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Why the fashion apparel industry has a ‘plus-size problem’

BestMediaInfo.com reached out to plus-size women, who say how the sheer lack of option in clothing and no communication around it is frustrating, and discuss why the fashion industry doesn’t care much about dressing their body types

Plus-size women consumers feel most brands are not sensitive towards their needs and promote normal and skinny body types, saying this attitude needs to change.

“If you were to count the number of fitness centres, jogging parks or walking spaces, and the people who frequent these places to stay fit and stack this up against the numbers that do not, the ratio will throw up a result that is sure to indicate the number of people who fall in the plus-size category. This is a profile that brands ignore. Why? Is it because the visual does not suit the brand? I realised this when I grew from medium to large to a plus size,” says a plus-sized woman (who do not wish to be named).

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She expressed her frustration over how not only the small but even big brands promote the idea of body shaming or skinny body types.  

Another plus-sized consumer and content creator Pooja Sukhwani expressed her anger at brands that offer a limited clothing range for plus-size people but put it in a separate section.

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“It’s beyond me as to why we even need a separate shelf for plus-size people? If the brands call themselves size-inclusive then why do they separate it completely? Why would one want to go into a store and ask where’s the plus-size section? If consumers can freely look for size up to UK 12, why would I, UK 18, ask separately?” she said.

This issue of in-store placement is another challenge plus-size consumers face. Brands that do offer a wider range of sizes in a department store should have all their clothing displayed near each other, they suggest.

“Why is a straight-size Calvin Klein on the bottom floor, but a plus-size Calvin Klein upstairs and in the corner?

Apart from placing all sizes together, consumers want brands to implement more inclusive merchandising tactics both in stores and online too.

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Plus-size women do not want brands to simply throw some extra fabric on a design made for straight sizes and label it as plus-size, but designs that are well crafted for them. They demand equally good quality design and prices for plus-size clothes.

Pooja Sukhwani

Sukhwani said many designers don’t know what the right size is and thus are not catering to the apple-shaped or pear-shaped bodies but making cylindrical products and calling them plus size.

They feel brands are not investing enough to understand the body types and the needs. Plus size is not just cylindrical clothes, they say. 

The consumer quoted above said, “In India, some of our Indian designers such as Ritu Kumar and Anita Dongre cater to the plus size in the ethnic selection but not so much with their western designs. And if they do, the choice is very limited and do not have a variety of colours and patterns compared to the choices they offer in large, medium, small and X small sizes. Most of the large Indian apparel stores neglect the plus size altogether. There would be no reason for Indians to shop abroad if there was enough choice here. We do not lack designers.”

The true test of a good designer is being able to design for a shapeless or plus figure.

As one approaches the plus-size section, the clothing becomes less fashionable with more dismissive designs. The lack of style is an indication that you must be in the plus-size section of the store.

Sukhwani said small brands in India cater to the plus-size in ethnic wear only. She says brands are understanding the problem and are addressing but it will take some time to reach out to the masses.

For instance, there’s a brand called Amydus that caters to the plus-size section.

Other than inclusive offerings and no segregation, these women also want to see more plus models in ad campaigns.

Another consumer (who do not wish to be named) said brands often refrain from using plus-size models because of the mindset.

“The plus-size profile does not shop at a Zara, Vero Moda and others, as they do not know if they will find their size. These brands cater to the acceptable sizes. Stores such as Revolution, All, Cristina, Ritu Kumar, Anita Dongre will see more women and men in the large-size profile.  But even they do not promote their stores enough. Marketing brands for the plus size is socially unacceptable. We choose not to admit it, but I believe this to be true,” she said.

The consumers feel this ‘trend’ will change only when the conversation about this topic gets louder.

“Brands need to invest more in this category. The bigger brands can well afford to do this and pave the way.  I thank BestMediaInfo for initiating this conversation and hope you can keep it alive,” she said.

Sukhwani pointed out how a few brands are getting the opportunity to earn more because of the plus-size clothing by segregating this size from the rest of the crowd.

For instance, Pantaloons came up with a new brand called ‘All’, especially for the plus-size consumers. Whereas in the case of Marks and Spencer, they cater to every size and they do not separate it. When you walk into their store, you will see a stack of dresses from size 8 to size 24, that’s how it should be.

Pantaloon’s All:

“If they are inclusive enough, why do they want to segregate us? The pricing for plus-size clothing is way more on the higher side than the regular size, merely because they’re using more cloth,” she said.

And what about plus-size men's clothing?

Plus-size woman consumers feel plus-size men generally do not face this same issue.

“It requires one brave, well-established brand to set the trend with clever marketing, which is bound to turn this around,” she said.

Sukhwani said, “Plus-size men already had the shelf available before the conversation around plus size even started. It has always been the women who have been on the receiving end. Men already had sizes up to 48 in good brands.”

Info@BestMediaInfo.com

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