Dan Abrams is transforming Styleite, his company’s fashion-centric Web site, into RunwayRiot, a fashion, beauty and shopping site catering to plus-size consumers.
The new site, which will launch in mid-November, will include an e-commerce element executed through a partnership with RewardStyle. Staffers from Styleite will transition to RunwayRiot, which will be edited and run by plus-size model Iskra Lawrence, and focus on stories that concern what Abrams described as an “underserved demographic.”
“There is not a site out there that targets women of all sizes,” said Abrams, who explained that recently, Styleite has slowly been shifting its focus on body-image issues. Those stories have been gaining traction, he said, which gave him the idea to re-brand the site and incorporate a shopping element.
Launched in 2010, Styleite was one of several verticals under Abrams Media, which included Mediaite, Gossip Cop and The Mary Sue. Comscore said Styelite had 452,000 U.S. unique visitors in August, down 58 percent year over year. The slumping traffic is likely another reason for the shift in direction.
Abrams said Styleite was pulling in between 500,000 and 1.5 million unique visitors a month. But that hardly made it a standout among the sea of fashion and beauty-centric blogs and Web sites that already exist.
His decision to re-brand and relaunch the site, he said, is linked to the fact that there’s a demand.
“When you have 60-plus percent of American women who are considered plus size — that’s an enormous opportunity,” he said. “The idea is for Iskra to provide direction on a daily basis from e-commerce to editorial — and writing herself.
Lawrence, who is a plus-size model and is perhaps best known for her Aerie campaign, has become a spokeswoman of sorts for a positive body image in the modeling industry. She also runs a blog, which she said gives “curvier” girls a “voice.” “We’re trying to get rid of the word ‘plus size’ because it has a stigma,” Lawrence said. “We’re trying to get rid of that and tell women that they deserve to dress fabulously. If we empower them and make them excited to shop, they are going to want to shop.”
The model will help choose looks from about 10 to 20 brands offered by RewardStyle for sale. The looks will include apparel, accessories and beauty, and they will combine high to low price points ranging from $10 to $250. According to Abrams, this constitutes an affiliate partnership with RewardStyle, which works with 9,000 bloggers and “influencers” and 4,000 retailers. The four-year-old Dallas-based company recently raised $15 million from Russian media entrepreneurs Miroslava Duma and Nasiba Adilova and investor Veronica Chou, the daughter of Silas Chou and a former Iconix China executive.
Eventually, the goal for RunwayRiot is to design and produce its own plus-size fashions. The very different worlds of retail from that of publishing didn’t concern Abrams, who looks first to see if he can generate any traction in the plus-size retail market. After that, he explained he would target brands for exclusive designs, and then retail could be a final step.
For her part, Lawrence said that despite the new gig, she doesn’t plan on giving up her day job of modeling.
“It’s my voice and my vision. I will make sure we’re going to be going into the right direction,” she offered. “We’re trying to work toward different goals. We’re trying to call up those designers on a daily basis.”
But under the surface of RunwayRiot lies the assumption that the fashion industry either hasn’t noticed a growing demand for plus-size clothing, or doesn’t care. Asked to address this, both Abrams and Lawrence took a crack at it.
“I think the fashion industry has gotten so consumed with skinny models that they haven’t seen their way out of it,” Abrams offered. “I think it’s going to take the public to say ‘we want more.’ For me as an outsider, that you have this many American women, and the big designers are not catering to them makes no sense to me.”
Lawrence was perhaps more pointed: “The fashion industry has always been filled with men or skinny women. Sample sizes are made for size 2 and 4. It’s harder to design for a curvier women. But social media has given these women a voice. I’ve heard girls say to me that they don’t feel represented. I want to empower them.”