By Steven Beckman
Every once in a while there comes a moment when diverse events align to make a true impact on the future. For retail fashion, this is one of those moments.
For decades now, retail has knowingly or unknowingly supported the idea of a perfect size. Using a system developed in the 1940s, the “correct” body type fits in straight sizes (0-12). Everything else is outside of the norm. New designs, fashions, and trends focus on this narrow segment.
But today, more sophisticated, informed customers question why this should be. Who defines the standard for what is beautiful? Why is my body not perfect as it is? Where are the products for me?
So-called plus sizes are already a $21 billion segment. Fully embracing this segment is financially imperative to the growth of retail.
Size inclusivity: retail takes the first step forward
Size inclusivity, as it relates to retail, is the idea that straight and plus sizes are not independent of each other. It is the belief that plus sizes should no longer be relegated to their own stores or kept separate within the store.
You can see the beginnings of this shift now; soon it will be standard practice that all sizes live together in the same space. No longer straight sizes and plus sizes, just sizes.
That’s what size inclusivity is, embracing all body shapes and sizes. It is the message by retailers that all sizes are beautiful and by inference that all customers are equal.
The case for size inclusivity is more than philosophical; it’s financial
One of the great myths of fashion merchandising is that straight sizes (0-12) actually represent the general population. This is completely wrong! The average American woman is a size 16.
We’ve known for a long time that there is a larger market, and therefore the opportunity for greater sales, in fashion beyond sizes 0 – 12. So-called plus sizes are already a $21 billion segment. Fully embracing this segment is financially imperative to the growth of retail.
Numerous retailers, from boutiques like Eloquii and online disruptors like Universal Standard to large chains like Target, Walmart, and Nordstrom are advancing this new sizing reality by expanding the breath of their size selections.
Seeing shows understanding
A store, brand, or line that makes size inclusivity fundamental to their products is on a path to empower women. Communicating this message can be effectively achieved through in-store display choices. Creating displays with lots of body-type diversity sends a message that they support, and more importantly understand what size inclusivity is really about; size is irrelevant and that beautiful, fun fashion can be had by all.
A key component, Greneker VP/Creative Director David Naranjo explains, is realistic design: “When creating mannequins for the inclusive market, first and foremost it’s all about proper proportion. Larger models are unique, they are not simply expansions of a smaller display.”
“You can’t design a great mannequin of any size, but specifically larger sizes, by targeting only the waist, hips, and bust measurements,” he adds. “There is a lot of body in-between. You have to get all of it right to create a realistic body.
“After that, you need to build in nuances that give the model attitude, emotion, and style. That’s what the viewer connects with. These are subtle details but without them the mannequin and the viewer won’t relate.”
It’s great that social awareness and retail consciousness are intersecting to create this new normal. At Greneker, we’ve been supporting retail with visual displays for over 80 years and are excited that we are in a position to apply our experience to help retail move forward in society. We see a better world for everyone as the outcome.
Steven Beckman is president and COO of Greneker.