As far as retail revenge stories go, Eloquii’s got a pretty good one.
The plus-size brand, which used to be an in-house offshoot of The Limited, was shuttered in 2013 after less than two years, much to the chagrin of its customers.
“We now look back at it as a great move,” said Mariah Chase, Eloquii’s CEO, who joined post-brand resurrection. “The customers really rallied online and said, ‘We have so few options to begin with, how dare you take away one of our favorites.’”
As The Limited has since filed for bankruptcy, Eloquii, which has raised $21 million in funding and expanded into brick-and-mortar, got the last laugh. Chase joined the Glossy Podcast to discuss the plus-size fashion landscape, why it’s still thin on competition and how “body positive” brand messaging isn’t always so positive. Edited highlights, below.
The fashion opportunity
Chase said that Eloquii’s major opportunity was in the trend-driven fashion space, where the already-underserved plus-size customer is even harder pressed to find options. Traditionally, plus-sized brands catered to customers as if they weren’t interested in trendy fashion.
“There’s not a lot going on in this space,” she said. “A pivot we made was that we were fashion-first.” She added that the brand avoided long product leads because customers’ purchasing power was predicated on newness. So, the company is adding new styles often and quickly.
Chase quickly rattled off the companies she considers to be competitors: Torrid, Asos Curve, Old Navy. The list tails off quickly.
The reason most brands don’t expand their sizing to include sizes beyond a 12 is that it takes a lot of investment, she said. So, brands just dip a toe in the waters of plus-size, without fully committing, to see if there are any bites. But the results of these plus-size tests are typically self-fulfilling.
“You have to get behind it, fully, or the customer will see through it and think, ‘You don’t really want me here,’” she said. “You have to invest in the long term — and it’s like laying a foundation — and say this is a business we’ll be in forever.”
The power of social media
In Chase’s eyes, social media, and the platform it gave to women who had been treated poorly by retailers for ages, changed the game.
“If it wasn’t for social media, the market wouldn’t be getting the attention that it is,” she said. “Before, if a customer had a bad experience, who was she talking to? Her book club? The amount of virality in the community, these stories that thousands of people are reading — without the digital medium, that wouldn’t have happened.”
Chase went on to acknowledge that, for better or worse, plus-size fashion carries with it a burden to be more: a symbol of empowerment, or a way to show the customer is worth something. While there is money to be made in this space for brands, Chase believes they have to tread carefully.
“It’s not our place to tell our customer that her body is positive. It’s a really mixed message to come from a fashion brand.”