Fashion Equality for All? Well…
These days, we can’t go a single day without hearing words like “body positivity,” “body acceptance” and “equality.” We’re told over and over not to judge others, to embrace our differences and to consider those of different body types, ages, races, religions, genders and sexual orientations when making our decisions. So it goes without saying that world-famous fashion events like New York Fashion Week should embody these values in every show they produce, right? Well…
Don’t get me wrong; the plus size fashion industry has grown by leaps and bounds and has crashed through barriers no one thought possible even a few years ago. Plus supermodel Tess Holliday has graced the covers of major mainstream magazines like Cosmopolitan and People, more and more clothing brands are expanding their size ranges , and it’s estimated that the plus size fashion industry in the U.S. alone will grow to $32.3 billion this year.
Why, oh why, then is it so rare to see a woman larger than a size 6 on the runways of NYFW? After the fashion desert of 2020, I was going through serious fashion show withdrawal and was dying to attend as many shows this past September as I could. Disappointingly, though, I could only find a handful that even included a small amount of plus sizes and only a few of those were part of the official NYFW lineup.
Here are three excuses I hear and why they’re dead wrong, costing designers literally millions of dollars per year.
- “Fashion is about aspiring to perfection and my audience doesn’t want to see women with ‘flaws.’” Correction; fashion used to be about aspiring to perfection! In the last 10 years, more and more customers have reported that they want to see women who look like themselves instead of the “perfect” woman. If I’m going to shell out thousands of dollars for a haute couture gown, I want to make damn sure it will look stunning on my curves and that’s impossible if I can only see it on a size 2 stick.
- “Plus-size women don’t want to spend money on clothes because they’re all trying to lose weight.” I have never heard of a more costly mistake! Having been plus-size for most of my life and having sold directly to plus-size customers, I can tell you with confidence that plus-size women will actually pay more for clothes that fit flawlessly and make them feel fabulous simply because it’s so rare to find. Since there are fewer options for plus sizes, even though we make up 70% of the population, we are the most loyal customers when we find a brand we love.
- “I don’t have room in my store for both straight and plus sizes so I’ll only carry plus sizes online.” Make room! Even with the best size chart in the world, plus-size women have to return online purchases three times more often than straight size ones due to improper fit, leading to loss of sales for the brand and frustration for the customer, usually causing them to shop somewhere else.
I used to work at Sephora and I remember asking myself one day: “What if we told 70% of our clients not to come to our store?” My God, what store would be stupid enough to do that, you ask? Well, the majority of clothing retailers, actually. That’s what they’re saying to the world when they don’t carry items for 70 percent of the population! Smart business decision? Not so much.
Thankfully for us curvy gals (and guys), some brands are smart enough to actually claim their piece of the 32 billion dollar plus-size pie. Some were exclusively plus and others included both plus and straight-size fashions and almost all included a fabulous variety of races, genders and ages to boot. Please join me in giving all of them a huge thank you. I can only hope more designers follow their lead for every fashion week!
Editor’s Note: Emma Medeiros is the founder of Medeiros Fashion PR, the nation’s leading plus-size PR agency. To learn more about Medeiros Fashion PR, click here.