Danielle Brooks (center) on the photo shoot with a plus-size crew.

Fashion to Figure, a year after being acquired by New York & Co., is stepping out.

The plus-size women’s business is relaunching its e-commerce site to stand apart from the web site of New York & Co., store openings are on the agenda, and Fashion to Figure has tapped actress and singer Danielle Brooks as its first “brand ambassador” celebrity tie-in.

Throughout the holiday season, Brooks will be featured in Fashion to Figure’s marketing, which will celebrate “real woman, self-expression, body positivity and inclusivity,” the company said. The association includes three capsule collections over holiday chosen by Brooks and the Fashion to Figure team.
“I get excited talking about the collection because every look gives me a ‘yes girl, work it’ moment, and now I’ll get to see so many women feel that same way,” Brooks told WWD.
“In this campaign we’re giving women everything from sequins, animal print and faux fur, to a show-stopping gown. This collection should be renamed the ‘Where did you get that from?’ collection, because when you wear these looks, you’re going to hear that everywhere you go.”
Brooks described her personal style as “almost like a game show spinning wheel — one day I’ll land on a body-con dress and another day I’ll wear black overalls with a colorful crop top. My first choice is comfort, but I do love a dress that shows off my curves,” said Brooks, who is best known for her role as Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson on the Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black” and for starring as Sofia in “The Color Purple” on Broadway.
“I’m a pretty sporty lady. You can always catch me in Brooklyn riding my scooter or a Citi Bike, so I feel most comfortable in something with spandex/stretch. FTF jeans and panties are pretty great for that reason, among others. They have mastered the super cute looks without compromising the comfort. While I love the relaxed comfy looks, I also love getting dolled-up as well. I feel the capsule looks I worked on choosing with the FTF design team reflect my glamorous, red carpet style. It’s not always easy finding clothes that represent who you are and how you feel when you’re in the double-digit sizes, but with my partnership with FTF, I plan to erase that issue and give hope to a lot of women and young girls. I want women to have what I didn’t have growing up, and that’s simply stylish, affordable clothes.”

“She was involved in everything,” said Nicholas Kaplan, senior vice president of Fashion to Figure, who cofounded the business in 2004 with his brother Michael. It even came down to last week’s photo shoot, where Brooks pulled together a crew that was all plus-sizes, including the photographer, stylist, hair and makeup people.

Danielle Brooks featured in looks selected from her collaboration with FTF

Danielle Brooks featured in looks selected from her collaboration with FTF  Courtesy Photo

“A plus-size gang — it’s a wonderful thing,” Kaplan said. “Danielle is a very confident, proud, empowered plus-size woman. She’s an Emmy and Tony-nominated actress who went to Juilliard. She’s an inspiration to any woman.”

Fashion to Figure, a smaller player in the plus-size market, operates eight stores and the web site. New York & Co. bought the business out of bankruptcy in November 2017 and integrated Fashion to Figure’s web site into its own e-commerce site, but it breaks free on Thursday with the relaunch.

“Leverage is a critical word here,” Kaplan said in an exclusive interview. “It’s one thing to be an independent company. It’s another thing to be part of a $1 billion company with an incredible supply chain.”

Considering it was bankrupt just a year ago, a rapid turnaround of Fashion to Figure is in the works, fueled by the parent company’s financial wherewithal, customer database, real estate connections, supply chain and its celebrity platform, including successful collaborations with Eva Mendes and Gabrielle Union. This past summer, New York & Co. formed a partnership with Kate Hudson.

Being under the wings of New York & Co., Kaplan said, “certainly gives us an opportunity to do a lot more — and do it a lot better than we had done before.” He said the Fashion to Figure strategy continues to be about “community building” and is now moving onto “a national stage” through its omnichannel approach.

“We definitely see great opportunity in cities in major markets,” Kaplan said, discussing the plan to open stores. Three are opening later this year, in Atlanta’s Cumberland Mall and the Chicago Ridge and North Riverside centers in the Chicago area.

The company plans to accelerate brick-and-mortar growth in 2019. “We believe in stores. They represent the place where people really engage,” Kaplan said. “But we are an omni company and believe people shop omni.”

Asked why the company decided to relaunch the website, Kaplan replied, “Our customers said they wanted their own home. We felt the identity of our brand is better served with its own URL and own website, to give our community [of shoppers] their own home.”

Fashion to Figure did have its own web site until it was integrated into the New York & Co. e-commerce site, post-purchase. “To take a step forward, we’re taking a step backward in terms of returning to our roots from a digital perspective,” Kaplan said.

For the relaunch, “We are investing a lot in the creation of content,” Kaplan said. “The experience will become a lot more interactive, with video capability, shoppable look books and predictive analytics so we are showing her what she may want. From a technological perspective, we are using a lot of personalization tools.”

The Kaplan brothers are the great-grandsons of Lena Bryant, founder of the plus-size chain Lane Bryant. “People talk about the opportunity in the plus-size market, but it’s really in our blood,” said Nicholas, who considers himself “a member of the first family of full-size fashion.”

“There are still not enough options for plus-size women,” he observed. “The average American woman is a size 14 to 16. That represents 68 percent of the population.”

Asked how he feels competing with Lane Bryant, Kaplan replied, “I don’t look at it as competing with my history. I look at it as a continued progression for the industry catching up to who the American woman is.”

Whether it’s Lane Bryant, Catherine’s or Eloquii, which was just bought by Walmart, “we all have our brand identities and who we speak to,” Kaplan said. “Lane Bryant has a large intimate offering. Catherine’s has its component. Eloquii has its component as well.

Fashion to Figure, he said, “stands for fashion first, for developing a good consistent fit, accessibility and value. We have the trends covered and the customer knows we’re giving her everyday value. We’re not playing the high-low game.

“We are a movement, not just a brand, a celebration with women with plus curves. I grew up with it.”

As reported, New York & Company Inc. will change its name to RTW Retailwinds later this month, to reflect its “reinvention” from a monobrand to a multibrand “lifestyle” retail platform. The company has been gathering momentum, bringing in additional celebrities, acquiring Fashion to Figure and a lingerie brand in the works. It has big plans for the Kate Hudson collection, which has yet to be named. Once the corporate name change occurs, the stock will be listed as RTW.

“We are at a defining moment in our corporate reinvention, with a proven track record for developing celebrity and sub-brand collections that resonate with our consumers,” said Greg Scott, chairman and chief executive officer of New York & Co. “Fashion to Figure’s collaboration with Danielle Brooks reflects the team’s ability to leverage our competitive assets of speed, fashion, value and community as critical points of differentiation while also amplifying the brand’s awareness and emotional connection through celebrity partnerships.”

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