As you know, I’m passionate about ensuring every curvy woman knows not only what looks good on her, but where to find it. In my journey to help women “Love your shape!” I’ve worked closely with Australian plus-size designers and consulted with Retailers and plus-size Brands for years, helping them to understand their target market, developing their brand and encouraging them to market realistically and identifiably for best results.
My instinct has always been to push the boundaries and deservedly position plus-size fashion where it belongs – readily available in bricks & mortar stores/boutiques across our beautiful country, online and beyond!
In my past work as a wholesale agent for brands such as 17 Sundays, I’ve slogged across the countryside, samples in tow and visited hundreds of boutiques – only to discover that boutique after boutique are stocking the same labels as their competition across the street! Where is the variety? Where is the choice? I’ve marvelled at how some boutiques have managed to make a dollar whilst offering and competing with the same product. This just doesn’t make sense to me. And not only that, but I’ve watched curvy customers walk straight past boutique doors, as they know that there is nothing for them there. What a missed opportunity!
In October 2014, IBISWorld released their report on the plus-size Industry stating the plus-size Industry is in the growth stage of its life cycle. Annual growth from 2010-2015 stands at 3.7%!! In simple terms, it’s the only retail sector with growth!
These are statistics you can’t ignore! Time for retailers to quit their complaining about how slow things are.. and open their doors to the curvy customer who has been ignored for far too long!
Now I’m not talking those great retailers who already stock plus-size fashion and extended size ranges, I’m talking about those boutiques that you and I walk past everyday, and we walk past them because we KNOW that there is NOTHING in there for us – they stock to a size 14-18 maximum (and we all know that those are not actual true PLUS size garments – just sized up from a mainstream size block!). Sigh.
I have a solid understanding of what the curvy customer wants and equally an understanding of what retailers’ challenges and rewards are, so it was only logical to put myself to work on making a change.
Over the past few months I’ve been busy busy with United Curves, a wholesale fashion agency I created exclusively for Australian Designer brands in sizes 12-26+. Now you might ask, why start at a size 12? The answer is simple. I wanted to attract the businesses I am talking about above, the boutiques that would benefit immensely from extending their size ranges, as well as the already converted plus-size specialists.
I spent a lot of time considering my approach, it’s was logical that I would source Australian plus-size designers, and to date I’ve built up a suite of brands including, Beyond The Sea, Hope & Harvest, huudaverti, Sonsee Woman, Lisa Kerr Designs and Plus Maternity Australia, AND I have a waiting list of over 8 more labels.
The opportunities have come at us thick & fast, which is hugely exciting. In March I sat in the Head Office of one our major Australian Retailers, talking to them about these brands. At the table were buyers and marketing representatives, and I was astounded at how well they knew their customer. Previously the feeling was that it was all about the $’s and not about the customer (which incidentally if you get it right DOES equal more sales!), but I digress. I nearly fell off my chair when one of the ladies, the head of marketing, said “no Janine, we’ll be photographing the garments on different sized figures”… wait, WHAT?? I was so conditioned at having to debate with these companies about realistic & identifiable representation of garments that I almost launched into my spiel, but instead I was stopped in my tracks – wow that felt good 🙂 YES!
I paused, took a breath, and then asked if she could please repeat that? and she did! My face lit up and I said “Now, that is historic!”. There was a lot of smiles, laughs and excitement as I explained the usual dilemma I had faced in the past and my joy at finally finding a retailer who get’s it! Seriously, I have spent over 7 years talking to the major retailers about how they market their wares (this one included incidentally), how to attract the curvy customer, how to make her happy… this is the first time that any major brand (apart from the pioneers like Hope&Harvest who have been realistically and identifiably marketing on real size bodies for their designs since forever) has actually got it! There is definitely a shift, and the success of the past few months has reinforced that.
Shortly you’ll be seeing some impressive changes in where you can buy some of these great Australian designer brands, the shift is happening, retailers are opening their doors and finally understanding the benefits of marketing to, (instead of ignoring) over 50% of the nations women – who ARE curvy…. stay tuned and keep your eyes peeled.
I want to keep this shift moving and have decided to create a campaign to invite bricks & mortar stores nationwide to open their doors, extend their size ranges and usher us, the curvy customer through the doors.
I’ll need your help too – if we can create excitement, and more importantly education, we can create change.
Love your shape!