Millennials and Gen Z has brought a new wave of socially-conscious consumerism. The rise of the body positivity movement spearheaded by the likes of musician Lizzo and model Ashley Graham call traditional beauty ideals into question. Body acceptance and self-love emerged as the basis of consumer expectations – piling the pressure on retailers and fashion brands to expand into inclusive sizing.
Diversification initiatives are tremendously valued by consumers and brands that uphold inclusivity can gain a competitive advantage. Representation of different body types has been steadily growing in the fashion industry.
The recent Paris and Milan Fashion Week saw plus-size models Jill Kortleve and Paloma Elsesser walk down the runways of luxury powerhouses like Chanel, Fendi and Lanvin. For this to have taken place in the luxury market, where traditional beauty ideals still prevail, is a sign of changing times.
For retailers with a diversity agenda, a key area to tap into is inclusive sizing. The fashion industry has inadvertently excluded plus-size consumers by failing to provide an extensive size range.
Across several markets, the most common size range runs between Small and Large, even though the majority of the population require larger sizes. In America, many brands only manufacture sizes 2-12 when 67% of women in America wear size 14 and above.
Limited options leave consumers feeling underrepresented and pressured to conform to standards set by the industry. Brands can mitigate this effect by providing complete solutions to consumers and gain market share in the process. Here are the key industry players that are making a name for themselves through an inclusive sizing strategy.
Asos is a great example of inclusive sizing in fast fashion with its vast Plus range – offering up to 6XL. The e-commerce giant also has Tall, Petite, Curve and Maternity collections to account for all body types, leaving almost none out of the equation.
Another aspect Asos has got right is streamlining garment design across its traditional and plus-size assortments. Numerous brands are guilty of marginalising the plus-size community, offering unflattering styles that cover rather than highlight the wearer’s features.
Those with different body types also miss out on opportunities to try out prominent trends, with limited fashionable options available. By referencing key trends equally across all sizes, Asos empowers its customers with ample choices – creating a safe space where consumers feel welcome.
The chart below depicts Asos’ size range and proves the brand’s increased focus to be more inclusive. In 2019, Asos produced significantly higher SKUs in sizes 3XL and above compared to the previous year. Asos’ recent success in overcoming setbacks is attributed to the strides it’s taken in embracing inclusivity, which resonated deeply with its consumers.
Plus-size men are no stranger to the lack of choice in the market – often reduced to shopping at specialty stores. Menswear retailer Bonobos seized this opportunity by expanding into producing extended sizes. The Walmart-owned brand that established itself on “the better-fitting pant,” aims to uphold “diversity in a one-size-fits-all world.”
“Diving into extended sizing was really a natural extension for us,” said Carly Rappoport, a spokesperson for Bonobos.
Like Asos, Bonobos promotes equality by maintaining the same designs across both spectrums of its size range. This allows its customers to participate in trends that are making waves in the industry.
Bonobos offers extended sizes in nearly every category, from jeans to swimwear. It’s clear the brand’s efforts are not an afterthought. It spent nearly a year developing new design, production and manufacturing processes based on test-wears, using feedback to improve the end product.
Bonobos is reaping the rewards for its venture. Last year, the brand amassed a 95% sell-out rate with minimal discounting. This indicates a strong demand for plus-size menswear that other retailers should venture into.
Adidas x Universal Standard
For big players in the industry with no experience in expanding size range, the best way to start is by forming a partnership with an expert retailer who already knows the ins and outs of producing plus-size assortments. Activewear giant Adidas took up this strategy last year by collaborating with Universal Standard, the market leader of plus-size womenswear. The collaboration for a capsule collection combines Adidas’ innovative performance technology with Universal Standard’s expertise in extensive sizing.
The collection consists of performance attire including leggings, tops, shorts and jackets in six colourways. With this endeavour, Adidas now offers sizes up to 4XL in womenswear for the first time – a big step towards inclusivity for the brand. The collection performed well in the US & UK markets with an 80% total sell-out rate despite low discounts.
Meaningful collaborations like this among authorities in retail have the potential to achieve similar success and could be a catalyst for an industry-wide change.
Act Now – or Forever Miss Out
As social justice continues to influence consumer behaviour, brands can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to issues like diversity and inclusivity.
While systemic change within the industry is still in its infancy, there are plenty of opportunities for retailers to capitalise on. The success of plus-size collections proves that consumers will flock to value-driven brands that can provide the best choices.
Could your brand be next?