Body positivity has become a significant trend with online clothing startups, with inspiring brands like Chromat, Universal Standard, and Sela Fit at the forefront. As you find yourself considering if your brand should join the movement, there are a few crucial elements to consider first.
Much like the backlash received by the greenwashing movement, size inclusivity has received similar criticism. Why? Well, like how brands simply can’t just say they’re sustainable, they also can’t merely claim to be size-inclusive: They actually have to do it. Our 5 step guide to launching size-inclusive clothing startups explores just what it takes.
Step 1: Plan, Prepare, and Get Organized
When it comes to size inclusivity, the first mistake most online clothing startups make is underestimating the planning and preparation involved.
When we say it’s not as easy as just adding extra fabric, we’re hinting at the complexity of sizes and a completely different grading system. Adding a size XL or XXL doesn’t quite cut it. It’s not the same as moving from a size medium to a size large, and just increasing inches across the size grading. Beyond a size XL, the fact is that women’s bodies change, and proportionality changes with larger size ranges. So, it’s important that your brand considers a totally different shape and form; adding inches isn’t going to do the larger sizes any justice.
Successful clothing startups within the body-positive space must commit to spending time on product development and extensive testing—this includes planning ahead for multiple rounds of sampling, time for trying on garments, as well as organizing a range of fit models that involve different body types and proportions to make sure the designs truly work.
This leads to the next, and arguably the most critical, step to launching a size-inclusive brand.
Step 2: Understand Your Budget
As you explore the possibility of building a body-positive collection and see if it’s right for you as a small or emerging market business, you also need to ask yourself: What kind of financial resources will I need to invest in this endeavor?
In addition to an investment in new size grading, patterns, and samples, you’ll also need to understand what it’s going to look like from a margin standpoint as you plan yardage for materials and the manufacturing process. There will likely be extra product cycles and the additional cost of hiring models and holding editorial shoots. As the collection grows, these should be prominent budget line items for clothing startups.
Lastly, just because it costs more money to make the garments, it doesn’t necessarily mean that online clothing startups can charge their customers more to buy them. As you take a look at profitability and margins, it’s essential to understand that with this type of investment, successful clothing startups must plan for a lower margin and profitability, and accept that as a cost incurred to expand market horizons.
So, before moving forward, make sure to ask: Do I have the extra budget? If the answer is no, then it’s time to find a strategic partnership.
Step 3. Consider a Collaboration
While the urge to support the body positivity movement and create a body-positive ready-to-wear line is there, the timing won’t be right for all clothing startups.
Luckily, there’s another appealing option: Strategic partnerships. There are already many successful clothing startups that have launched in the body-positive fashion space, and partnering with an established brand is an excellent way to participate without the burden of financial investment.
A perfect example is Roadarte’s collaboration with Universal Standard. The two online clothing startups created a collection made for women of all sizes who inspire them creatively. While bringing recognition and revenue to both brands, this strategic partnership allowed Universal Standard the chance to embrace body-positive fashion and size inclusivity without having to undertake the financial endeavor all on their own. It’s exciting to see how their collection proved the viability of offering a diverse range of sizes with plenty of engagement and sales from shoppers.
Step 4: Create Content First
Like many of the successful clothing startups with body-positive lines know, content creation is everything, and producing authentic, engaging content is vital to the success of your new collection.
Size-inclusive brands and body-positivity go hand in hand, so online clothing startups should have a content strategy that reflects and celebrates how wonderful that is. What does that mean, exactly? Models should encompass women of all sizes, and there will be a need to hold multiple editorial photo-shoots that feature diverse bodies and models of all backgrounds. It’s a chance to create vibrant messaging that reflects the values of the brand while also celebrating women’s bodies.
An inspiring example is Chromat, a swimwear brand embracing body positivity in some of the most radical and profound ways in the industry. Chromat proudly features diverse women of all sizes as well as models who may have injuries, disfigurations, or other qualities, truly embracing diversity inclusiveness. It’s not just a gimmick; their size range is one of the most inclusive when it comes to swimwear. They’re not just showing size inclusivity: they’re doing it.
Social media can also reveal the demand and desires of your customers. Many influencers are taking to Instagram to show what actual brands are looking like on larger size models with the hashtag #MakeMySize. Indeed, many clothing startups claim that they’re making XL or double XL, but when it comes to translating these sizes onto a body that would wear those products, they’re finding that a lot of the measurements, shapes, and forms fall flat, which certainly disappoints the customer. The #MakeMySize movement on Instagram can reveal the key products and trends that are driving the conversation in the body-positive movement for successful clothing startups.
With these four steps in mind, it’s time to reflect on what your brand truly stands for and the message you want to communicate to customers.
5. Understand What Size Inclusivity Means for Your Brand
Initially, what many clothing startups fail to see is what size inclusivity is all about: A truly inclusive brand is one that all women can participate in.
Sizing up is one way to embrace size inclusivity, but so is sizing down. Consider the values of your brand, and if you’ll also shift to accommodate petite bodies below a size Small.
When making these decisions for designing and developing size-inclusive collections, empathy maps are an essential part of the process. They allow you to get a glimpse inside the hearts and minds of your consumers and to create products that are going to speak to them emotionally. Online clothing startups should take a look at what an empathy map reveals about existing—or possibly new—target market customer’s needs for a body-positive collection. Take a look at our free download, the Scaling Retail Empathy Map to learn more.
It’s clear that body positivity is not a passing trend, and it’s only a matter of time until size inclusivity will be a must-have for successful clothing startups. But, as you can see, it’s not as easy as creating extra sizes. With a systematic and mindful approach, your brand can join the body-positive movement by following these five important steps:
- Plan ahead. Make sure you’re working with the right vendors and dedicate ample time to product development and testing.
- Know your Budget. Make sure that your P&L and profitability ultimately lead you to attract more customers despite the hits you might get on your margins.
- Collaborate. A strategic partnership can yield excellent results with a manageable financial investment.
- Create Content First. You can’t test the market without photographs first. Gather & create authentic, engaging content.
- Understand Size Inclusivity for YOUR brand. It’s not always just about sizing up. What does size-inclusive mean to you?