In 2017, several entrepreneurs finally got savvy to the needs of the plus-size customer. No longer some ignored niche, women size 14 and larger make up 67 percent of the female buying power in the United States, a market currently valued at over 20 billion. With those numbers in mind, it's surprising that more brands aren't reaching for a piece of this growing business.
We're rounding up our favorite new brands that focus specifically on plus-size women, or offering clothing for an more inclusive size range, like 0 to 32. Read on to see who's getting our dollars this year.
All 67 designer Jeff Cafone got his start like all great designers — by accidentally purchasing a leather factory on Craigslist. (Yes, really.) As Cafone's made-to-measure leather jacket business boomed, he noticed his larger-size female customers were more appreciative of his designs. "I received nearly unanimous collective feedback," Cafone explains to Fashionista. "A quality leather piece was a foreign concept in plus sizes, and my work was meaningfully filling a gap in the market. When I dug deeper and really started exploring the idea of making ready-to-wear jackets solely in plus sizes, I went out and bought every moto-style piece I could find. I was shocked at how poor (and few) the options were. Most brands used fake leather and cheap materials. They were poorly designed and constructed, and the fits were generally floppy and lacking shape."
Shocked by the discrepancy of options between sizes 0 to 12 and sizes 14+, Cafone launched All 67. "I saw a huge opportunity to be the best and only high-end leather jacket for plus," says Cafone. "It made sense from a business standpoint, but also emotionally. There's a certain way that a great leather jacket makes you feel. Everyone deserves that feeling, regardless of the size on the label."
Cafone is not just breaking the mold on moto jackets, he's approaching his marketing in a way that we wish established brands would as well. For his inaugural campaign, Cafone cast a variety of un-retouched, non-professional models, including "Orange Is The New Black" star Lea DeLaria, to display All 67's entire size 12 to 30 range.
Having launched only a few short months ago, Cafone is extremely excited for 2018. "On a new product level, we're still hyper-focused on continuing to make the best plus-size leather jackets. Period," he says. "But we definitely plan to include new designs moving forward by listening to clients' needs. I can share now for the first time that we are releasing a leather vest early next year to get customers through the warmer months looking stylish and 100 percent rock and roll!"
Founded by OG plus bloggers Nicolette Mason and Gabi Gregg, Premme is one of the few plus-size brands actually run by plus-size women, and it shows. Premme — a portmanteau of premier, premium, and femme — is focused on designs for sizes 12 through 30 that break the boundaries on what most other brands say plus-size women want. Instead of bland basics, you can expect gorgeous pieces like a glittery pink suit, star-dotted dress, cut-out cropped jumpsuit, orange crush velvet pants, or a tuxedo-inspired sleeveless jumpsuit.
Premme has been unsurprisingly popular, given that Gregg and Mason both have enormous followings and the experience to know what plus-size women want. "There have been huge waves in body positivity, representation, and visibility, but the market wasn't catching up to the demand for actual design-forward pieces," Mason tells Fashionista. "What makes Premme especially unique is our breadth of experience in this market, and that our design process is informed by that — as editors, influencers, thought leaders, and of course, actually being plus-size women and customers ourselves. But above all, we're offering a lot of design details in a size range and at a price point that has rarely, if ever, been done before: our full glitter suit, dresses with interesting and intricate cut-outs, and faux-fur trimmed moto jackets have been among our best sellers."
As for 2018, Mason says we can expect, "More, but better! We're continuing to improve on our fits and design, and continuing to push boundaries in the plus-size fashion world. There's no door in this market that we're shy of opening wide open."
One of the most bizarre myths surrounding plus-size women is that plus-size women don’t buy luxury goods. Fortunately, the founders of 11 Honoré, Kathryn Retzer and Patrick Herning, knew that line of thinking was wrong.
Stocking high-end designers known for a more inclusive mindset, like Christian Siriano and Prabal Gurung, as well as other industry-favorites that many may not even be aware offer size 10-20, like Adam Lippes and Brandon Maxwell, 11 Honoré is, as Retzer put it, "a destination where all women are honored and luxury has no limits."
Retzer and Herning didn't have to look far for their inspiration. "We thought about so many incredible women in our lives – friends, industry colleagues, family and both of our mothers, who have all been underserved in the fashion and retail space, and saw an opportunity to bring this consumer luxury and designer fashion," Herning explains. "We wanted to disrupt the way that fashion approaches this customer by bringing her a positive shopping experience and a top-notch selection. High end luxury designers were extremely sparse in the retail landscape above a size 12. Runway styles didn't exist for our customer and we are looking to close this gap in all categories and bring her the same luxury fashion that is available for women sizes 0 to 10."
Come 2018, 11 Honoré will expand to offer 34 designer brands in sizes 10 through 20, doubling the number they launched with. They're also planning another set of trunk shows so the founders can speak with women around the United States to hear what has been missing from their shopping experience.
If you want to shop in a brick-and-mortar store in NYC and you're under a size 14, the world is your oyster. With the exception of two major brands (Lane Bryant and Ashley Stewart), there were no other physical retail locations specifically for size 14-plus women until Alexis Krase opened Plus BKLYN this year.
Located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (and currently at a Manhattan pop-up as well), Plus BKLYN offers plus-size women that shopping experience they've sorely lacked, while still providing an e-commerce experience for those who aren't in the area. "As a life long plus-size girl and 15-year New Yorker, for years I struggled to find accessible clothing options in my size, a 24, that were uniquely my style." says Krase. "Of the limited plus options available, almost all of them were online only or the fit was off, often poor or matronly and designed to hide my shape. I was really shocked that in all of New York City I couldn't seem to find hip, fun, edgy or youthful options — or really any options at all other than the big box chain stores. I knew there were many fashion conscious women just like me, and because no other boutique or store was meeting that need I thought, 'Hell, I'll do it myself.' Additionally, our brick and mortar presence is a major differentiator, as it's one of the only environments that a plus size woman in New York City can walk in and know that all of the clothes there were made to fit her body."
Vintage-lovers should get excited for Plus BKLYN in 2018. "In the New Year we'll be carrying plus size vintage, which is oh-so-hard to find, as many women know," says Krase. "Additionally, look out for our Spring/Summer 2018 house line, which I could not be more excited about. Beyond that, we're really excited to get out in the community and hold more events and workshops in our space around body positivity, inclusivity in fashion & much more."
For way too long, plus-size swimsuits were matronly and dowdy; your options were either basic black or overly distracting prints, with nary a chic choice in sight. Things have vastly improved, but one of the hardest styles to find was a sexy string bikini — that is, until Curvy Beach was born.
Triangle string bikinis can be challenging for many women, in that those triangles can often be tiny and unsupportive. Plus-size model Elizabeth Taylor (yes, that's her real name) made sure that wouldn't be an issue with Curvy Beach thank to its 8 to 26 and B to J cup size range. Clearly, Taylor is doing something right, as she made a profit in her first year (something many businesses don't). "With over 12 million views of our Refinery29 video and selling out stock out in minutes, it was obviously something plus women had been looking for but not found yet," says Taylor. "Women's stories are the heart and soul of Curvy Beach. I want her to know her body is OKAY and does not need all the 'tricks' our society tells us to enjoy it. My suits work with a woman's shape and do not push, flatten, or pinch. The beach should be fun and it has to start with how you feel as soon as you step into your bikini."
That positive mindset is set to continue into 2018, as Taylor is planning to offer bold and bright fabrics, new silhouettes, and even connect with her "Curvy Beach Babes" around the country with a meet-and-greet tour.
For some reason, there seems to be this bizarre belief that people who work out only come in one size and shape. Plus-size model Candice Huffine has not only shattered those preconceived notions with her marathoning, she's also launched a size-inclusive activewear line, Day/Won, proving all those naysayers wrong.
"I've dreamt of designing for as long as I have been a model" Huffine explains. "And with newfound, life-altering love of running, creating Day/Won is the literal blending of both of my strongest passions. Being very familiar with the activewear market there were a lot of fit and style issues I encountered often, so I jumped at the opportunity to bring my brand to life and making it available for all women was absolutely imperative for me."
It's clear that Huffine stands behind that belief, as Day/Won is the only athletic apparel line to offer its entire range from size 0 to size 32. "As an athlete, I am very familiar with the market and found that when moving into the plus sizing, the availability within collections dwindled dramatically — as we so often see with ready-to-wear — giving the woman above a size 14 a very limited selection," Huffine explains. "Day/Won is sustainably made in the United States by on-demand manufacturer Ziel, meaning we make everything custom, per order, giving us the wonderful freedom to provide great quality apparel for ALL women, something that I have been a champion of for my entire career."
Huffine isn't slowing down on the pavement or with her designs, and she has high hopes for 2018. "Not only will the collection continue to grow and provide cool, high quality pieces you can be proud of wearing in and out of workout settings, but I also plan to create an empowering space for women to be inspired by each other and be given the tools necessary to set fitness and lifestyle goals," she says. "This brand is about being the best you that you can possibly be and I want to share an environment that encourages you to get out there and make every day won!"
Ashley Nell Tipton
Possibly best known for being the first plus-size designer to win "Project Runway," Ashley Nell Tipton has finally relaunched her eponymous collection, Ashley Nell Tipton Designs, after a two-collection stint with JCPenney.
Tipton's design career began way before "Project Runway," so it's not shocking that she returned to her roots and focused on bringing her design aesthetic to those she knows are often overlooked. "I created Ashley Nell Tipton Designs to empower people," Tipton explains. "Being a plus size woman myself, it's very important to me to contribute to my community. I know what it's like to not have options, so it's always been my mission to provide them. I'm very committed to providing an open size range, which only a number of retailers and designers do. Most stop at a 24, and I go up to a 5x."
Tipton is excited for the new year, as she expects to offer even more designs on her site, as well as focus on bringing more content to her newly-launched YouTube channel. We'll be tuning in for sure.
See Rose Go
A huge quantity of plus-size fashion is often either uber-sexy club wear or frumpy sacks; everything seems to be about showing off certain "assets" or just hiding everything away. If you're looking for chic, minimalist, high-quality pieces, you're frequently out of luck. With a focus on quality, fit and style, See Rose Go is about to change all that.
So many straight-size people are completely ignorant to the problems of the plus-size shopper; that was the case with See Rose Go founders Erin Cavanaugh and Yi Zhou. "It all started during a casual lunch with a friend, and the conversation turned to fashion." explains Cavanaugh. "Our friend, who wears a size 16, stated, 'You have no idea what it's like to shop for my body.' We work in fashion, we are around clothing all day. We just assumed everyone had the same options when shopping. That was an emotional turning point and we talked more about our friend's experiences getting dressed in the morning and how poor wardrobe options could affect her emotionally, making her late or even setting off negative vibes for the rest of the day. This effected both of us deeply. We stepped back and asked ourselves why there wasn't more well-made, stylish clothing for modern women who happen to wear plus sizes? We started reaching out to more and more women wearing plus size clothing to talk about their experiences and needs, what was missing, what they wanted. The responses were both alarming and enlightening. Overall, the needs were consistent with we heard from our friend: better quality and construction, a considered fit and cool, versatile style. It was then we realized that we could draw on our unique experience in activewear and fashion to meet these needs."
See Rose Go will continue expanding in 2018, starting with the launch of knitwear. "The knits fuse our expertise in activewear with our fashion aesthetic. Watch for new styles, colors and innovative design coming up with that segment of the line — we really geeked out on design, technical fabrics and the overall aesthetic! We will also continue to connect and grow with the global community. We want the women we design for to be a part of the change needed in the industry. We plan to create a forum for open dialog regarding design and company feedback for discussion."
RWN by Rawan
Although Forever 21 has certainly improved their plus-size options over the years, it's quite possible that the best thing that's come from them for size 14-plus women has been Rawan Ghawi, the former head of F21's plus division. This year, Ghawi launched RWN by Rawan, and her blend of personal experience as a plus-size woman and experience at a number of fashion brands is evident in the thoughtful designs.
"I am deeply passionate about serving this customer and each step in my career was a strategic move towards understanding how to give her something better," explains Ghawi. "Working at Forever 21 allowed me to explore fashion in a way that had never been done before in plus sizes and it was thrilling, but I eventually craved more. I wanted to apply my industry experience and personal insight across a wider range of sizes and shapes, giving plus customers more elevated styling, better constructions, and specific and thoughtful details that are catered to her."
Although RWN by Rawan offers everything from jackets and dresses to tops and shoes, the denim line is the shining star. "Each RWN piece is in the line because it is the best combination of fabric, fit, and finish in plus sizes across multiple body shapes," says Ghawi. "Simply taking jeans that work in smaller sizes and making them bigger isn't good enough. RWN denim washes are unique in how we interpret them; we specifically scale and shape every whisker, blend and spread our hand-sanding, and thoughtfully place destruction. Every style is fit on multiple body shapes and some styles in the line even cater to those shapes separately. We also do exhaustive wear-testing to ensure that what looks good and feels good on the fit models works just as well on actual customers."
Ghawi is hoping for a more inclusive future, with possible plans to expand her line from size 2 to 36 (as well as with different lengths) in 2018. "We have a unique approach to how we grade between sizes that helps us maintain the integrity of the original style without compromising a comfortable fit!"
As a plus-size woman, I've shed my own fair share of dressing room tears in the past, especially during swimsuit shopping. It can be a frustrating experience at best, or downright devastating at worst. Former Guess model Olga Caro had not experienced this herself until a fateful day of swimsuit shopping with her plus-size nieces, and thus Alpine Butterfly was born.
Unwilling to just settle for any old shoddy swimsuits, Caro made sure to choose elevated materials in her quest to create one of the first luxury plus-size swimwear lines. "What sets Alpine Butterfly apart from other plus size brands is the push to really communicate and understand our customers," Caro explains. "Finding out what works for women — and what doesn't — is essential to building a swimwear line that goes beyond. A lot of companies don't take the time to look at the bodies and what the customers need, like bands and underwire. We put a huge amount of time and effort into developing each piece."
Caro already knows 2018 will be tremendous for Alpine Butterfly, as they will be launching on Nordstrom.com in late January, and debuting a brand new collection for Summer 2018 in late February/early March. Get your wallets ready.
Sometimes when you can't find what you want you have to take matters into your own hands. That's exactly what plus-size blogger Crystal Coons of Sometimes Glam did when she launched her fashion line, Astra Signature.
"I created Astra Signature because I felt like there was a significant lack of clothing options in plus size that made me feel strong and capable," explains Coons. "I've always wanted something structured and classic that made me feel like I could own any room I walked into — be that the party room or the boardroom. Everything we design and create comes from a fashion-forward place of strength for women who are ready to show the world what they can really do."
With a large portion of plus clothes directed towards teens or older women, Coons focused on an oft-ignored segment of the plus community, women age 25-45. "I still feel like there's very little for women 25-45 — chic, classic and timeless fashion seems to be missing and everything is very 'trendy'," says Coons. "My goal is to have the bulk of our offerings be 'decadeless' — meaning you could be looking at a photo of yourself in an Astra outfit and not be able to date it to the year in 20 years from now. I'm trying to avoid everyone looking at an older photo of themselves and saying 'Oh god, that's so 2007!'"
If you're a fan of Coons' chic and sleek designs, then get ready for 2018, as she will be offering a basics collection early into the year as well as launching runway-inspired items every month.