11 Honore CEO Patrick Herning: ‘Sizeism is alive and well in fashion’

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11 Honoré founder and CEO Patrick Herning’s biggest priority for the next year: customer acquisition.

“Fashion has been supportive; media has been supportive. So we’ll keep that. I want someone who’s in Ohio, getting her nails done, reading about us,” said Herning on this week’s Glossy Podcast. “I want to conquer the world,”

11 Honoré is an online multibrand retailer for plus-size designer fashion, which Herning and his business partner Kathryn Retzer founded in 2017 to deliver a luxury e-commerce experience to women sizes 10 to 22. It launched with 16 brands and, with its resort collection at the end of this year, will count 80, with designers like Zac Posen, Mary Katrantzou, Tome, Prabal Gurung and Michael Kors appearing on the site. Often, the styles are exclusives.

So after spending nearly two years courting designers, Herning’s need is to raise customer awareness. He and Retzer will launch Page 11, an editorial site, later this month to build a lifestyle attraction for plus-size luxury shoppers. Herning joined the Glossy Podcast to discuss appealing to this customer, giving brands a helping hand and what really holds the industry back from selling plus-size fashion.

On identifying an opportunity
11 Honoré heard a lot of nos, some yeses and many not-right-nows from the designers it first reached out to. With the ones who said no, Herning was frustrated, particularly because some of those designers were producing clothing in plus sizes for private clients but didn’t want to sell those collections publicly. Herning and his team began reaching out to brands in the fall of 2016, after models like Ashley Graham were becoming New York Fashion Week regulars, and the ones that were on board, he thought, represented a shift that would only keep progressing.

“We’re at an inflection point in fashion and retail, and when things are turning upside-down, that’s always an amazing opportunity to create change and to define a new path for a brand. I think that’s definitely the role we’ve played,” said Herning.

On what holds fashion back from selling plus-size
Part of what prevents designers from expanding its size range is resources. For example, one size-6 pattern can be used for a straight-size range, scaled down to design a 0 and up to a 12. One fit model works just fine. Making plus-size clothing that fits means doubling that process and, sometimes, hiring a new team. To head off those concerns, 11 Honoré has taken on a part-time role as a consultant for brands, aiding in changing production processes. But sometimes the issue goes deeper than pockets.

“What we often don’t acknowledge is sizeism. That is alive and well in fashion. That’s changing, and it’s changing quickly, and on the designer level, that has been groundbreaking,” said Herning. “If you look at who the plus customer has historically had access to and who she has access to now, it’s night and day. What we’re setting out to do is give this customer an equal seat at the table in fashion.”

On choosing the marketplace model
While it’s not easy to compete in a crowded marketplace for multibrand retailers both online and off (and companies like Nordstrom are pushing the needle on selling extended sizes in stores), Herning said he thought his approach would lead to the biggest industry impact. 11 Honoré works with its brands to provide recommended sizing charts, fit data and more, and it feeds that back to the customer. For instance, at checkout, customers may see a notification that an item that’s in their cart historically runs big or small.

“A brand approach is more narrow — you’re telling one singular brand message. For us to create change, it’s required momentum and support from so many designers, and it’s through that designer support that the change is actually happening,” said Herning. “We get to rewrite the vocabulary around what shopping means for this customer, and that’s super exciting to me.”

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