As the retail market limps toward progress, the CurvyCon founders CeCe Olisa and Chastity Garner have curated a successful annual event centered on the plus-size category.
This past September, “This is Us” actress Chrissy Metz delivered a keynote speech and activations included a runway show and panels led by Fern Mallis. Here, the cofounders examine the state of the curvy market.
WWD: In your opinion, what in the market is necessitating the focus on the plus-size market?
Chastity Garner: Retail is struggling. Brick-and-mortar locations of major retailers are closing. The offerings for straight-sized women are oversaturated. Plus-size women are the majority of the women in the U.S., but have the least clothing options. If you want to stay alive in the retail market, you have to sell more to current customers or find new ones. The plus-size woman is that new customer.
CeCe Olisa: Social media has been key to expanding the plus-size market. Until recently, any conversations about plus[-size] bodies or fashion was dictated by the media — it was shameful and lackluster. Now consumers are taking the reins. A plus woman who expresses herself through fashion can be interesting, aspirational and accessible, which can translate easily into sales.
WWD: How can brands integrate body diversity into their collections?
C.G.: If your brand meetings don’t contain one person who can relate to the customer, that’s a problem. It’s important for brands to bring in people who are on the ground with the customer. Consult with consumers. They’re gatekeepers to serving your customer organically and authentically.
C.O.: It’s an investment to shoot multiple models, but it can mean everything for a shopper to see clothes on a body that reflects her. I think brands like Modcloth and Eloquii do a great job integrating photos of everyday women.
WWD: What pitfalls should brands and retailers avoid when introducing plus-size options?
C.O.: Offer us the same thing — we don’t want diluted offerings. Does that mean you will have to do more work for the right fit? Absolutely, but that’s how you build customer loyalty.
WWD: What’s the future for the plus-size market?
C.G.: In 30 years the plus-size market will have transformed. It will do so through social media — it continues to be the voice of the people. It’s up to us yield that power to create the change we want to see.
More from WWD:
Plus-Size Convention The CurvyCon Hits New York Fashion Week
Paying Attention at Last, Designers, Retailers Upgrade Plus-Size Offerings