For many years, the typical runway show and apparel collection have
featured slim models sashaying down the runway or gracing glossy
magazine covers. But in recent years, the fashion industry is warming up
to the idea of the plus size woman. Even the popular reality show
‘Project Runway’ featured its first ever plus-size collection in 2015.
The size of the U.S. apparel market is estimated at approximately
$225 billion, with plus-size fashion raking in $17 billion in 2014,
growth of five percent from 2013, according to data from the NPD Group.
Historically, plus-sized women were forced to shop at only a few
specialty retailers like Ashley Stewart and Lane Bryant. But retailers
are now increasingly looking to take a slice of the growing market
While most retailers don’t prominently advertise their plus size
collections, one designer in particular, Rachel Roy, is doing the
opposite, rolling out her ‘Curvy Collection’
with plenty of media, a website re-launch and a new book called ‘Design
Your Life.’ The collection is available on her website and in stores
and online at Macy’s.
"I have wanted to do a curvy collection for years now. It’s
probably my number one request for brand extension from customers via
social media,” Roy tells FOXBusiness.com.
There’s plenty of research showing that shopping as a plus-size
woman is challenging. The NPD Group found that 63% of plus-size women
find shopping for plus-size clothing ‘stressful,’ and that over 80% of
them just want to buy the same designs as their smaller sized friends.
And this is why Roy refers to her collection as simply adding
more sizes. "They just want the exact same thing, the same swimwear, the
same intimates, the same lingerie and they want the same trends,” says
Roy. She refuses to use the word plus size to identify her collection,
referring to the phrase as another reminder of how society thinks women
"It’s prehistoric to think that anyone is not equal to you. It’s just an age where that’s such backwards thinking,” says Roy.
As the body image wars heat up (think back to Victoria's Secret the 'Perfect Body' controversy),
the debate has evolved over time since the 18th Century. New York
University’s Steinhardt School hosted an exhibition called ‘Beyond Measure: Fashion and the Plus Size’
that explored the history of plus-size women. Yaara Keydar, a student
in the costume studies graduate program at NYU, says that the 19th
Century saw the most criticism of plus-size women stemming from
increased research linking obesity to health issues.
Today, plus size women are both celebrated and vilified. Recently, the first plus size model graced the cover of ‘Sports Illustrated.' And
almost immediately following publication, former SI cover model Cheryl
Tiegs criticized the magazine for using a 'full-figured'model on the
Roy believes that the fashion industry will break barriers for
plus-size women once there’s no distinction between women’s sizes.
"To be thought of as an authentic, forward thinking, modern,
caring brand, I think that everyone should offer extended sizes if they
can,” says Roy.
Ironically, Macy's labels Roy's collection as 'plus size'- exactly what Roy is working to eliminate.
The Curvy Collection launches on March 14 on RachelRoy.com and is already available at Macy’s.