Fashion retailers are increasingly more inclusive and diverse, with a greater range of sizes and collections such as maternity, petite, and tall. Brands have clearly realised the needs and demands of its customer base, but how far is inclusivity really reflected in earnest within the sector? Maxi dresses retailer QUIZ investigates…
The rising demand
Retailers are being pushed to change to meet the demand for a more inclusive range. Statistics from PwC’s UK Plus Size Clothing Market Review 2017 reveal that the plus size market is worth around £6.6bn in 2017 (of which women and men make up £4.7bn and £1.9bn respectively). In fact, the market has been outperforming the overall womenswear and menswear clothing market in the UK — demonstrating the increase in industry interest.
This growth is predicted to continue. In their report, PwC forecast growth of the plus size segment to be around 5-6% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) from 2017 to 2022. What is leading this growth?
‘Body confidence’ movements have been attributed to this. This is driven by brands and plus size influencers engaging with customers and encouraging them to embrace their curves and love their body. Online shopping is driving the market too. PwC identified that plus size consumers have a greater preference for purchasing clothes over the internet and the rise of ecommerce has caused this market to thrive further.
Those who don’t fit the ‘standard’ sizing are also being encouraged to try shopping more often. This has paved the way for ranges such as; wide-fit shoes, tall, petite and maternity. Although it’s predominantly in the womenswear market at the minute, some retailers have released male plus size and tall ranges too.
High fashion following
Usually, the high street follows the example lead by the high fashion giants. But, when it comes to plus size and diversity, it’s the high street brands that are taking the lead.
The catwalks have seen some changes. In fact, at SS18 shows, there was a record of 93 plus-size/curve model appearances and 45 transgender castings. There was more inclusion when it came to age too, as 27 models over the age of 50 walked the runways.
Social media revolution
The power of social media has likely influenced the need for inclusivity too. As we’re all aware, it’s easier than ever before for unhappy customers to make their voice heard, especially if they feel that they’re being under- or unrepresented by a company — this is then often supported by internet users who feel the same way.
Negative posts on a brand’s social media page, particularly ones that go without response, are highly damaging to a brand’s image. Arguably, the way a business deals with an online complaint is more important than how they deal with one in-store, as it’s on a public platform for all to see. To avoid this destructive cycle, brands must be considerate of all their users.
The user-generated nature of apps like Instagram mean that a wider range of fashion and clothing can be observed on different body types. In the fashion world, a consumer simply needs to look through ‘tags’ of a brand or search for images that have been hashtagged with a retailer’s name to see pictures of people wearing their clothes. This allows buyers to see the products on ‘real’ people rather than models from the adverts. This again encourages people who are not a ‘standard’ size to purchase new clothes — motivated perhaps by a photograph of someone who is a similar size to them in the same garment. Many fashion retailers encourage their customers to do this by offering them the chance to feature on the page if they use their hashtag.
Social media also heavily promotes body confidence campaigns. Some brands have avoided photoshopping stretch marks, cellulite, and other ‘imperfections’ that are usually edited out of marketing images in fashion. This again encourages people to get involved and purchase clothing from that brands, resonating more with real models.
With everyone getting involved, it’s clear that the fashion world is getting increasingly more inclusive.