Fashion + Diversity

The Long and Winding Road: Fashion Brands’ Journey to Diversity

The fashion industry has changed in many ways during the last few decades. Although the evolvement of fast fashion has resulted in a variety of complexities, some positive developments have occurred as well. Slowly, the fashion product offer has begun to diversify and serve more than one or two body types. More recently, the marketing of fashion has allowed a more diverse range of models to be seen by consumers.

Narrow size ranges

Many fashion brands from high street to luxury have had a narrow clothing size offer in the past. Those size ranges have not reflected the needs of many fashion consumers. By choosing to offer clothes in sizes 6-14 only, a fashion brand is missing business opportunities within valuable market segments. Furthermore, it sends a clear message to consumers: We accept only people of a certain size to be our customers.

Some brands may send the message unintendedly. The narrow size chart can be a result of a number of variables, such as constraints in budget. More than often, however, it is part of the fashion brand’s strategy from the beginning. That is, choosing to cater for fashion consumers of a smaller size only.

Arguably it is each brand’s own decision which consumer groups they choose to target, which is true. That said, the fashion industry as a whole has a responsibility to provide garments for everyone. That includes people who are smaller than size 6 and larger than size 14.

The average dress size of a woman in the United Kingdom is 16. Regardless, many brick-and-mortar shops do not offer sizes above it. When an entire shopping centre doesn’t have a single shop providing for consumers outside that size range, it’s a problem. No wonder the British high street is dying when it is not catering to everyone.

When some experience shopping as fun and enjoyable, others feel the very opposite. People who do not fit into that tight size mould may find shopping a nightmare. This can create negative connotations around fashion and clothes to those consumers. These may further decrease the amount of money they spend on fashion.

Diversifying collections

Fortunately, this has begun to change, in some ways at least. More and more retailers offer petite and plus size collections. This is a good start but does not solve the problem.

When these collections first appeared, the clothes were not the same as in the brand’s actual collection. Mainly, they consisted of basic clothes such as t-shirts and straight jeans, and they were all black. Today, many fashion brands have come a long way to make the petite or plus size collections more on trend. They have also broaden their actual size ranges from both ends.

Some brands have even abandoned their plus size collections, offering only one collection for all sizes. This would be ideal. However, some of those brands now offer only part of their products in plus or petite sizes. When the products are not marked as being a certain collection, shopping in store becomes frustrating. Customers are disappointed when they see something they like but then find out it is not made in their size. Especially if the product next to it is and the design is the same. In this situation, the product selection is still unequal.

Fit is another discussion completely. By simply adding or reducing fabric to make a garment bigger or smaller often results in poor fit.

Marketing matters

For consumers, it is not important only to find their size of a garment they want to have. Equally crucial is to be able to relate to the marketing of fashion. No one should feel guilty or unworthy for not looking like the photoshopped model in the magazine advert. Instead, we should see people like us.

The majority of fashion marketing has always focused on imagery that supports the beauty standards of the time. White and thin models have mostly dominated them in the past. Recently, the fashion world has witnessed some fashion brands take action by including a variety of models in their marketing. An example of this is Levi’s, which is now having models of varying sizes in their campaigns.

In addition, some new fashion brands have began to appear, that have a completely different mindset from the beginning. They are offering a larger size scale and truly showing how they welcome consumers as they are. One of these is a Finnish swimwear brand HallaxHalla.

This is the kind of positive, non-discriminating development we wish to see from the fashion industry. To go further, we need to work collectively and break more moulds, in both product selection and marketing. At least we are going in the right direction.

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