Fashion has always been a tool for us to understand and express our sense of style. The “ideal” size, color, shape has long been propagated by fashion magazines and runways. While there have always been consumers who disagreed with this idea, it’s only in the last few years that a collective consumer consciousness has begun to demand that brands treat them like they do. We’re seeing an increasing need for fashion brands, especially women’s fashion brands, to be size inclusive – and while most brands see this as a welcome change and have taken the first steps in the right direction, there’s a long way to go. This is a complete reality.
The principles of inclusiveness rest on questioning this existing “idea”. While it is more common to equate size inclusivity with plus sizes (18 or larger clothing, i.e. 3XL and above clothing in the Indian context), it also means catering to petite sizes (0 to 4 clothing or clothing smaller than XS). ), and small and long.
Before trying to understand how brands can move towards size inclusion, it’s important to understand how this phenomenon came about and why it’s important to respond to it. The first thing we should think about is – why not? If we have niche products, why exclude significant consumers from them? Plus, it makes business sense too – 15% of business in the apparel industry comes from plus sizes! Additionally, social media is becoming increasingly powerful in holding brands accountable for their decision-making. Every brand, especially since the 2020 pandemic, has a presence on social media that means any customer who feels marginalized can directly ask and call that brand to action. The influencer and creative community has played a vital role in educating and spreading awareness, further strengthening the collective voice and seeking inclusion from brands. The debate over the “fat tax”, or the practice of charging extra for designs above a certain size, has seen a surge in the rise of the Instagram diet, which the fashion watchdog notified the industry last year.
In response to this change, many brands are starting to take steps in the right direction. High fashion production lines are beginning to reflect the change, with designers actively working with models of different sizes. Top fashion designer brands are offering multiple sizes in stores, a distinct shift away from keeping only small sizes on the shelves.
Having a comprehensive range of sizes from petite to plus size is now the minimum expected from fashion brands. But is it that simple? Especially when we look at the layer after luxury and designer brands, it is important to realize that for a mass or premium brand, which operates at a relatively high level and launch frequency, the integration journey will be different and challenging.
While producing to scale (meaning it’s not made to order like couture), the sizes themselves can be endless. When plus sizes are added to existing styles, the required output determination and sizing rules are not linear for the XS-XXL standard 5-6 sizes that most products offer. Getting them right, that is, getting them right, is just as important as getting them right. Moreover, the diversity of Indian body types, and Indian consumption compared to the size of the US or UK, means that any brand has to invest significant amounts of time and resources in research and technology development. Fits plus sizes. Additionally, inventory and sales planning become more challenging and expensive without adequate data and accurate sales forecasts.
Despite all the challenges mentioned above, especially as brands have reached a certain point and loosened the supply chain for the standard sizes, we have to start somewhere, and we have to start now! To some extent, a brand can optimize by collecting body measurements from their customers and incorporating simple solutions into their offerings. Many online brands that don’t have sizes over 2XL are offering tailored options as well, helping to include those in between.
The role of brands goes beyond producing large-sized ranges. The concept of inclusion should permeate every brand and not be used as a token for good press. We must not forget that we are now serving a customer who is confident in her own skin, and who sees fashion as something she needs to shape into who she is, not something she has to force herself into. Gone are the days when all one could offer as a plus size were boring colors, boring shapes. When thinking about inclusive clothing, brands need to offer the same design, beauty and appeal that their brand stands for. People need to be given ideas to choose fabrics and even styles according to their body shape. Basically, brands are required to consider women’s reality – she may be tall, she may be short, she may have a fat stomach and want a style that hides it, or she may be fat and feel confident wearing a crop top. on top. And as brands, we must commit to include each customer and provide the perfect fit for their body.
Creating a great shopping experience is critical so that customers don’t feel left out at any point in their shopping journey. It’s not unusual for a customer looking for plus size clothing to be dealt with by sales staff who don’t care or who are perceived as undersized. In this case, awareness and training of store employees will be crucial. There are many lessons to be learned from brands in the West – not based on size, but on style or color, so that a person who buys a size 4 and 20 can shop from a place in the store and not feel restricted, a shelf in the back of the store; Or display mannequins of different sizes in one common area, making it a place that is both welcoming and visually appealing to the buyer.
The restrictive nature of offline shopping has pushed customers towards online shopping. And similar steps can be taken to make the online shopping experience more enjoyable. Building in filtering capabilities based on size and volume makes searching easier and more efficient. Inclusion should also be reflected in the marketing strategy. It’s important to include people of all sizes and shapes in promotional materials and product pages so that every customer can see herself in that product. By partnering with influencers and digital creators, brands don’t have to be limited to a certain size or body type. The more spread out their influencers are, the more diverse a group of customers they can plan to reach and engage with.
The principles of size inclusivity apply to all related and ancillary industries and activities – modeling agencies recruit women of different sizes, skin tones, heights so that no one feels outnumbered; Mannequins also need to be manufactured in different sizes. Adequate changes should also be made to the guidelines displayed in the marketplace – oversize charts, product videos to other visual representations – the default should go beyond small sizes.
The inclusive size market offers a huge opportunity. By approaching size inclusivity holistically, brands can build a large following of loyal customers when they know that all customers, regardless of size, want quality fashion, and then make it accessible to them. For any brand, the strategic reason for inclusion should be worth it! And if that’s not the case, the value of the business opportunity and failure to do so should serve as a starting point for any brand that wants to stay relevant in the market.
The views expressed above are those of the author.
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