Stop charging more for plus size clothing, experts say – Marketplace
At the Wall Street Journal’s Future of Everything festival, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg said offering larger sizes means spending more to cover the costs of the extra fabric.
“If you’re doing a size 2 and if you’re doing a size 16, you’re not using the same amount of fabric,” von Furstenberg said. “You also don’t want to penalize the little people [who would be] pay more because the price must be the same. It can be very controversial to talk about it. But I think it’s important.
Von Furstenberg’s comments come after a tough time for the fashion and retail industry, triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The entire distribution sector was affected, but several plus-size fashion brands were particularly hard hit.
Ascena Retail Group, the parent company of high-rise chains Lane Bryant and Catherines, has closed nearly 160 Lane Bryant stores and all 320 Catherines stores.
“The pandemic has really caused a lot of companies to look at all of their businesses, especially what they might have considered extra business,” said Lisa Hayes, director of Drexel University’s fashion design program.
Making plus size clothes does indeed cost more money upfront, but if companies only cared about that, they wouldn’t be able to reach large numbers of women in the United States, said Lynn Boorady, chief executive. from the Department of Design, Housing, and Merchandising at Oklahoma State University. Sixty-eight percent of American women wear a size 14 or larger, Plunkett Research estimated in 2016.
Plus-size garments generally cost more, but “we don’t charge extra for large over small, and large also requires more fabric,” Boorady said. “We’re willing to pay for this, but it’s a slap in the face for us to say, ‘Oh, you have to pay $10 more for this,'” she said. “As a consumer, I would find that insulting.”
Boorady said she admires companies like Universal Standard that take on the added expense of making garments in all sizes, from size 00 to 40. Every garment, regardless of size, is priced the same.
She explained that most companies have a model and a sample size. They’ll test that sample size, then “rank the models up and down” to meet their size range.
“A lot of companies complain, ‘Well, if I go into the bigger sizes, I have to get a second model to fit,'” she said.
But Universal Standard is an example of a company that has multiple fit models and a successful business model, she noted.
Boorady said the company’s name, the “one-size-fits-all” tag, is a term she prefers to “plus size” because of the arbitrariness of the size concept in the first place.
“Nobody can tell you for sure that a size 8 is those exact measurements, because for every manufacturer, for every designer, it’s completely different,” Boorady said. “So if it’s arbitrary to begin with, why do we have to set aside ‘more’ as a special category?”
While many companies faltered, downsized or ceased operations altogether during COVID-19, Hayes said she believes the industry is “back on the upswing now.”
Hayes pointed out that while some plus-size fashion brands have been impacted during the pandemic, their customer base may have shifted to the athleisure market as more employees have the option to work from home. Plus-size clothing sales grew 18% in 2021, three times faster than the rest of the women’s market, according to the NPD Group, with basics making up the largest share after casual wear.
“Plus size is a growing but underserved sector of the apparel industry,” Kristen Classi-Zummo, apparel industry analyst at NPD, said in a press release last month.
Customers now have more choice than they ever had, and if some brands start alienating customers by not giving them the sizes they want, they will go elsewhere, said Liza Amlani, director and founder of the Retail Strategy Group.
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