The five-piece collection marks the plus-size retailer’s first-ever celebrity partnership, designed collaboratively by 11 Honoré's in-house designer Danielle Williams Eke and the American actress, writer, director and producer. The collection will go live on April 6, and contains five looks: a dress, shirt, tank top, blazer and skirt priced between $98 and $298.
“So many fashion designers are excited to work with Patrick [Herning, 11 Honoré's chief executive] and 11 Honoré,” Dunham said. “So many fashion magazines are excited to feature a new range of bodies. But there’s resistance from the retail world about featuring new kinds of bodies, even though curvy women come in droves to buy clothing.”
Dunham is a fitting first celebrity partner for the brand: She has long been a proponent of body positivity in Hollywood, media and fashion, often highlighting the gap in offerings for plus-sized women (which typically refers to sizes ranging from a US 14 to US 24). That disparity persists even though the business opportunity is huge: Coresight Research estimates plus-size women’s clothing sales totalled $28.3 billion last year, or about 21 percent of the overall market.
Working with a celebrity is a strategic shift for 11 Honoré, which has historically relied on micro-influencers and brand ambassadors it partners with through its ‘Honoré Roll’ program. But to both Herning and Dunham, the partnership was a natural one — Dunham was already an 11 Honoré customer and tapped into the community. Through partnering with Dunhnam, 11 Honoré gains access to her 2.8 million Instagram followers and hopefully, will acquire new customers. Dunham, likewise, got to dabble in fashion, and see her creative vision come to life.
“The business of fashion is an unforgiving business, and I really felt I needed to learn from someone who had the kind of expertise that Patrick does,” Dunham said. “He’s created such an amazing world and infrastructure … It’s just this total no brainer of ‘If I have the chance to meld my business with his, then why wouldn’t I?’”
The design and details of the collection were informed by intuition (Dunham hoped what she wanted would resonate with consumers) and data. Herning says that at the beginning of 2020, 11 Honoré's business was 80 percent dresses, which changed drastically by the year’s end. It incorporated the learnings from those purchasing shifts into the collection, including more separates and a bodysuit, both of which sold well over the past year.
“The cues — if you will — were very much supported by data and our transaction history and also price point. We really saw a huge opportunity in contemporaries,” said Herning, referring to the segment that is accessible, and more price-conscious than luxury but not as affordable as high street or fast-fashion.
The move comes in the midst of a wave of plus-size pitch-and-ditch efforts among mass market retailers including White House Black Market, Loft, and Mango, all of whom added plus-size offerings only to retire the products within a few years.
“I want to say to these people: the problem isn’t that there aren’t plus women to buy your collections, it’s that you’re not putting thought into your collections … It’s a lot like when people in Hollywood make a bad movie for women, women don’t go to the movies and they go ‘See! Women don’t go to the movies!’” Dunham said. “It’s like, no, we love to go to the movies, just put some thought into what you’re sending us to the movies to see.”