How Leukbook is solving the fit problem for plus-size fashion brands

For Leukbook, a new online fashion marketplace founded by Katrina Van De Ven and Catherine Olivier, it’s all about fit. 

Launching in Australia next month, the one-stop shop for plus-size fashion plans to offer personalised sizing recommendations and a fit guarantee to differentiate itself in the notoriously underserved market. 

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that when you’re shopping online, fit is a pain. People are returning goods left, right and centre,” Van De Ven, co-founder and CEO of Leukbook, told Inside Retail.

Van de Ven’s initial reason for launching an online marketplace was to make it easier to find emerging designers and independent fashion brands catering to size 14 and up. But consumer research revealed that fit was an even bigger problem for curve shoppers. 

“We had about 85 per cent of people saying, ‘There’s this one body part that, when I’m shopping online, I struggle with fit’,” she recalled. 

“It could be their shoulders. It could be their thighs. Whatever the case, the fit technology available on other sites wasn’t working.”

Focus on fit

Many online shopping sites try to solve the fit problem with quizzes. Customers share what size they wear in a brand that fits them well and receive size recommendations for other brands they’re interested in. This may address size variation between brands, but it doesn’t account for the fact that people’s bodies are rarely perfectly proportional. 

Some shopping sites do use customers’ actual measurements to recommend sizes, but typically just the bust, waist and hips. Leukbook is asking its brand partners to provide seven data points, including thigh circumference and shoulder width.

“If you’re trying to buy a blazer, the integral part is obviously whether or not it’s going to fit on your shoulders,” Olivier, co-founder and COO of Leukbook, told Inside Retail

The startup is currently developing a recommendation engine that will be able to parse those data points and the customer’s measurements to make specific product recommendations. In the meantime, it’s offering a fit guarantee. 

Van de Ven expects this focus on fit to significantly improve the online shopping experience for curve customers. 

“Because of the uncertainty with fit – they’ll buy 10 items and they’ll return nine. From a psychological perspective, no one’s feeling great,” she said. 

Flying under the radar

Leukbook expects to launch next month with around 10 brands on its site and aims to offer 25-50 brands by the end of the calendar year. 

Van de Ven doesn’t buy into the narrative that there aren’t enough plus-size brands on the market to meet demand; she thinks they’re mostly just flying under the radar. 

“When you look at the market data, there are probably three key players in the Australian market, and collectively, they’re only taking about 25 per cent of market share all up. That means brands that most people haven’t heard of, that people have stumbled across on social media, or that their friends told them about, make up the majority of the $6 billion-a-year curve market,” she said. 

By bringing smaller brands together, Van de Ven believes Leukbook can help them grow and reach a bigger audience. 

Another way Leukbook plans to set itself apart from other plus-size players is through its loyalty program, which will reward customers for sharing photos of themselves wearing purchases and engaging with other customers. 

The concept is based on the way thousands of curve shoppers use private Facebook groups to crowdsource style advice and share feedback on the fit and quality of different brands.

“They’ll go to a Facebook group, and say, ‘Hey, guys, I’m a size 22, I’ve got a date on Saturday night and I want a little black dress. Which brand will ship in time?'” Van de Ven explained. 

“We thought, ‘It’s great that people are engaging on that level, but we can go one better. Let’s embed this community, this sense of family in the site and link it to our loyalty and rewards program’.”

A customer for life

Blaise McCann, the founder of popular plus-size fashion site Hear Us Roar, which she successfully exited last year, is involved with Leukbook as an adviser and thinks it will resonate with the plus-size market. 

“The plus-size customer is very loyal. Once they connect with you, you’ll have a customer for life. And the myth that they don’t spend money is just ridiculous,” she told Inside Retail.

“When we were running Hear Us Roar, customers were spending upwards of $1,000 per transaction. It’s really not fair that they’ve been left out of mainstream marketing campaigns. Just the visibility that Leukbook is going to bring to the plus-size customer is powerful.”

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