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Business Insider

The plus-size industry is on the verge of a revolution

Changing attitudes toward body-positivity mean more hip and fashion-forward options are becoming available for plus-sized women

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 May, 2016, 8:22pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 May, 2016, 12:51pm

Plus-size retail is rapidly evolving.

The industry, which has been previously touted as worth roughly US$17.5 billion according to the NPD Group, has long been comprised of a group of women that feels largely ostracized.

But even amid a burgeoning body positivity movement, few retailers are actually offering plus-size clothing that is considered trendy and fashion-forward.

Lane Bryant — long thought of as a dowdy, matronly apparel retailer — is now trying to change that, and they might be on to something.

On Monday, Lane Bryant hosted a runway show to show off its latest collection — a collaboration with designer Christian Siriano. (The collection has already been available in stores, giving Lane Bryant a Zara-like feel — what customers see on the runway, they can buy immediately.) At the show, top models and huge players in the body-positivity movement, such as models Ashley Graham and Candice Huffine, turned heads.

The runway show also featured notable curvy bloggers, like Nicolette Mason, cementing the importance and power of bloggers to the plus-size movement. (Mason also helped contribute to Target's plus size line, Ava & Viv.)

But most importantly, the line has been making women swoon, which is a sign that things are changing. According to Fashionista, some items from the line are even sold out.

This is a huge step for Lane Bryant.

During the company's cringeworthy Twitter chat called #AskLaneBryant, Twitter question-and-answer session highlighted a huge flaw in the retailer: sure, its marketing was bold and supported the notion that #PlusIsEqual and it's okay if #I'mNoAngel, but women wanted to see clothes they liked and would actually wear.

The company has acknowledged its history and past reputation.

"Arguably, the brand several years ago had lost its way, and since Linda [joined] we've [recognized] the desire is there for even more and to do it faster and to do it better," Lane Bryant's CMO, Brian Beitler, told Business Insider in March. "And that's okay for brands to experience those requests."

"All of us need to push ourselves to be better on that front, relative to fashion," CEO Linda Heasley said. "She deserves [it]. I read every comment. I take it to heart, and we work to deliver what she wants."

"This customer is willing to pay to ensure the fashion she deserves and I think there's been a bias that they really won't [pay]," she said at the time.

But the sentiment towards Lane Bryant's apparel is largely representative of how many plus size women have felt when it comes to retail as a whole.

When Modcloth surveyed curvy women in 2014, the company revealed that most women were unsatisfied with the selection they were being sold. 65 per cent of women surveyed agreed with the statement "the retail industry ignores the needs of plus-size women." 

It's likely that the uptick in body positivity and the rise of supermodels like Ashley Graham has helped increase awareness towards this generally underrepresented demographic of women.

But the question remains: will more brands catch on? 

Designer Christian Siriano thinks so.

"I think there will be new designers that will also embrace this — I'm sure there will be some coming out of the woodwork soon that you would never imagine, just because it's a big business and a big customer base, and fun," Siriano said at the runway show (via Fashionista). "This customer loves fashion and couldn't have it for so long, so they're not as jaded when they get it — they're excited and happy."