PUTTING PIZZAZZ IN PLUS-SIZES

Byline: Melanie Kletter

NEW YORK — There are some new teen plus-size concepts percolating that could change the landscape for large-size junior retailing.
Two of the latest formats, coming from specialty chain Hot Topic and direct marketer Turnstylz, are giving the segment a dose of energy.
While women’s plus-sized fashion has been getting more attention in recent years, with companies of all stripes introducing larger looks with a higher fashion quotient, the teen arena has been somewhat slower to adapt.
As teen fashions have moved ever tighter and shorter, plus-size styles have had a particularly difficult time trying to break into the junior scene. Many department and specialty store retailers have been hesitant to embrace junior plus sizes, and only a few vendors have introduced large-size teen apparel.
Department stores have struggled with where to put junior plus sizes, since the merchandise often doesn’t fit well with either the junior sportswear section or the plus-sized misses’ offerings. Now, these two merchants are offering new alternatives.
Hot Topic, the fast-growing teen specialty retailer, is readying a plus-sized junior apparel concept called Torrid that’s set to have a limited rollout this spring.
The stores will carry trendy, plus-sized apparel for teens, but will not have too much in common with Hot Topic, company executives said. The first store is slated to open in April at the Brea Mall in Brea, Calif., with an additional five stores slated to open in May and June.
Another new concept is Turnstylz, a direct retailer, that aims to break down barriers with a new catalog and Web site featuring trendy clothing for large-sized teens. The company got started earlier this year by Tracy Hattem and Amy Kirschenbaum, who most recently worked together at Sunnex, the moderate sportswear company.
“We saw that clothes were getting smaller and smaller, and girls were getting bigger and bigger,” said Hattem in an interview this week. “We didn’t like the message that you couldn’t get clothes if you are plus-sized. This customer wants to looks like everyone else her age, and it has been difficult for her to find trendy items in her size.”
Added Kirschenbaum, “We believe this is a big business. We know this girl is out there.”
The premier six-page catalog, which shipped in January, offers large-size clothing from brands including One Step Up, Tag Rag, Zana-di, L.A. Movers and Paris Blues. The styles include V-neck T-shirts, asymmetrical skirts, denim jackets, pajamas and a smattering of accessories, with most prices running less than $50.
The company also has a Web site, turnstylz.com, which features fashions from the catalog, as well as tips on nutrition and fashion for larger teens, although shoppers cannot purchase items directly from the site.
The company now has seven employees and expects to produce four catalogs this year and ship an estimated 1.5 million to two million catalogs. Customers have been culled from various lists and from readers who saw recent advertisements that ran in a few consumer magazines.
Future plans include the wholesaling of their private-label brand, as well as products geared toward tweens or pre-teens, according to Hattem. Upcoming catalogs will feature items bearing the Turnstylz brand, as well as innerwear and some editorial content.
The duo also felt it was important to use models who reflect the profile of their customer, and the catalog features larger teens.
Cheryl Miller, a sales associate at L.A. Movers, which is being sold through Turnstylz, said she thinks the catalog is “a great move.”
“It has been hard for a lot of retailers to approach this business, and Turnstylz is approaching it in the right manner,” Miller said. “They offer trendy fashions in a good format.”
The company’s name reflects its tag line: “It’s Your Turn Now.” Fittingly, the name also applies to Hattem and Kirschenbaum, who started the venture together after working at a variety of different apparel companies.
“It’s our turn now, too,” Hattem said.