Loft Plus is set to bow on Monday in sizes 16 to 26, giving consumers who wear large sizes one more option in a pretty barren landscape.
“With the launch of Plus, we’re able to offer more women the versatile pieces in the great colors, prints and patterns that Loft is known for,” said Laura Jacobs, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Loft, Lou & Grey and Loft Outlet. “Like Loft petite, tall and maternity, this is not an exclusive collection, it’s the same product we offer in our core line, at flat pricing, which was important to us.”
Jacobs said the launch will represent about 40 to 50 percent of the assortment in stores. “We’ll then build more of the assortment from there,” she said. “We fit everything on a plus-size fit model. Loft Plus is tailored to her.
“We did quite a bit of research on this customer,” Jacobs added, referring to a test preview of the line with large-size subscription rental service Gwynnie Bee since early September. “It helped us perfect our fits and determine the favorites from our assortment. We learned so much from those clients.
“What we heard from her is that she’s buying very basic pieces from other brands, but isn’t finding much fashion,” Jacobs said. “We’re extending what Loft is best-known for to the woman who’s itching for it. We’re very proud that we’re taking the Loft line and giving it a little extra attention to make sure the fit is right for her.”
Plus-size bloggers, models and social media influencers have emerged as activists, calling for greater size inclusivity in fashion. Ashley Graham recently became the first curvy model to land a Revlon contract. “The word ‘plus-size’ is so divisive to women,” said Graham, who’s posed for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, but criticized Victoria’s Secret for not hiring plus-size models. CeCe Olisa, an influencer and Loft’s unofficial ambassador, is the cofounder of Curvycon.
Retailers have been slow to embrace plus-size women, despite the fact that the universe of large-size customers in the U.S. is pegged at 100 million and the market’s size has grown to $21.2 billion in 2016, from $20.4 billion in 2015, according to The NPD Group.
“The merchandising for Loft Plus is still on the table,” Jacobs said. “That’s part of what the trunk shows are for, to understand how she wants to shop it. So much has been driven by her feedback.” Loft plans to hold trunk shows at stores in New York, Washington, Atlanta, and other cities. “CeCe is attending every one of the trunk shows with us. She’ll bring us a bunch of feedback.
“I’m excited about this as a business,” Jacobs said. “I don’t feel that we’re late on this at all. We listened to what the customer wants from us. A number of years ago, we launched petite and maternity when the customer wanted it. She was very vocal about wanting plus from us. The demand is there.”
In fact, Gwynnie Bee saw enough demand to want to continue the partnership. “We got over 1,000 responses [on Gwynnie Bee] in a three-week period,” Jacobs said. “You can put items on your wish list. That happened 10,000 times. It made us feel that there’s a real need. There’s no reason to not continue with that.
“Unlike some brands that up-charge for plus, we’re not,” said Jacobs, noting that prices range from $39.50 to $59.50 for sweaters to $89.50 to $128 for jackets.