Whatever you think about the current state of the plus size fashion market, no one can deny that we have come along way. I remember when SLiNK began just five years ago I could count the number of plus size brands I knew on both hands and the idea that the likes of River Island and Boohoo would've launched trend focussed plus size lines a mere and lofty dream.
Now however, the story has developed and like the straight size market we are beginning to see a great mix of lower, middle and high end high street offerings. We have indie designers, start ups and gorgeous designer brands. We have the choice between fast and slow fashion, independently crafted pieces and timeless classics. We might not have the choice of Oxford Street yet but our market place is diverse, exciting and growing.
Before I started SLiNK, as you can imagine my financial position was somewhat different to how it is now and my shopping habit took full advantage of that. Dropping £150+ on a beaded sweater was nothing, after all I loved nice things and I worked, my disposable income was just that. I rarely shopped on the lower end of the high street, I didn't like the sizing or the quality, I was much more about buying fewer pieces that lasted and plenty of pieces in my wardrobe are going strong 5+ years after I bought them.
Now if you're recoiling in horror about me splashing my cash, that's fine, it wasn't yours to spend. If I have a penchant for Rocha over River Island and I can afford to, then let me. I love the high street & the fashion market in general, I think it's amazing that we have that much choice, but that is what it is about, CHOICE.
Of course, post business set up, I rarely shop and I'm lucky that some of my favourite plus brands might gift me during a season which means that I both carefully select what I want and it helps keep my wardrobe fresh, but I can't shop like I used to. But that doesn't mean I don't want to and it doesn't mean I begrudge the brands that price me out.
The truth is, the plus size market NEEDS different price points in order to develop to a fashion arena that is as exciting and as diverse as the straight size market. We might be the understudy or the supporting role right now but I still firmly believe that with all the developments in the market place we will one day have our Leo moment and scoop that Oscar. But this can only happen if consumers recognise the need for a brand mix.
If we look at the straight size market, shoppers have the choice to head to Primark or Prada and everything in between and that is what the plus size market should and needs to be replicating. And yes this means that not everyone can afford everything but that is fashion and you might choose a brand mix, the occasional price treat or to be a dedicated fast fashion lover. None of these options are right, wrong or more important but we ALL deserve the choice to shop how we want.
As someone who has worked in retail I've met women who will spend thousands and those that soak up in the sale, they are all valued and valid customers who deserve the choice to shop how they want. There are plenty of plus size customers that want to buy fewer and better pieces that they will re-wear for years and their needs are as valid as those who shop weekly and cheaply.
You might see something you like that you don't want to pay the money for, in fact someone might be doing a similar product at a fraction of the price. If they are, fine, shop there but if I choose to treat myself to the designer version because it makes me happy or feel good that s MY choice. You shop your way and I will shop mine. We both deserve good fashion.
Last week, a dear friend of mine, in fact one of the first people I ever discussed SLiNK with, Anna Scholz launched her activewear line #witnessthefitness - and it is GREAT. The prints are cute, the leggings are great and you know what? It is a proper designer fitness line, except brilliantly it is exclusively plus size. That's right, a plus size fitness line.
Anna this year will celebrate 20 years in the business. Having studied at Central St Martins, to me Anna is one of the foundation pieces of our plus size fashion industry and as a pal I find her hugely inspirational. Twenty years in fashion, when straight size designer brands fold and go bust is no mean business but what Anna's twenty years as an independent should show us, is that not only is she great but there are plus size women who want a little luxury.
Anna designs her own prints, researches her silhouettes and generally runs the helm of Anna Scholz with her brilliant business partner and team. Her production runs are smaller and more carefully planned than some of the bigger high street names and the fabrics and selections of styles and colours are done knowing that EVERY decision counts. This is naturally reflected in the end price. After all it is a designer brand and when you shop designer you expect a certain end product. That means that you might not be able to afford or willing to pay for Anna's pieces but you know what, having been around for twenty years you can be sure that she has a legion of fans that she has cultivated through hard work and excellent styles over the years.
Over the weekend I've seen far too much bashing over price of Anna's fitness range and it reminds me how much more work the plus size fashion industry needs. If you were a straight size shopper and you had the choice of Sweaty Betty, Lulu Lemon, Stella Mccartney and Primark you would simply choose whether you wanted to pay top dollar or not. That is what Anna represents in the plus size industry along with her more high street counter parts is choice. If you want to pay 69 or 19 for leggings - that's up to you but don't plus size women deserve the choice?
While some have used the excuse that they won't get the wear out of an expensive piece as they're dieting or changing shape - that's OK, no one minds that you don't want to spend a lot of money but just remember that's you. Don't internalise a product that is being sold to a wider market. Lots of women aren't changing shape or are living for right now and they still deserve choice.
Because if we sell everything at one price point then those that want better quality or want to buy designer are missing out and choice and equality is what the plus size fashion market place is fighting for. We need all different price points and where possible we need to support our high end, indies and fast fashion retailers otherwise we will always be the understudy of the fashion industry.