From advertising to reinventing itself, the fashion industry has mastered many different sides of the business. However, runways continue to reveal an area where the industry is failing, which is in size diversity. A few designers and labels are including models who have different shapes and sizes in their popular Fashion Week runway shows, but change in this part of the industry has been slow to come. Startup tech company Fabletics is now leading the charge of breaking these fashion industry ideals of beauty. The company has taken note of an important demographic that needs representation in the media and in sizing and it’s leading to some notable changes in the fashion world.
Plus-size models Hunter McGrady and Ashley Graham were a part of this year’s “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.” In addition, Chromat’s Becca McCharen has worked to include size diversity in her shows. While these are steps in the right direction, the fashion industry continues to focus its efforts on making clothes for a small subsection of women.
According to a new documentary titled “Straight/Curve,” the industry’s lack of sizing diversity seems to start in design school. The documentary discovered that would-be designers only learn how to create fashions for straight sizes, which are sizes that range from zero to eight. Plenty of women fall into this size category, but a study published by the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology, and Education found that 16 is the average size of American women. This means that the fashion industry is overlooking too many women. The activewear company Fabletics noticed the discrepancy and decided to do something about it since it has a policy of inclusivity and body positivity.
Expanding with Extended Sizes
Fabletics recently expanded its sizes up to 3X. Kate Hudson cofounded the company in 2013. She said, “When I started Fabletics, my goal was, and still is, to empower women and design with every woman in mind, because everyone – regardless of size, shape, age or ability – deserves to look incredible, be inspired and feel their absolute best.” The California-based company didn’t introduce the plus-size apparel as a separate line. Instead, it did so as an extension of the brand. Hudson said, “Our mission is to support all women on their journey to live a healthy, active lifestyle.”
The company’s new plus-size offerings include performance and fit enhancements. For instance, many of the apparel pieces have wider bands that come with adjustable straps. To give active women added support, the company’s designers have attached closures on bra tops, increasing comfort. Longer lengths provide more coverage while power mesh fabrics offer greater breathability.
Developing the expanded product line was an involved process. According to Hudson, it took Fabletics time to create the right combination of activewear. To ensure comfort and support for its customers, the company completed extensive testing that ranged from seams to bra straps. Along with making sure that its activewear items are comfortable to wear, the company decided to offer its extended size clothing in the same styles as its regular size apparel pieces. Hudson said, “We didn’t want to just do it for the sake of doing it, we wanted to make it right and have happy girls.”
A Company is Born
Don Ressler and Adam Goldenberg, Co-CEOs of JustFab Inc., started Fabletics with actress Kate Hudson after spotting a gap in the activewear industry. At the time, numerous pricey luxury brands were thriving, but few of them offered consumers fashionable, high quality workout clothes that were also affordable. The year after it got its start, Fabletics was selling its activewear in Europe and Canada. In January of 2015, it shipped out its one millionth order.
Kate Hudson joined the company because she has a passion for inspiring and supporting women in their quest to enjoy an active and healthy lifestyle. Every month, Hudson shares her favorite Fabletics outfit, so the company’s customers know that she loves and wears activewear developed by Fabletics.
Collaborating with Demi
The company’s first collaboration happened with entertainer Demi Lovato. Her openness with people about her curves made Demi the perfect partner for one of the company’s line. Pieces in her line feature supportive fabrics to inspire workout assurance. Each item is reminiscent of Demi’s vibrant personality and her notable sense of fashion. Youthful patterns and fun colors are present throughout the collection.
The line also supports the company’s alliance with Girl Up, which is a campaign started by the United Nations Foundation to empower girls around the world.
Fashion Without Limits
Several Syracuse University fashion professors confirmed that they hadn’t considered teaching their students how to expand the clothing size range until plus-size model Emme, who attended the university, challenged the school to join forces with her on the Fashion Without Limits initiative. Emme’s project challenges fashion students to design clothes in a variety of sizes.
The Syracuse University associate professor of fashion, Jeffrey Mayer, said, “When Emme came to us, we thought…why aren’t we doing this? Why isn’t everyone doing this? Why isn’t this just a norm?” Today, the school’s education team teaches its students that the best design is one that would look amazing on someone who is a size 6 as well as on the body of someone who is a size 22.
The director of the school, James Fathers, said, “Whose reality counts here? Is it the reality of the catwalk designers or is it the reality of these women who actually can’t find things that make them feel good?”
Despite Syracuse embracing a new teaching method that includes designing plus-size apparel items, few other schools have followed in its tracks. To make the “Straight/Curve” documentary, filmmakers focused on one design school in particular, which was the Parsons School of Design. Filmmakers found that while Parsons claims it has one of the country’s most distinguished programs for fashion designers, the school does not offer classes that teach students how to create clothing for those who have different body types. In the film, one student confirmed that she taught herself how to make extended size clothing since it was her only option.
Just One Part of the Problem
Establishing an educational program that teaches fashion students how to create clothing styles for plus-size women as well as for women who are more diverse than others is just one part of the problem. Even if more students graduate with this knowledge, it won’t get rid of the industry’s uniformity problem. However, if more fashion students are versed in the creation of plus-size clothing, changes in the industry may follow, and this change is necessary.
It’s past time for the fashion industry to acknowledge that women’s bodies are varied and that everyone should have access to clothes that are fun to wear and flattering. By introducing its extended size line, Fabletics is certainly ahead of other activewear clothing lines especially those that fail to offer sizes past a large or even, a size 8.