Lane Bryant, once one of a few brands catering to women wearing beyond a size 10, is now one of many in a growing category of plus-size fashion.
Rochelle Johnson, founder of the plus-size fashion blog Beauticurve, partnered with Lane Bryant for a new collection of plus-size fashion launching this week. Johnson said she was drawn to Lane Bryant after becoming a fan of the brand years ago, when there were fewer plus-size options out there.
“I used to work there in college,” said Johnson. “When we talked about doing the collection, I was excited because it was a full-circle moment for me. In my opinion, they are the leader in plus-size fashion right now.”
The collection is made up of 10 pieces, ranging from dresses to jumpsuits. Johnson said the collection’s bright colors were a reaction to the idea that plus-size women are frequently pressured to wear all black or muted colors, either because they’re slimming or because plus-size women should not stand out.
Lane Bryant’s influencer design collaborations are fairly new. The first one, a collection made with Tanesha Aswathi of Girls With Curves, debuted in August of last year. Lane Bryant will be marketing the latest collab through a combination of social media marketing and in-store activations where customers can meet Johnson.
Johnson’s belief in expanding what plus-size women can wear is consistent with the creative expansion that the plus-size market has been undergoing. While Lane Bryant has remained a stalwart pillar of the plus-size fashion market since its launch in the early 20th century, the last few years have seen a number of new brands popping up to expand the market. They include Eloquii, Torrid and Universal Standard, to name a few. Even retailers that do not specialize in plus-size clothing, like Walmart, Target, Nordstrom and Modcloth, have all recently expanded their size range. Now, instead of just a few different brands to choose from, customers have many options for plus-size fashion.
Plus-size fashion is coming off a strong 12 months. New York Fashion Week owner IMG opened February’s fashion week with a show from plus-size women’s brand 11 Honoré. Rental services Rent the Runway and Gwynnie Bee have both debuted collections focusing on plus-size women. Victoria’s Secret, once the queen of women’s underwear brands, has seen its star falling as more size-inclusive brands like ThirdLove have gained in popularity.
Recently, newer brands have put pressure on Lane Bryant and other older brands by continuing to push the boundaries of what plus-size fashion brands can do. Universal Standard, for example, just unveiled the largest size range of denim last week, with sizes from 00 to 40. For comparison, Lane Bryant’s new collection with Johnson ranges from size 12 to 28.
“The most noticeable shift in the industry is the amount of fashion a consumer who identifies as plus-size now has,” said Andi Hatfield, merchandise manager at Lane Bryant. “Customers’ voices are being heard loud, now more than ever.”
Due to the plethora of new plus-size fashion brands, Lane Bryant has had to work to stay competitive. So far, it seems that the brand has been able to stay ahead of its younger counterparts.
Most recently, Lane Bryant has been pouring resources into expanding its intimates line, Cacique. Over the past few months, the brand has expanded its bra sizes to a 50 band and cup-size K. Lane Bryant has also expanded sizing for its sleep and loungewear lines, and the company is planning expanded its sizing for swimwear later this year.
The overall plus-size fashion market has expanded to more than $21 billion globally, with analysts expecting that number to grow significantly. The influx of new brands to the market has made plus-size fashion less of a niche and turned it into just another area of fashion subject to the same trends and styles as anywhere else.
“For the most part, plus-size fashion follows the same trends straight-size designers do,” Johnson said. “I think, in the past, if you were plus-size, you only had a few options and they weren’t very interesting: no bright colors, nothing that stands out. That’s changed. I feel like the plus-size options are just as fashionable now.”
For Lane Bryant, influencer collaborations like the one it is doing with Rochelle Johnson have become a key way that the company is standing out from the surge of new plus-size brands and staying ahead of the growing competition.
“Influencers are wonderful brand advocates for us,” Hatfield said. “They are our client, they shop in our stores and, many times, they have a long history with the brand.”