Of course, this makes us feel angry. And frustrated. And hurt. But instead of leaning into an emotional response, let’s instead examine the viability of explanations (or rather excuses) designers use to justify not expanding their size ranges.
“The market’s not there“
In case you missed the memo, roughly two-thirds of Australian women wear a size 14 or above. This works out to be roughly 8.5 million women, and collectively we are spending around $6 billion each year on clothing and accessories.
This is to say that the demand is most definitely there. Since starting LeukBook, it feels like we are seeing new brands pop up nearly every week! The common theme? Most are started by size 14+ women who have found it impossible to find the perfect swimsuit, party dress, or workwear in their size. So they create their own. Each of these brands, many of whom are run by just one or two people and usually on a shoestring budget, all manage to manufacture larger sizes. At LeukBook, many of our brands go to a size 26, with some offering up to a size 38.
“We tried and it failed“
An often repeated sentiment is that larger sizes ‘don’t sell’. While this might be true, let’s examine the potential reasons why this is the case:
The ‘online only’ offering – As co-founders of an online fashion marketplace, we absolutely love online shopping and think it holds a great number of benefits over bricks and mortar. That said, let’s examine the behaviour of many large chain stores when they extend their size offering. Too often, as we have seen play out with the likes of Sportsgirl, H&M and Uniqlo, extended sizes are mostly only offered online. How do you think this makes 14+ customers feel? Of course, we feel excluded, and like the connotation is that brands want our money but not for our bodies to be seen in their stores. For us, these efforts are incredibly hollow, and we personally refuse to shop brands that offer such tokenistic attempts at size extensions.
No advertising representation – While we applaud the many brands who have made moves to represent bodies of differing shapes and sizes in their campaigns, this still isn’t the norm. Case in point: the recent GymShark photoshoot debacle. The brand did a fabulous job of including models of differing cultural backgrounds and abilities in their shoot…but chose to ignore the fact that none of them were above a size 8.
No existing followers/ customers– Let’s say you’re a brand who has traditionally not catered to 14+ women. How many of them do you think follow you on social media, waiting to metaphorically bang down the door when you *graciously* offer a size extension? Our guess, not many. We, like many others, curate our Instagram feed and focus on things that make us feel good. Brands that don’t cater to us? Not making the cut.
“We can’t afford it“
We personally find this hard to swallow when so many small brands manage to nail inclusive sizing. But for argument’s sake, just what is the impact on designers’ bottom lines?
We turned to Tommika Valente, Managing Director of Anto Apparel, one of LeukBook’s partner brands, for advice. In her experience, she says that, “When running a business after calculating the expenses of wages, rent, supplies, patterns, marketing, etc the cost of increasing to a larger size is marginal.”
“As a garment grades in width not length you will rarely require any additional trims such as buttons on a button up dress. Is there cost involved in extending your size range beyond 8 – 16? Yes there is. But, are you reaching a new market and customer who is loyal and will continue to come back? Absolutely.”
Of course there are the initial pattern making and grading costs, so we’re not suggesting this is a cost neutral decision. But let’s be real, if a brand claims they can’t afford to make bigger sizes but routinely offers 40% off storewide…it was never about the bottom line.
All of this is to say that not extending sizes is not a rational economic position, but rather a values-based one. Brands continue to exclude those in larger bodies and while few would dare say it’s about preserving a ‘thin is in’ aesthetic, that’s the reality that sits beneath flimsy economic rhetoric.
Ultimately, the reckoning will come from changes in consumer behaviour. Not only are 14+ customers becoming more discerning, but prominent influencers such as April Hélène-Horton (aka @theBodzilla) are challenging straight size customers to vote with their wallets and not support brands that exclude the plus people in their lives.