NEW YORK, United States — Fashion’s problem with plus-size is a complex and multifaceted issue. Here's the truth: while most women in the US fit into this category, plus-size fashion only takes up a tiny sliver of the apparel market.
Having worked predominantly in this space for the last five years as a blogger, consultant and columnist — and as a plus-size consumer myself — I can confidently say that when it comes to the plus-size market, the largest problem is the fashion industry’s attachment to the idea that fashion should be protected for a hyper-privileged slice of the population. And while it's not just size diversity that gets skirted (fashion still has a serious race problem), for fashion to ignore the plus-size frontier does not even make financial sense (translation: there is a whole lot of money to be made here).
The Internet and social media have caused the biggest social shift in attitudes towards fashion, by allowing customers to find inspiration and shop style from every corner and pocket of the globe. For plus-size consumers, this means that, while the Fashion Elite may not be serving and representing this (not) niche market, consumers can form a vocal community online — and around the world, indie brands are cropping up and taking mega-brands to task when it comes to on-trend style for the plus-size set.
Online media platforms also bypass traditional media. And for plus-size consumers, who are virtually never represented in fashion glossies, aside from the odd novelty issue, this is huge. Fashion bloggers are using their platforms to represent disenfranchised communities like plus-sizes, petites, and even religious groups that value modesty in fashion. They are sharing resources, supporting an emerging network of talent and creating an alternate media where in which they can be visible.
Aided by the Internet, the plus-size world even has its own magazines. Volup2, Plus Model Magazine, DARE, and SLiNK each serves up a dose of major editorial inspiration for consumers that mainstream fashion publications don’t speak to. Meanwhile, blogging powerhouses like GabiFresh, Nadia Aboulhosn and Garner Style are not just partnering with brands to create clothing lines and marketing campaigns, but we’re also pushing sales and driving business benefits — and we have the analytics to prove it.
Plus-size supermodels like Ashley Graham are becoming household names, campaigns like Lane Bryant's "I'm No Angel" advertisement are going viral, and new plus-size brands and sales on the rise. These are all case studies that disprove any preconceived notions about how the plus-size woman shops and sees herself in fashion.
The question remains, what is fashion’s problem with plus-size? I'm not convinced that it's anything other than elitism.
Nicolette Mason is a blogger, consultant and a market editor at Marie Claire.
The views expressed in Op-Ed pieces are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Business of Fashion.
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