How 11 Honore is meeting demand for plus-size designer fashion

Fashion is finally starting to acknowledge that women come in all shapes and sizes, but there’s still plenty of work to be done. 11 Honoré, the new online retailer selling runway styles in sizes 10-20, is on a mission to bring the industry up to speed.

Just over 60 days in, it has finalized its third season of inventory — many collections will soon be available up to size 24 — and it’s preparing to grow its designer roster from 14 to 34 by spring. It sells three pieces from its designer partners’ seasonal collections at a time. The goal is to offer the complete collections of today’s top designers, from contemporary to high fashion.

Now, 11 Honoré is hosting its first trunk show, composed of a four-look collection of Zac Posen’s best-selling evening looks. It will live on the homepage for two weeks and be promoted through a video that will be shared across social channels. Styles will be delivered to shoppers’ doors in four weeks, just in time for the holidays. 

“We want to be considered a platform of exploration and discovery,” said co-founder Patrick Herning. “She’s been dealt watered-down versions of fashion for so long, we want to give her things she’s not expecting.”

A Monique Lhuillier sheath dress, available on the Black Tie page of 11 Honoré

11 Honore’s business model is unique in the space, but it has competition; a number of retailers and services have recently expanded their plus-size range. In September, subscription service Dia & Co. launched Nanette Nanette Lepore, the designer’s first foray into extended sizes. Rent the Runway now has 212 plus-size styles in its inventory, with many available up to size 28. And Moda Operandi, a devotee of the trunk-show model, is currently selling Christian Siriano pieces up to size 24.

Making 11 Honoré a distribution channel allows many designers to finally make extended sizes a priority, according to Herning. Though they have the option of selling the styles exclusively on their own sites, most choose to sell on 11 Honoré, he said.

“They need our help,” said co-founder Kathryn Retzer. “We’re choosing the styles from the collection that make sense for the customer, and we’re providing fit models and pattern-makers.”

So far, 11 Honoré’s growth has been organic: through social channels and media. Rather than marketing, they are spending “every dollar on the product, because that’s what she can’t get anywhere else,” said Herning.

The Zac Posen Faille cocktail dress, available in sizes 10-20 on 11 Honoré

Herning and Retzer essentially launched their idea for 11 Honoré by knocking on designers’ doors, armed with an investment from Forerunner Ventures. They said many of the designers that rejected them at the beginning are now coming around.

“The mentality within the fashion industry is shifting,” said Retzer. “I know it’s gradual and slow, but we’re seeing monumental changes.”

Take the recent runways: According to the seasonal diversity report by The Fashion Spot, there were 90 plus-size model appearances on 12 New York Fashion Week runways in September, up from 26 in February. The focus now for 11 Honoré is on the top fashion houses.

“I want to see Gucci and Valentino, and Dolce & Gabbana … the top luxury Europeans brands coming on board quickly,” said Retzer. “That’s critical.”

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