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Good American’s Emma Grede on Using Denim to Champion Inclusivity

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When given the choice between feeling comfortable or feeling sexy, Emma Grede demands both.

One half of the founding team behind Los Angeles-based denim brand Good American, CEO Grede has been adamant since day one that women should never have to make that choice.

“When we launched in 2016, so many women were being excluded from the fashion conversation,” she said. “Women don’t wake up thinking about the best plus-size jeans they can find; they just want the best jeans, period.”

As Good American celebrates five years—its official anniversary is in October—the most striking difference between then and now is the industry’s evolution. Earlier this year, retail market intelligence platform Edited reported an 11 percent increase in the number of new plus-size or curve styles compared to 2019. Inclusive sizing is now a common expectation among consumers, as the spotlight on diversity and fashion’s many shortcomings has extended into brands’ product offerings.

But while the industry has made significant strides in appealing to the masses, that wasn’t the case when Good American debuted.

Breaking onto the scene with models of various body shapes, and offering clothing in sizes 00-32, the brand stood in a silo essentially on its own. Extended sizing was often considered an afterthought, if considered at all. Many remember the controversy surrounding Abercrombie & Fitch, a brand that, not too long ago, was criticized for offering sizes large and smaller, and whose former CEO famously stated that its brand was intentionally “exclusionary.” Whether other brands agreed or disagreed with his provocative position, their lack of action spoke volumes.

It may not surprise anyone in the industry, then, that Good American surpassed $1 million in denim sales on its first day back in 2016. With a flashy value proposition, coupled with mega-star and co-founder Khloe Kardashian’s cult fanbase, some could argue that the brand was slated for success from the very beginning.

Good American co-founder Emma Grede explains how the brand has used denim to promote size inclusivity for the past five years.
Emma Grede and Khloe Kardashian Courtesy

But despite its immediate success and A-list C-Suite, Good American still hit roadblocks in its quest to make extended sizing more accessible. It often had to break down barriers and create its own path to maintain brand integrity. When it first launched, wholesale retailers would often request to either order a small selection of sizes or split up the brand’s products into a separate plus-size section of the store. Grede refused, citing that the requests were “not in line with [the brand’s] mission.”

Also not in line with the brand’s mission was the lack of size representation among the top models of the time.

“When we launched five years ago, there was a lack of plus-size models in the industry, and we knew that we wanted to showcase our product on diverse bodies,”Grede said.

That inspired the brand’s open casting call for a “Good Squad” of diverse models showcasing the extensive range, which raked in 60,000 submissions from women around the world. Now in its fifth year, the annual casting call continues to garner a massive following of women of all shapes and sizes.

“We’re the first brand in the industry to require our retail partners to carry our assortment in the full size range and display all sizes together rather than in a separate plus-size section, and we’re the first brand to launch an e-commerce sizing tool that features all of our products shown on all 15 sizes, across 15 different fit models,” said Grede. “While we’ve made huge strides [in terms of inclusion], there’s still work to be done.”

To that point, Good American arguably offers some of the most extensive size ranges in the industry, and yet is constantly innovating its products to appeal to even more women. In 2018, it expanded into maternity with “Good Mama,” offering three styles to debunk the myth that a woman “can’t be stylish and sexy while pregnant.”

In 2020, it debuted the Always Fits stretch jean, which accommodates a range of three to four sizes without sacrificing fit, and includes size categories 00-4, 6-12, 14-18, 20-26 and 28-32. The innovation was intended to allow for size fluctuation—something many were experiencing as a result of an unprecedented year-long isolation.

When thinking about new product categories, Grede says Good American always starts by asking itself how it can innovate in fit and fabrication.

“Our mission at Good American is to bring fashion-forward pieces that have a fit-first philosophy to women of all shapes and sizes, so we really only focus on entering categories that allow us to transform traditional approaches to fit and sizing,” she said.

Footwear and swimwear were two categories the brand decided to take on. At the end of last year, the brand dipped its toes in the footwear space with a collection of suede and synthetic upper heels, slingbacks, sandals, flats and boots, ranging in women’s sizes 4-14. The collection followed two years of researching the footwear space and gathering customer feedback around what was missing in the category.

Like all things Good American touches, it aimed to fill the gap. Not only does its footwear offer extended sizing, but each size also includes the option of extended widths in feet, calves and thighs, translating to 72 unique sizing variables.

More recently, it expanded into swimwear, offering an array of one-piece and two-piece styles that incorporate lessons learned from its denim category. Within the swim range lies a selection of styles with Always Fits technology, which, like its bestselling jeans, allows the garment to stretch up or down one size.

Good American co-founder Emma Grede explains how the brand has used denim to promote size inclusivity for the past five years.
Good Swim Courtesy

The brand’s decision to cross categories is directly in line with trend forecasters’ predictions for the top apparel categories to watch. Edited’s data shows that new swimwear arrivals are up 7 percent and sellouts are up 34 percent likely due to the fact that consumers are taking advantage of looser travel restrictions and heading to beaches and pools to celebrate “hot vax summer.”

But while Good American is experimenting with different categories, it will always remain loyal to denim. Even now, as denim starts a new chapter focused on looser fits and genderless styles, Grede reassures millennials and all other skinny jeans fans that its signature body-hugging silhouettes aren’t going anywhere, and that they’re “still one of the most flattering silhouettes for all body types.”

Good American continues to see a high percentage of sales coming from the style, likely because of its expertise in crafting the body-hugging silhouette with what Grede calls “small but significant denim attributes” such as reinforced belt loops and graded pocket sizes.

Still, the label offers a variety of fits to appease its trend-focused consumer, featuring wide-leg and boyfriend silhouettes within its “Good 90’s” collection.

Looking ahead to the next five years, Grede says Good American will continue to put fit and fashion at its forefront—an intention that other brands are hopefully able to adopt.

“It has definitely been a challenge to transform the way the industry views what it means to be truly inclusive,” she said. “While more brands have attempted to become more inclusive over the past few years, we baked inclusivity and representation into our business model since day one, and we’re excited to continue pushing the boundaries of inclusivity even further.”