In 2011, The Limited launched Eloquii, its entry into the plus-size clothing market. The brand gained a loyal following before quietly shuttering just a year and a half later when The Limited decided to focus on its core business.
But then something great happened: Rather than throw in the towel and find new jobs, several key members of the Eloquii team decided to dig their heels in. "A few of us on the management side saw an opportunity to keep it going and try to find an investor, because there was so much outcry when it closed," Eloquii designer Jodi Arnold tells me.
"She's being modest," interjects CEO Mariah Chase. "They all had pretty serious offers from other retailers and brands, and they took a huge risk to find a private investor to start a new dot com."
That's how, just over a year later, Eloquii found new life -- Eloquii 2.0, as the team lovingly refers to it. Adding a few new players, including Chase, to the five key members who came from The Limited, the brand officially relaunched in February.
But despite having a core group of customers who were asking for its return, the brand kept the relaunch under wraps. "We were really kind of stealth about it until the day before," Chase explains. "We were reticent to tease her without having everything for her to see and to buy, so it kind of felt like we fell out of the sky."
Luckily, they fell out of the sky with a fully-realized line of trend-forward clothing, so often missing in the plus-size market. There's a scuba fabric, bright print-on-print looks, skinny cropped pants ready for work or a night out -- and yes, even crop tops. They're aiming to deliver every two weeks, just like fast fashion.
Somewhat surprisingly, Arnold admits to never having had experience designing for plus sizes before Eloquii -- something which she thinks is a benefit. "When you're going into it, don't have anything in your mind about what can and can't be done," she says. "We start with the fashion, and we go into the fittings and then make tweaks and changes."
The key, according to Arnold, is the team's "expert fitter." And while it would be easy to write Arnold off -- in person, she's slender and doesn't read as Eloquii's core customer -- she says she spent most of her life as a size 14 and understands what her customer wants. "I still know what it would feel like on me, or what I would want it to feel like -- it's not coming from a totally foreign place," she says.
For her part, Chase may be new to the team, but she's also Eloquii's biggest cheerleader. "As soon as I heard about this [opportunity], I showed up at our founding investor's apartment at 8:30 in the morning on a Sunday, and I was like 'This is for me! You're going to hire me!'" she tells me.
"It was about doing something that mattered," Chase continued. "I'll be the first to admit that I'm late to realizing this, but this customer has been ignored, and it's not fair."