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Abby Z.: Plus-Size, Upscale

NEW YORK — The plus-size market has gotten a style injection with Abby Z., a new contemporary line catering to big women with a passion for fashion. The collection launched recently at seven Saks Fifth Avenue department stores, and a larger...

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NEW YORK — The plus-size market has gotten a style injection with Abby Z., a new contemporary line catering to big women with a passion for fashion. The collection launched recently at seven Saks Fifth Avenue department stores, and a larger rollout is planned for the holiday season.

“It’s ‘Sex and the City’ gone large,” said Abby Zeichner, president and designer of the company, which is based and manufactured in New York. Although the idea to start a trendy plus-size collection was sparked six years ago, it took Zeichner some time to develop the line and gain credibility with retailers that didn’t share Zeichner’s vision for growth in this market.

“The hottest jeans today, like Sevens, don’t go over a size 10 or 12. I wanted to give larger girls the opportunity to wear branded logo jeans,” added Zeichner, who earned a fashion design and marketing degree from Arizona State University.

Zeichner is following in her father Bernard Zeichner’s footsteps in the fashion world; he is chairman of the board at Charlotte Russe Inc. and a longtime retail industry executive. Zeichner’s mother, whom, she says, is “the biggest influence” in her life, is chief financial officer at Abby Z. The company is funded by a few private investors, she said.

Considering the growing trend of obesity in the U.S., the launch of Abby Z. seems to have come at an opportune time. According to the American Obesity Association, more than 60 percent of the American population is considered overweight, and 30 percent is obese. Specialty stores that cater to plus-size women, such as Lane Bryant and Torrid, a division of Hot Topic, have been performing well.

Zeichner has chosen to focus on jeans and tops for now. She uses a variety of fabrics and cuts, which are intended to flatter larger figures. Hot items that Saks Fifth Avenue has picked up include printed silk charmeuse and chiffon tunic tops. As far as jeans go, Zeichner is well versed in knowing what big girls want. “A lot of larger people like to cover their waistlines, so I try to put a lot of detail, like buttons, near the bottom where it can be appreciated.” The holiday collection will carry an expanded selection of items, including burnout velvets and beading, flowy skirts and bouclé jackets.

For Zeichner, designing plus-size clothing isn’t just about making women look great, its also about making them feel good about themselves. She knows what it’s like to shop in a department store and find nothing in the right size, or discover that all the larger clothing has been relegated to the “basement or attic.” Her goal is to make clothes shopping an enjoyable experience for the plus-size set. Saks Fifth Avenue, one of the few better department stores with a plus-size department, is displaying her collection on a main floor, and Nordstrom will do the same when the collection bows there this month. Zeichner also is looking to make her way into smaller retail shops.

Wholesale prices range from $84 to $178, and sales projections for the first year are set at $6 million. Zeichner is excited about offering plus-size women the opportunity to wear stylish clothing. “I want my customer to feel pretty and sexy,” she said. “She’s bigger, but she’s gonna look good.”

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