As the plus-size fashion market continues to grow exponentially — expected to be worth $24 billion by the end of 2020 — the pressure for brands to extend into plus is heightened. While in the past, some brands have made the choice to extend solely up to a size 18, the plus-size community is refusing the let it stop there, showing the demand for clothing that is truly size-inclusive. But as more brands catch on, an issue presents itself: Where will they find the models above a size 18 to showcase their product? That's a question that Lauren Haber Jonas, founder and CEO of Part & Parcel, is ready to answer.
In May of 2019, Jonas and her team launched Part & Parcel, a new plus fashion label that utilizes dimensional sizing, an affordable made-to-measure method that allows customers to choose between two fits options on the bust, biceps and waist. Available in sizes 14 through 36, the brand has made a distinctive impact within the plus community in only six months time. But behind the scenes, Jonas and her team were grappling with what to do about the lack of models that represented the spectrum of what it means to be plus.
The problem was clear: No modeling agency was representing models above a size 18, and even the plus models who were available to them all fit the "hourglass" norm.
"From day one, it became clear that we weren't going to be able to hire anyone 'professional' in the size range that we needed, let alone with the body shape and the true representation of real women and how real women look: bodies with weight carried in your non-hourglass figure," Jonas told Fashionista. "This woman is dimensional, and the way that she carries herself is dimensional, and her body proportions are dimensional, especially within the plus population."
That's the message Jonas, being the innovative, game-changing thinker that she is, hopes to get across with Part & Parcel Talent, an inclusive agency representing models across the country from sizes 14 through 36, which launched on Nov. 7. After vetting the 15 women, Jonas flew them out to San Francisco and put them in a model house for their first photoshoot with the talent agency — an experience she best described as life-changing, and a sure highlight of Part & Parcel's entire journey.
Using her own experiences of struggling to find plus talent, Jonas hopes that Part & Parcel Talent will become a valuable resource to other brands and designers who want to expand their sizing. The inaugural modeling class is made up of 15 diverse women from around the country, all of whom are non-exclusive to Part & Parcel, allowing other brands to hire them for their campaigns, runways, etc. "And what I say to brands is: We've done the work, we've found the models, we've created the agency, so here they are, ready for you to work with," she adds.
With Part & Parcel Talent, Jonas hopes to show the modeling world that "we've done it and it's possible, and we've found incredible women across the country in every state and city that you can imagine that are incredible talent."
"Modeling agencies are ground zero for representation in retail, and until they start to sign real women of all ages, of all abilities, and all sizes, they're hampering the ability for the retail market to progress and to move forward," Jonas says.
By the end of 2020, Jonas hopes to triple the talent size from its inaugural class. Looking to the future, she also hopes to expand by age range — both older and younger, as the lack of plus options for teenage girls is a serious concern — and gender.
"It is most moving for me because of my daughter. I've spent the last 20 years of my life as a plus-size woman feeling ignored, and feeling unheard, and not having the community," Jonas says. "And much like the women who were here during the talent weekend with us, I felt like I wasn't going to matter."
"To be able to continue to innovate within this company in a way that continues to serve her just makes me feel like there's a possibility that for my daughter, things will be better," she adds. "I want her to live in a world where plus-size women thrive, different than a world that I live in."