The plus-size department is a waning concept, as emerging brands catering to the size range are going the direct-to-consumer route.

In November, fashion veterans Janie Bryant and Cynthia Vincent are launching online plus-size brands, with aims to both eliminate challenges they’ve experienced in the space and avoid department store middlemen. 

TV and film costume designer Bryant is introducing later this month JXB, a line of “accessible luxury” styles available in sizes 12 to 24. Prices range from $280 for embellished denim to $1,300 for a leather jacket available in black and rose gold.

Fit, of course, is a key factor. “We’re not starting with a size 2 and then scaling up; our fit model is a curvy girl. We’re specifically designing for that customer,” she said. To get the fit just right, she looked to plus-size influencers Marquita Pring (110,000 followers), Tara Lynn (575,000) and Saffi Karina (370,000), who weighed in on details like the rise of the jeans and the stretch of the fabric. All three are also set to be part of the marketing push at launch: They’ll be driving to the brand’s website via posts on Instagram Stories showing them wearing JXB looks and talking about their “X factor,” or what makes them unique.  

In addition, JXB will buy Google and Facebook ads to get the brand off the ground. The brand is borrowing from the launch playbook of men’s DTC clothing brand Buck Mason, as a key investor was involved and saw the brand take off.

Bryant said she opted for a DTC model as she wants to communicate directly with her shoppers. She also likes the flexibility of the production schedule: Rather than four collections per year, she plans to drop new styles every six to eight weeks, keeping some classics available throughout the year. Bryant said the DTC model makes sense for curvy women, who often wear clothes with shapewear and have a vast bra wardrobe; shopping online and trying on at home gives them full access to those options.

A look by Baacal

With retailers increasingly transitioning to size-inclusive sales floors, the plus-size shopping experience is mid transformation: Motivated by brands like Good American, offering sizes 00 to 24, Nordstrom is requiring new brands to offer sizes across a like spectrum. Rent the Runway, too, allows sizes across the board to reside on the same racks. Retailers and brands still hesitant to go there are essentially leaving money on the table: As of 2017, plus-size fashion was a $21.4 billion industry.

Cynthia Vincent, whose 20-year fashion background includes running contemporary clothing line Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent for more than 10 years, as well as launching Vince, known for high-end knitwear, decided to get back into the fashion game earlier this year. Her plus-size-focused apparel line, Baacal, kicked off on Thursday and features styles in sizes 10 to 22.

Vincent said, throughout her career, she had tried to extend the sizes of her brands, but efforts proved unsuccessful. With Vince, plus sizes were separated from the full collection in stores, displayed in the plus-size department where the brand’s audience wasn’t shopping. The workaround was being generous with larger sizes to keep the full size range in one area of the store. For Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent, styles were temporarily available up to a size 12, but Vincent said shoppers wearing sizes 10 and 12 never discovered it. Eventually, retailers asked her to scale back her line and the best sellers — sizes 0, 2, 4, 6 and 8 — remained. Because she’s worn sizes 10 to 14 throughout her career, she always had to get styles specially made to support her own brand. When she went to shop elsewhere after selling Twelfth Street two years ago, she saw a void in the market for quality plus-size clothing.

Baacal’s prices are on par with that of JXB, with tees at $95 and outerwear topping out at $795. Vincent attributes a portion of the cost to a commitment to sustainability: Her goal is for the brand to be 80 percent sustainable. All styles are limited run as they’re made from vintage materials.

She said she’s always been obsessed with fit, so timed with the brand’s launch, she is hosting try-on sessions in trunk shows around the country, where shoppers can meet influencers and get styles tailored by an expert to fit to a T. At the same time, the brand will gather learnings to perfect sizing.

Where the brand goes next is a toss-up. “I plan to be open and see what the customer dictates,” Vincent said. “We’re at an age where fashion no longer dictates to the people. It’s the reverse now, and I’m here for it.”

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