By Brianna Siciliano
It’s not every day that you can attend a virtual conference where people from all over the world tune in to watch panelists and interviews engage in conversations about bodies, self-confidence, and rejecting societal standards of beauty; but, there is one day a year where this is possible – during the BodCon!
This year, the 2nd annual BodCon took place on February 27. It was an inspirational and empowering day focused on many body-relevant topics including size inclusivity in the fashion industry, a panel run by Gianluca Russo, a fashion and culture journalist and co-founder of the Power of Plus. Russo asked the panelists of fashion brands and designers why they believed brands are struggling with creating inclusive sizing today and received some interesting responses.
Creative director of her indigenous-owned, size inclusive clothing and accessory brand, Lesley Hampton revealed that in fashion school, “they didn’t teach us very much about designing for a larger body and I think that either made people unaware or uneducated [about how] to design for different body shapes.”
Ashley Freeborn, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Smash+Tess, revealed that size inclusivity was so important for her brand to show people of all shapes and sizes on their website, so even though it costs a lot of money, Smash+Tess takes photographs of every product they offer on nine or 10 body types to show how their clothes look on different bodies.
Anu Narayanan, chief Merchandising Officer at Anthropologie, added, “When you think about it from a larger business perspective, I’m not sure people are really getting to know the customer… and understanding what they want.” She expanded, saying, “I think sadly there’s still assumptions about the fact that somebody who might be a larger size doesn’t still want an open back or a side cut out details or the latest fashion trends, and that’s not true.”
Even when brands offer straight and plus size clothing, oftentimes the plus size options don’t fit right on plus size bodies. Freeborn added, “It’s easy to say well it’ll fit, but does it fit the way it’s supposed to fit on all body sizes? So I think to your point, that’s so important to understanding what the consumer wants. Lots of fit sessions, lots of feedback, so that you get it right.”
The panelists offered some solutions that could help brands in their efforts to be more inclusive in their sizing, including teaching the importance of having conversations about inclusive sizing in fashion schools so the topic is top of mind from the get-go, and getting to know who customers are and what they actually want. It could be as simple as throwing up an Instagram story and asking customers for feedback to see how brands can evolve to become the best that they can be, fitting their audience’s needs.
Another area that fashion brands need to improve on, beyond the range of sizes they offer, is the overall shopping experience. Plus size shoppers have been forced into isolating shopping experiences for many years; Freeborn shared a story about a customer who was only able to shop at the same shoe store as her friends, and Narayanan shared a story about how she can finally shop at the same store as her straight-size sister now that stores are offering inclusive sizing. Plus size clothes options don’t always have to be sold or marketed separately.
“If you want to build a truly inclusive environment where people see themselves in your clothes and in your brand, you have to be so committed to it….I don’t want to push our shoppers to shop at a different part of the Smash+Tess website. I want them to have the exact same experience that everyone [else] is having,” shared Freeborn. Brands can continue to learn more and evolve by following her advice by “listening and being open and absolutely just humbling yourself to go, ‘you know what? I don’t know it all, and I’m committed to doing the absolute best that I can do’.”
Inclusive sizing is a complex problem that doesn’t have a quick or standard solution. But, the BodCon panelists revealed the importance of brands to start the process of inclusivity by having open and transparent conversations with customers to ask questions and showcase their intentions.
At the end of the discussion, the panel shared their mutual hopes for the future of fashion: we are all feeling fabulous everyday — no matter one’s age, race, gender, size, you name it. We’ll all be able to feel confident.
All of us at Mys Tyler couldn’t agree more!