The quickly growing and thankfully diversifying plus-size market just got a promising new shopping option with the launch of Coverstory, an e-commerce site offering a multi-brand selection of cool contemporary clothing sized 12 to 28.
After spending years on the manufacturing and private label side of the fashion business, Heidi Kan saw a void in the market for clothing options for curvy women — especially for her friends, who were asking if the pieces her employers were making came in their size. "I saw that everything that was available [in larger sizes] was either way too sexy or way too matronly, there's just nothing that was very modern and chic," she tells Fashionista. And there's a reason: numbers. "I think sometimes the buyers tend to just look at numbers, especially the bigger box stores," she explains. "Most of the buyers just look at reports and what has been sold previously and they tend to continue to buy a certain way or think, 'that's what the curvy girls like' and they have all those rules and they rarely step outside the box." But by starting small and independent, Kan felt she would have more opportunity to experiment with the "traditional" plus-size aesthetic.
Plus, it is a very good time to be in the underserved (but growing) plus-size market: Investors are pouring money into sites like Eloquii, which recently expanded its offering by partnering with fashion-girl favorite Stone Fox Bride on a line of plus-size gowns. And Christian Siriano fused two market trends, showing his see-now-buy-now collaboration with Lane Bryant at a runway show at the U.N. last week. Glamour also debuted a dedicated plus-size special edition (although neglecting to notify Amy Schumer on her inclusion in the issue) in March.
After working on Coverstory for about a year, Kan launched it this past April. The site carries a boutique-size mix of truly edited pieces from plus- and non-plus-size brands like Universal Standard, MYNT 1792 and BB Dakota. She extensively researched the options, both domestically and overseas, to find versatile and streamlined, but unique pieces, like a wrap-front crepe jumpsuit from U.K.-based Elvi and Rachel Palley jersey maxi-dresses, which aren't available on the designer's site. Coverstory also collaborated with Minnesota-based indie label Hackwith Design House on an exclusive top and knot-front skirt set. "I try to pick pieces that are more sophisticated, chicer and cooler," Kan says.
The Coverstory website design also has a crisp, modern, minimalist aesthetic — like a Need Supply or Of a Kind — to differentiate it from youth-targeted sites, such as Torrid, or established high street brand Lane Bryant. "That's how I dress," explains Kan about how she envisioned the site concept. "I put a lot of thought to it. I like the modern chic. I like the clean feeling. I guess it was kind of in my DNA." Price points run contemporary; think $85 for a Universal Standard capelet top, $158 for a Kate Middleton-esque black lace dress by Kiyonna Boudoir and $264 for a snakeskin print Rachel Palley maxi-dress.
There are also plenty of accessories, including cute totes, clutches and jewelry by 8.6.4 and Wrk-shp. "I want to be a one-stop-shopping destination and a whole lifestyle brand," Kan explains. Home items are the next category she'd like to add to the Coverstory, well, story. While Kan certainly has a specific vision, the site is not niche, and Kan doesn't even use the term "plus size" in the marketing descriptors on the site. The founder says that wasn't a conscious or strategic decision — it didn't really even occur to her. She sees the term "plus size" as more of a search engine tool anyway.
"I'm just talking to my customer, you know what I mean?" Kan says. "Straight size, plus size, I don't think it's an issue. If you like beautiful clothes, you like beautiful clothes."