A new wave of Canadian retailers and designers prove that when it comes to fashion for women of all shapes and sizes, thinking bigger really is better.
By The Namesake
‘Everyone needs a great leather jacket,” says Rosa Halpern, the designer behind By the Namesake, a line of custom jackets based in Toronto. So, when she launched her business, which counts Sarah Jessica Parker and Lady Gaga as fans, she started selling the jackets in sizes up to 16. It turned out that demand was greater, and so, in 2018, she began offering her designs up to size 24 by custom order. Expanding the range was an easy decision. “There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a customer try on their finished bespoke jacket for the first time,” Halpern says. And when it’s a customer who has previously had a hard time fitting into conventional sizes, that happiness is even greater. “There have been tears of joy when the jacket actually zips up,” she says, “and, as a designer, that makes me want to cry tears of happiness.”
Before Joanna Griffiths launched her line of intimate apparel in 2013, she interviewed hundreds of women. “At the time, women felt that the industry wasn’t addressing their needs for real life and the messages sent out weren’t empowering or inclusive to a range of bodies,” she says. Her conclusion: “There was an opportunity to create a brand that represented women from a product standpoint with size inclusivity. Although Knixwear has been inclusive up to a size 42E from day one, today, 70 per cent of its bra sales are a D cup or higher. A new Knixwear product sells every 10 seconds, and Griffiths has plans to keep growing her company. “I’m proud that what we have created empowers women to help change the way they feel about their bodies.”
When Joe Fresh first announced its extended-size range to its staff, the response was, “What took you so long?” says Ian Freedman, president of the brand. “That really told us that there was a significant unmet consumer demand.” In the fall of 2017, the company launched a capsule collection that included a mix of floral dresses, moto jackets and faux leather pants ranging in size from XS to 3XL. “By the end of 2018, over 70 per cent of our women’s sportswear assortment will be available in extended sizes,” he says. It’s a move Freedman suggests other retailers should consider, given that the plus-size market in Canada represents an estimated $1.8-billion in sales.
“Poppy Barley was born from the idea that one size doesn’t fit all,” say Kendall and Justine Barber, the sister-duo design team behind the brand, which custom makes shoes and boots in widths that fit their customers perfectly. “Our lineup of extended shoe widths and calf-fitted boots make it possible for women to choose shoes they love, not just shoes that fit,” says Kendall. Adds Justine: “To not offer sizing choices feels old-fashioned and exclusive.” Both sisters stress that the end result of the custom-made process should be the kind of footwear that the user can wear comfortably and repeatedly.
“It is important to our brand that we are defined by a point of view, not a range of sizes,” says Tanya Taylor. The Canadian designer’s commitment to extended sizing began with a custom piece for actress Aidy Bryant and now represents 30 per cent of her e-commerce sales. “We are designing the same pieces in extended sizing as we do in standard sizing,” she says simply. The company’s bestseller is the Blaire dress, a simple chiffon number with ruffle details and floral print. “The faux wrap looks amazing on everyone,” Taylor says. And there’s more extended-size fashions to come from Tanya Taylor this fall, too. “We want everyone, regardless of size, to feel feminine, optimistic and energized by our clothes.”
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