There was an unusual site at London Fashion Week this past week as well as in the New York runway extravaganza the previous one: Models shaped like and wearing the size worn by the average women. Both Spring 2015 fashion fests had plus size lines and models in place on their runways. Maybe eventually the fashion world is realizing that sizes 2 or 4 are not the norm; size 14 is actually the average today.
The Spring 2015 fashion season features shows in New York and London followed up in the upcoming weeks by Milan and Paris. The first two weeks included presentations from designers of clothing for women with normal curves. As Glamour magazine reported online, they were really excited about “the Evans Plus-Size runway show that took place in London on Wednesday. It was so beautiful, but more than that, it brought chic attention to real women with curves!”
The London catwalk show was the first major one for the plus-size store Evans and its 180 outlets in the U.K. and Ireland. The Evans stores are owned by Arcadia Group Ltd., the same retailing company that owns Topshop, Selfridges and other British retail chains.
Recognizing the size of the market, “you cannot ignore the [plus-size] market,” commented Sir Philip Green, the Arcadia CEO, with the refreshing addition: “You can’t be defensive about it, or apologize. Why should the category be any different from petite?”
Plus-size clothing continues to gain traction and its place within the fashion industry, shown by its finally being included on the runways of London Fashion Week. New York Fashion Week saw its first plus-size runway show last year with Cabiria a line for sizes 12 to 24. Cabiria’s creator, Eden Miller encouraged that her show “should be judged on its own merits and not seen as a fluke.”
New York has actually has held a separate Full Figured Fashion Week since 2009. It does not get the publicity or celebrity front-row attention of the regular high-priced couture event, but continues to grow in prominence, impact and diversity in styles.
The market, as Green recognizes, has also grown considerably as has the need. The average women wore a size 8 dress in the U.S. 30 years ago. Today, size 14 is the average. Like Cabiria, plus size lines typically start at size 12 (and their models are rarely larger).
By some estimates, the plus-size market is approximately 3 percent of the women’s apparel industry. But, that 3 percent equates to 18 billion dollars. Recognizing that there is big money to be gained, more stores are revamping their larger-size sections to be more fashion forward. Others are adding them. As The New Yorker recently noted, H&M, Forever 21, Mango and Wet Seal have all rolled out plus-size lines. Other lines that used to stop at size 14 added size 16 and often 18 in recent years. While health officials decry the widening waists in the U.S., the fashion industry has finally realized that the larger size women want stylish clothes too. And, they want to see the plus size clothing finally in place with other fashion on runways and not relegated to the back end of the store.
By Dyanne Weiss