Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and others reportedly to offer plus size clothing at Saks Fifth Avenue, while France launches a plus size manifesto

karl lagerfeld for V via models.com

It’s been interesting tracking the story of plus sized designer clothing over the past two years. In March 2008, at Fully Chic, we incurred the wrath of some plus-sized consumers after reporting that although Target Australia made up to a size 16 in its Stella McCartney collection in 2007, so much size 16 merch was left on the sales racks Target stopped at a 14 when it came to producing its next collab with Zac Posen. Several weeks later we reported that Australian designer Leona Edmiston was doubling her size range to a 24 – but only in her online boutique. The story triggered a heated debate amongst those who lauded Edmiston's pioneering efforts - and those who claimed the move was “normalising obesity". Last year, Today Tonight took size 16 Melbourne blogger Hayley Hughes undercover into Melbourne’s Chapel Street. She found virtually no merchandise over size 12. Eighteen designers and retailers refused to discuss with the program why fashion's high end actively discriminates against larger consumers by ignoring them, with insiders citing concerns the issue was "bad for their image". So it was with some surprise that we spotted what could be the best-kept secret in the fashion business: a report that Saks Fifth Avenue is about to trial plus sizes from luxury brands including Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Dolce e Gabbana and Fendi on its New York designer womenswear floor.

New York retail blog Racked reports:
Saks Fifth Avenue is about to become the only major retailer in the city to carry plus-sized womenswear by names like Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana. Coming very soon to the department store's super high-end third floor, fall and winter plus-sized pieces will be mixed right in with existing stock—most of which would formerly have only been available in sizes ranging to a 10. Stock will reach size 14 (Australian size 18) across the board, and in some cases—depending on the brand—will go up to a size 20 (Australian size 24)".

The story also mentions the brands Akris, Armani, Carolina Herrera, Escada, Donna Karan, St. John, Oscar de la Renta, Max Mara, Valentino, Michael Kors, Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen and Roberto Cavalli.

The plus-size pieces will be one-offs, reports Racked, adding that if the trial is successful it may be rolled out to other stores.

No sources are cited beyond the Saks website, which makes no reference to the initiative. Due to the time difference, it was difficult to track down anyone who could throw further light on the matter. Frockwriter is waiting to hear back from Saks Fifth Avenue, Chanel USA and the Yves Saint Laurent, Dolce e Gabbana and Fendi head offices.

Chanel Australia knew nothing about it. 

UPDATE 28/07: A full business day later and no response from any of the above. Nor does there appear to be any comment from either Saks or any of the brands reportedly involved in the plus size trial in the deluge of coverage that has since ensued on this story. This is not surprising, given my experience with October's Today Tonight story and even the Leona Edmiston story two years ago. After doubling her size range to 24 in her online boutique, Edmiston declined all interviews. Sources indicated this was out of fear of being branded "a plus size designer". Fashion companies may be warming to the idea of going after the fat dollar, but they still seem to think there's a stigma attached to it. 

Coincidentally, Chanel recently cast plus size model Crystal Renn in its Cruise 2011 show. 

In January, Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld also shot plus size burlesque artist Miss Dirty Martini for V Magazine’s Size issue (above), one of a raft of recent fashion titles that have been dedicated to larger sizes. They include ELLE Spéciale Rondes and Vogue Curvy.

Curiously, Lagerfeld's V Size issue shoot followed a matter of months after he derided efforts by German magazine Brigitte to use “ordinary, realistic” women rather than professional models as “absurd”, adding that the world of fashion is about "dreams and illusions.... noone wants to see round women" and describing those leading the chorus of disapproval against skinny models as:
"fat mummies sitting with their bags of crisps in front of the television."
The Saks Fifth Avenue story coincides with news of the launch of a "Manifesto for the Visibility of Plus Size Fashion" by online French magazine Ma Grande Taille.

Citing data published by the French Institute of Textiles and Clothing, which indicates that more than 40percent of the French population wear plus size clothes, the manifesto boasts over 1000 signatories including plus size model Johanna Dray and celebrity Velvet d’Amour

I first interviewed d'Amour in Paris in October 2006, after she walked in Jean Paul Gaultier's Spring/Summer 2007 show - and then again in 2008. At 130kgs, d'Amour has been considered too big for even the plus-size modelling industry. 

“My hope is that it [the manifesto] would indeed make a difference - if nothing else it details what we look to change- inclusion, particularly in fashion” she told frockwriter, adding that the biggest buzz in the plus-size industry at the moment is the controversy over Renn's alleged weight loss.

"Personally I think if we were allowed more then ONE HUMAN BEING to represent our entire chubby populace then we wouldn't be so entirely focused on her. Given her anorexic issues in the past, it cant be easy for her to have everyone and their second cousin demonizing her for fluctuation. She is not the one who books models for mags. I think the question is less about Crystal, and more about the fact that while we are globally millions strong, we have, more or less, just one individual who has made her way into the mainstream magazines. Her weight fluctuations are dramatic, and they are all her own. As I have always been on the far extreme end of ‘plus’ modeling, people would equally debate my status as a ‘plus’ model, stating I was a “bbw”, not a plus model.

“We need to push for media inclusion, so that all shapes and sizes etc ‘belong’. When the media excludes us to such an extreme, magazines like PLUS are what get started. Models make their own way, and people who haven’t the ‘right’ to be considered a ‘plus’ model, or a straight size model, etc pick up the camera and start their own revolution. If we can use the frustration our exodus encites in a positive manner, then there will be no stopping us, and there will be so many damn fat models getting thin and thin models getting fat, that we wont have time to debate it, because we will be on the way to our next shooting ;o)".

On June 27th, the Australian federal government's National Body Image Advisory Group unveiled its Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct on Body Image. The code's  industry recommendations include using a greater diversity of body shapes in the promotion of fashion and the need for retailers to embrace a wider range of sizes to better reflect consumer demand.


Julie said...

Gawd! Plus size Chanel? Could it be?

Look forward to you keeping a close eye on this one Frockwriter!

Leila Silva said...

The fashion industry is about beauty in all its forms so any size must have space and options as well.

Leila Silva

Fourth Daughter said...

Obviously Karl realised where the money is! The way things are going, plus sizes are going to be the norm rather than the exception!

Anonymous said...

I'm an Aussie size 12 and whenever I go shopping upmarket in Australia I get treated like a plus size. When I go back to work in Cali, I can walk into Saks Fifth SB and my size is not an issue, the designer gear on offer is amazing and not limited to sample sizes a catwalk model might wear. Perhaps it's more to do with the attitude of store buyers than with the designers themselves. Surely if the demand was there, with no stigma attached, they'd willingly make a whole range of larger sizes.

Anne Claire said...

Special thank to you and to Velvet d'Amour to have mentionned our manifesto about visibility of the plus size fashion.

PippaJ said...

Actually, many of these brands - including Chanel - have had selected items available up to a size EU50/US18/AU20 in ready-to-wear for some time; you just had to know where to go. Mind you, as a larger size you have to positively reek of money before shop assistants will give you the time of day, but persistence and real intent to buy pays off.

The boutique kiosks in department stores such as SAKS generally all have extended sizes you wouldn't see on the retail floor, because stores generally view larger size stock as difficult to sell above a certain price point. I've bought a size 48 jacket from Holt Renfrew's Gucci kiosk in Toronto and the store doesn't even HAVE a specific plus size department anymore, so that should tell you something right there.

Saks is essentially just marketing a savvy service to their NY-based Salon Z customers who likely already knows where to find the high-end stock, but are bored with having to make trips back and forth over town to buy it.

My site, RunwayRevolution.com captures HQ images of published plus-size fashion editorials from around the world, well worth a look if you want to see who besides Crystal Renn gives good face!

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