The New Body Positive Brands Breaking the Internet

As e-commerce opens doors to plus-sized market, what will be next?

The fashion world has long upheld the notion of good things coming in small – skinny – packages, but with inclusivity on the rise, its long-neglected curvy clientele are carving a market for themselves.

“We believe you shouldn’t have to defend your shape to buy something that looks beautiful, is style relevant, and great fitting – it should be a given,” says Alexandra Waldman, co-founder of Universal Standard, a New York-based brand making “seasonless, modern essentials” in sizes 10-28. “As long as we’re fighting to prove we’re deserving – we’re in a fight.” As a plus-size woman, and former fashion journalist, her love of clothing proved to be a constant battle, and as the market had nothing to offer her, she bridged the gap herself. She feels that “buying a piece of clothing should not have to be a political act,” and she’s democratizing fashion with her revolutionary Universal Fit Library, where clients can swap sizes for a year with neither guilt nor extra cost. Their goal is to set a new standard in the industry, where fashion doesn’t distinguish by size, just style.

This month heralded the launch of not one but two plus-sized e-commerce destinations. For the millennial market comes Premme, the brainchild of two major plus-sized bloggers Gabi Gregg and Nicolette Mason who designed a size 12-30 line with Insta-worthy trendiness in mind. While most influencers collaborate with well-established designers, these girls built a brand from scratch to fill the void the industry season-after-season failed to do. Tapping into their massive followings and entrepreneurial savvy, the social media mavens created Premme for “babes of all sizes [who] deserve bold, fashion-forward statement pieces without compromise.” No muumuus or sac dresses in sight, the line instead focuses on trend-driven staples: crop tops, denim cutout dresses, jumpsuits and Feminist AF patch jackets. The site crashed within minutes of its initial launch, and most items sold out instantly. Companies clamoring to seduce the millennial audience should take note. Premme’s viral success proves that the plus-size market not only breaks industry boundaries but can break the Internet too.

A lack of stylish plus-size options is prevalent in both low to high ends of the market.  Despite an estimated 67% of American women wearing a size 14 or larger, most luxury designers shy from catering their collections to the plus-sized set. Former Vogue editor Kathryn Retzer and marketing magnate Patrick Herning created a digital destination to bridge the gap with 11 Honoré, “a beautifully curated, size inclusive offering” of luxury clothing sizes 10-20. The e-commerce platform, which launched this week, will sell RTW pieces from 14 designers including Prabal Gurung, Brandon Maxwell, Michael Kors, and Zac Posen. In contrast to the hundreds of brands on most luxury e-commerce platforms, 11 Honoré’s limited selection of labels attests the extent of the plus-sized market void. While the platform aspires to expand into a hub for content and commerce, it’s not solely dependent upon the success of their daring business plan. The responsibility equally rests on designer’s shoulders to expand their Size-00 visions.

In addition to these corporate efforts, body activism has a face in the form of the bodacious Ashley Graham. Her New York Magazine cover story is on shelves this week, and the feature unveils Ashley in all her D&G wearing, Marilyn Monroe channeling glory. Putting her curves proudly on display, she’s a vision of self-love and body-positivity. The first curve model – she hates the term plus size – to land a Vogue cover in its 125-year history, has been making waves in the industry for her DGAF attitude towards industry naysayers. From her unwavering Photoshop-free stance to her scintillating memoir A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty and Power Really Look Like, Ashley turns body shaming on its head. In the NY Mag feature, she notes the widespread lack of fuller figures in fashion media and encountering many designers who still refuse to dress her, despite her fame. Her end goal is to “prove curvy women can be beautiful, show the world their sex appeal and don’t need to be draped in ‘dowdy clothes, dowdy lingerie’.”

While the majority of the industry is trailing behind, the rise in body-positive companies like Universal Standard, Premme and 11 Honoré puts stakes behind Ashley’s words. As Waldman aptly notes, “we’ll know things are moving in the right direction when plus-size women are allowed the peace of mind to think of fashion as just that – fashion.” These women may fit outside the industry norm, but they’re proving beauty and buying power comes in all forms.

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