Many retailers—especially those that sell luxury apparel and accessories—have failed to recognize the opportunity offered by the plus-size apparel market, says Patrick Herning, CEO of web-only retailer 11 Honoré.
That enabled 11 Honoré to fill the market void, he says. The retailer launched its e-commerce website 11Honore.com in August 2017 on the Shopify platform with 15 designer brands. Roughly a year after its launch, it now has more than 80 brands contributing products for the fall 2018 season, including Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. (No. 295 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000), Marchesa, Prabal Gurung, Zac Posen, Christian Siriano, Badgley Mischka and Theory.
“Our customers want the same options and are demanding the same level of luxury as women in other size categories—but it wasn’t available,” Herning says. “If you do find a size 12 or 14, the styles are limited.”
The plus-size retailer raised $8 million in a Series A funding round in earlier this year, bringing its total raised to date to nearly $12 million.
A study published in the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education found that the average American woman wears a misses size 16-18, which corresponds to a plus-size 20W. In addition, spending on women’s plus-size clothing totaled $21.4 billion in 2016, which was equivalent to 17.5% of the women’s apparel market that year, according to market research firm The NPD Group. And Coresight Research estimates the U.S. women’s plus-size apparel market opportunity is currently about $46 billion.
Despite the opportunity to capitalize on a vast, untapped market, 11 Honoré found that some designers don’t know how to size their products for plus-size consumers, Herning says. “The same scale that works for [regular] sizing will not work when you get above a size 14 to the 20s. It is a significant undertaking for brands to produce pieces in an extended size range.”
To do create extended sizes, designers must create a new pattern in a size 16 that will be graded up and down accordingly because the traditional sample size 8 cannot be graded up beyond a size 12. “To help our designers get through this process, we provide fit models from the onset, but then also share regular customer feedback on fit, so they can incorporate it into their future collections going forward,” Herning says.
11 Honoré also provides designers with tools so they can make a sample size of their garment in size 16. “The relationships with our designers are so important to us as is an open dialogue. Part of that is helping our designers overcome sizing issues daily,” he says.
Herning considers traditional retailers becoming more engaged in the plus-size space as 11 Honoré’s top competitors. For example, Nordstrom Inc. (No. 16) in May 2018 began selling plus sizes from about 100 brands online and in about 30 of its Nordstrom stores, and J. Crew Group Inc.’s (No. 53) J. Crew brand in July announced it was adding a size-inclusive collection called Universal Standard. Additional competition is coming from retail giants that don’t specialize in apparel, such as Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1), which introduced several private-label categories that also include plus sizes. Walmart Inc. (No. 3) also in 2018 introduced its Terra & Sky plus-size brand.
11 Honoré’s next plan to remain competitive is producing more content on its recently launched blog called Page 11. It includes articles about fashion designers, political content, how-to guides and other fashion- and beauty-related content.
“Our goal is to disrupt the way that fashion approaches this under-served woman and provide her with the most diverse and stylish options out there,” Herning says. “We want to change the luxury fashion conversation to be more inclusive, elevated and thoughtful, while giving our customers a world that is more reflective of her own.
James Melton contributed to this report.