it off, the internet gave plus-size women a chance to dictate how they were being represented, and led to influencers like Chastity Garner Valentine starting CurvyCon and to prolific writers and bloggers like Nicolette Mason changing the perception around plus-size women.
As for Refinery29, Laura Delarato, a senior creative at the publisher, said the company is rolling out a dedicated plan to support the collection, from a dedicated video to editorial pieces to social content.
“We want this thing to sell out,” Delarato said. “But we also want to make sure she sees herself in this content.”
Refinery29 has previously dabbled in these retailer-publisher relationships, including a partnership earlier this year for Bonobos’ first women’s clothing, which was released during Women’s History Month. But Delarato said this collection is different because it incorporated actual consumer feedback to create it—and it’s the publisher’s first direct-to-consumer line.
“Aside from both of our brands being perfectly aligned with each other, what really stands out is we talk specifically to her so she can be reflected back into the content we made,” Delarato said.