Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I Have A Dream..

I wrote this one way back when I had money as as a submission to SKORCH magazine...Enjoy..

I am a well-known clothes horse. Women like me are better known nowadays as "fashionistas". I shop at Nordstrom's, at Saks Fifth Avenue and at Neiman Marcus. When I go to London I head to TopShop, and Harrods and Harvey Nichols. In LA, Robertson Avenue is my destination, and Kitson and Lisa Klein are places where I love to get things at.

There is only one little problem. Most of those places can sell me jewelry, purses, shoes and cosmetics. But few can sell me clothes that I can wear. Why? I am a plus-size woman. I wear a size 18W.

For some reason upscale retailers and designers believe that plus-size women cannot and will not buy youthful, on –trend clothing. That is a huge misperception.

I think that there is an untapped market in the plus-size industry. There are many of us who are not thrilled by business suits or what goes nowadays by "career wear". We are women who are looking to wear the same things as our thin counterparts.

We are successful, creative, fashion-savvy women, who know the difference between Ralph Lauren's Lauren line and his Black Label, and who worship Marc Jacobs clothing from afar.

And year after year, our prayers go barely answered. We cannot find the trendy, youthful, high quality clothing we long to wear.

What I am thinking of here is that the upscale "Contemporary" market that rules fashion retail in the 0-10 straight size fashion market and 16-40 age demographic, is practically non –existent in the plus-size industry.

You know what I am talking about: T-bags, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Diane Von Furstenberg dresses, Gwen Stefani's L.A.M.B line. Moschino's Cheap and Chic, See by Chloe, even Juicy Couture. All those clothes that when you go to upscale retailers, you drool over, but have no hope of wearing, because they do not even come in anything over a size 10. And a small 10 at that.

If the success of Torrid who caters to a younger plus-size demographic is any indication, there is a market for upscale "Contemporary" lines and stores. Except they barely exist. I was ecstatic when I discovered Jessica Svoboda's line at Saks online and I felt the same way when I found Anna Scholtz's line at Harrods. But seriously, why not more? Why not the same lines in plus that exist in straight sizes?

I have spoken to several straight size contemporary apparel designers, and they said that whenever they made sizes that were larger, they lost money because they did not sell.

Could it possibly be because of the fact that if larger sizes were available, this was not actively promoted? Could it also be that upscale retailers have discontinued or reduced their plus-size offerings and the presence of plus-size departments, and confined them to their online stores? Or that they will not stock anything over a size 10 or 12 in their "Contemporary" departments? God forbid the thin customer might be offended by seeing anything on the racks with a double digit tag. Or perhaps they have frustrated or intimidated the plus-size customers to the point where they no longer bother coming into the stores?

Could it be that the plus size customer has become so turned off by the offerings and the treatment they receive at the mortar and board stores that they now only shop online and at stores that cater exclusively to them?

Isolation from the rest of the market is the last thing that women whose self-esteem takes daily blows need.

Personally, as a consumer, I think that this situation as become one of "separate and unequal" and akin to fashion segregation.

I do not know if the answer is one or a combination of all of the above.

What I do know, is that my needs as a fashionable, successful plus-size woman are unmet.

That the best I can do when I go shopping, is either settle and style what I can find in my size, or try to find stuff in the straight size departments that I can make fit. Stretch cotton and jersey thus have become my BFFs.

But I keep thinking that maybe if retailers added a "Contemporary-plus" department to their stores or if they actively marketed to young, professional, plus-size women in a positive way, they would tap a very profitable market that has until now have been sadly, mostly ignored.

I have a dream that one day, size 0's and 22's will side by side try-on Marc Jacobs jackets in the fitting rooms at Saks. I have a dream that one day I can find a Diane Von Furstenberg vintage print dress in a size 18W. I have a dream that I can walk into Nordstrom's and find something that I can wear other than to job interviews and memorial services. I have a dream…

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