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Plus Size Fashion And Social Media: Where Does It Fit In?

5 Min Read
Culture

In a world of Instagram influencers and social media marketing, there appears to be a trend emerging in the fashion world far beyond what purse or shoes your favorite Instagrammer is flaunting; instead, appealing to a topic of more depth.

“Bloggers and models wearing a 'plus' size have created a space for women to identify with, support and raise their voices demanding more from the fashion industry," says Erin Cavanaugh, co-founder of See Rose Go, on the increasing popularity of social media and the space it created to progress plus sizes in the fashion industry.

“Growing up, I often heard that retailers did not carry or produce clothing in larger sizes because they believed plus size women were not interested in fashion," shares Nadia Boujarwah, CEO, and co-founder of Dia&Co, the world's leading digital-first, plus size fashion company. “I knew this wasn't true for me, and believed millions of other plus size women wanted to participate in fashion as well."

Boujarwah speaks to the long rooted misconception, engrained in both the fashion industry and modern society, that attributes the untapped market as a result of low demand from plus size women.

“What creates the gap is not the women, but the retailers and the fashion brands," explains Cavanaugh. “The quality and style options offered to women wearing a size 14 and up is extremely lacking compared to the straight-size options."

This is why Cavanaugh set out to create a brand focusing on quality, fit and style for curvy women with See Rose Go.

As both Cavanaugh and Boujarwah entered the market to trigger the supply chain with their respective digital platforms, they noticed that social media was an additional, and significant, tool in sharing their brands' mission. While both women worked to increase supply in plus size fashion, users of Instagram laid the foundation of the body positivity movement, thus allowing for the application to exist as an efficient platform to share this newly introduced supply for plus size consumers.

“We see women who would have never been picked up by a traditional modeling agency now have hundreds of thousands of followers globally," says Eugena Delman, co-founder of Mimiell, the e-commerce business set to launch this April, focusing exclusively on sizes 12-18.

Instagrammers like Tanesha Awasthi and Diana Sirokai embracing their size is seemingly the influence that the fashion industry needed as a sort of precedence, especially when considering consumers' attraction to, and interaction with, these public figures. “Twenty years ago, we would rarely have seen a plus woman as attractive and confident, so this medium has definitely given a voice to plus women everywhere, while also creating a community of support and friendship," says Delman.

Alexis Mera Damen of Alexis Mera uses the brand's Instagram to create a community for her line of activewear, and yet, while she agrees Instagram plays a role in accepting plus sizes, she strays away from using this term 'accepting.'

“I'd say it's played a huge role in empowering women who wear larger sizes to own it and be proud of who they are," she says. “It's not like plus size was 'unacceptable' before."

The act of sharing body positivity on social media has also opened the discussion to transcend borders in the international communities who may not have been as vocal about it prior to Instagram. “Globally, similar sentiments are present but reside in smaller pockets, rather than a movement," says Cavanaugh. “A few of our favorite plus size influencers are European, who have this super cool, modern and confident vibe about them and a tone of voice to be recognized."

This increase in empowered women embracing their bodies has brought the body positivity movement to the forefront, noticeably taking life outside of the screen as Fashion Week strives to adapt to consumer reactions of shattering the former image of the 00 ideal. This includes NYFW's Fall 2017 show that made history with the diversity of its models, the inclusion of all sizes and educational panels.

“Women and young girls now have their own icons on social media; they can see women who look like them in all walks of life," adds Alex Waldman, co-founder of Universal Standard, a women's modern essentials line focusing on sizes 10 to 28. “This movement shows women that they don't need to be a certain size to know they are beautiful."

Where does the label fit in?

Even as the fashion industry continues to 'normalize' the plus size label, these social communities are recognizing that 67 percent of American women are size 14+, making the term 'plus size' debatable. “Why can't it just be regular size?" asks Damen. “What we are calling 'plus' is pretty much the average size in America."

On the other end of the spectrum, Cavanaugh points out, “As a descriptor, it [plus size] has contributed to banding a group together under a supportive identity, giving a more amplified voice to the tribe. The voice is imperative in the cultural shift we are now seeing in the fashion industry." Whether or not the label tends to hinder, or help, the body positivity movement, is subjective to the consumer, yet is still something retailers and brands need to consider while working toward inclusion. Regardless of how the term 'plus size' transpires during the movement, fashion, beauty and lifestyle blogger Tillie Eze of It's Tillie! argues that designers need to remain authentic during the transition, highlighting that some labels won't be able to produce for the plus size demand.

“Everyone is trying to get in on being body positive— as we've seen, it rakes in money— but very few are actually taking the time to construct proper styles, fits, silhouettes for plus-size body shapes," she says, providing the example of J.Brand dressing Ashley Graham (considered a plus-size model) when the label only goes up to a size 12. “Stop using these women and body shapes to be something you aren't at your core," says Eze. Perhaps this is why Instagram and social media have been so effective in shifting the perception of this landscape because of the authenticity that these models showcase in their accounts— authenticity they are praised for with millions of followers and interactions. “[Social media] has been a catalyst into movements such as body positivity, helping to provide women the self-recognized 'permission' to wear what they want with confidence," concludes Cavanaugh, “In turn, sparking the industry to create the style and clothing she is demanding."


This piece was originally published on April 8, 2018.


Business

Taking My Own Advice: How I Learned To Let Go Of The Things That Are Out Of My Control

It seemed like everything happened overnight because, well… it did.


One moment, my team and I were business as usual, running a multi-million-dollar edible cookie dough company I built from scratch in my at-home kitchen five years ago and the next we were sitting in an emergency management team meeting asking ourselves, "What do we do now?" Things had escalated in New York, and we were all called to do our part in "flattening the curve" and "slowing the spread."

The governor had declared that all restaurants immediately close to the public. All non-essential businesses were also closed, and 8.7 million New Yorkers were quarantined to their tiny apartments for the foreseeable future. Things like "social distancing" and "quarantine" were our new 2020 vernacular — and reality.

What did that mean for us? Our main revenue source was the retail part of the business. Sure, we offered delivery and take-out, but that was such a small portion of our sales. I had built a retail experience where people from near and far came to eat edible cookie dough exactly how they craved it. We had two stores, one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn, which employed over 55 people. We have two production facilities; an online business shipping cookie dough nationwide; a wholesale arm that supplies stores, restaurants, and other retail establishments with treats; and a catering vertical for customizable treats for celebrations of all sizes. And while business and sales were nearly at a complete halt, we still had bills. We had payroll to pay, vendors we owed, services we were contractually obligated to continue, rent, utilities, insurance, and none of that was stopping.

How were we going to do this? And for how long will this go on? No one knew.

As an entrepreneur, this certainly wasn't my first-time facing challenges. But this was unprecedented. Unimaginable. Unbelievable. Certainly unplanned. This control-freak type-A gal was unraveling. I had to make decisions quickly. What was best for my team? For my business? For the safety of my staff? For the city? For my family and unborn baby (oh, yeah, throw being 28 weeks pregnant and all those fun hormones in there, it's real interesting!). Everything was spiraling out of control.

I decided to take the advice I had given to many people over the years — focus on the things you can control. There's no point worrying about all the things you have no control over. If you focus there, you'll just continue spiraling into a deeper, darker hole. Let it go. Once you shift your perspective, you can move forward. It's not going to be easy; the challenges still exist. But you can control certain things, so focus your energy and attention on those.

So that's what I did. I chose, for the safety of staff and customers, to close the retail portion completely — it wasn't worth the take-out and delivery volume to staff the store, open ourselves up to more germs and human contact than absolutely necessary.

I went back to our mission and the reason I started the business in the first place — to spread joy. How could we continue to bring happiness to people during this uncertain time? That's our purpose. With millions of people across the globe stuck inside, working from home, quarantined with their families, how can we reach them since they can't come to us? So I thought back to how and why we got started.

Baking, for me, has always been a type of therapy. I could get lost in the mixing bowl and forget about everything else for a moment in time. Sure, I have a huge sweet tooth, but it's about the process. It's about taking all of these different ingredients and mixing them together to create something magically sweet and special. It's about creating and being creative with the simple things. It's about allowing people to indulge in something that brings them joy — a lick from the spatula or a big batch of cookies.

It's about joy in the moment and sharing that joy with others. So my focus is back on that, and it feels good.

We could still ship nationwide, straight to people's doorstep. So we are making it easier and less expensive to send the ultimate comfort food (edible cookie dough) by introducing a reduced shipping rate, and deals on some of our best-selling packages.

In a way for us, it feels like we are going back in time… back to our roots. When I first started the business, we were only shipping nationwide. There were no stores, no big team, no wholesale. It was just me, a small crew juggling it all, and we made it work then. And we'll make it work again. We have to leverage our online business and hope it floats us through this time.

We are focusing our digital content strategy on sharing recipes, activities, and at-home treats with our engaged, amazing social following so they bake with their families and stay busy at-home. We started live baking tutorials where our fans can bake-along with me and I can share all the tips and tricks I've learned over the years with them.

I've leveraged the cookbook I published last year, Hello, Cookie Dough: 110 Doughlicious Confections to Eat, Bake & Share, to come up with fun content and additional things to do at home. We started shipping it and our at-home baking mixes for free to encourage people to get busy in their kitchens!

And as a business, we will continue to connect with our community to bring them joy and focus on what we can control, including our attitude and outlook first.

During times of uncertainty, which this certainly is, you should do the same. Identify the things you can control and focus your time and energy on those things. Distract yourself with the positive. Force yourself to stop asking and worrying about all the what-ifs. Do what you can for the moment and then the next moment. Make a list, and take it day-by-day.

It's going to be okay. You will be okay. We will all be okay.