Old Navy recently made headlines for becoming the first value retailer to offer sizes 0-30 for all women’s styles at price parity. The move is part of the Gap Inc.-owned retailer’s big picture approach to size inclusivity that also includes adjusting its fit processes.
With the announcement that it will now offer a full breadth of sizes in store and online without segmentation, Old Navy said it is working to “reinvent its fit processes and size standards” to offer a more comfortable and consistent size run. Along with interviewing hundreds of women about body image and related fashion concerns, Old Navy’s denim range received special attention with designers considering pocket placement, denim waistband “pinch” and ankle tapers.
Old Navy’s commitment to size inclusivity is bound to echo through the denim industry, which is already making headway thanks to brands like Universal Standard, Warp + Weft and Good American with it in their DNA. But as Old Navy’s revamped fit process highlights, becoming size inclusive is more nuanced than sizing up a bestselling style.
In a recent report, retail analytics firm Edited dissected the business of selling size inclusive denim, revealing how style preferences and prices vary between for plus size, petite and tall.
Denim’s new cycle toward wider fits is passing by the women’s plus-size category. Edited’s data shows that skinny jeans remain the go-to silhouette, “boasting steeper investment than more trend-driven, relaxed styles” in the U.S.
Straight leg jeans saw the second-highest investment in the U.S. and experienced high SKU activity at Abercrombie & Fitch, which recently launched a new size inclusive campaign. “With influences from the ’90s and Y2K eras continuing to inform ranges, the straight leg is a risk-free shape for retailers’ future ranges,” Edited stated.
But as comfort underpins this category, Edited noted that U.S. retailers are giving the once-mocked jegging equal weighting to slim and boyfriend styles. The athleisure-inspired concept has been on the receiving end of a modern makeover the past 12 months by brands like American Eagle and NYDJ as well as Frame, Good American and Zara which introduced their own one-size-fits many jeans styles.
Darker blue washes dominate the women’s plus-size denim market this fall more than the petite and tall categories but Edited warned that retailers risk missing out on the success of jeans and outerwear with light and mid washes.
Retailers are already missing out by offering few sustainable options to plus-size consumers. Only 9 percent of plus-size jeans currently available use alternatives to conventional cotton and 3 percent of styles are described as “recycled,” Edited reported, even though sustainability is tied to plus-size jeans with a high price point.
According to the report, Madewell’s Plus Perfect Vintage and Plus Curvy Stovepipe jeans (available sizes 14W-28W), which are made at Fair Trade Certified factories and with fabrics from reputable mills like Cone and Isko, command the highest price point at $135. To compare, the average price of women’s plus-size jeans in the U.S. is $46.50, while the entry price is just $7.97.
This gap, Edited noted, signifies “that the plus-size market has been ignored even though retailers have been giving denim an eco-overhaul.”
Emerging fits are thriving in the petite category. Mom jeans make up a greater share in petite than plus-size. The segment also has the lowest investment in skinny silhouettes, especially in the U.S. where they’re equal to straight fits.
“With the most significant proportion of flared and wide silhouettes available than any other market and split hem styles seeing high SKU activity, the petite denim sector is geared more towards trends,” Edited stated.
Again, sustainability comes with an added cost. Banana Republic, which implemented Gap Inc.’s Washwell technology, a water-saving finishing method, operates at the highest price point across the U.S. in jeans, dresses, skirts and shorts. Outerwear is most expensive at Loft and trendy denim jumpsuits are priced toward $100 at Madewell.
Sustainability is also not a key story in brands and retailers’ communication. Rather, Edited found that comfort was the main focus with “soft” and “stretch” appearing as top descriptor words.
Skinny jeans make up most women’s tall denim assortments in the U.S. However, tapered fits see the “highest backing” from retailers than other categories, Edited reported. In comparison, U.K. assortments have the lowest portion of skinny jeans which is creating space for more relaxed silhouettes.
Madewell’s investment in tall sizes and “taller” for women 6′ and above is leading the category. “Priced between $135 and $148, Madewell’s jeans operate in the highest U.S. threshold, justified through technical features, conscious processes and premium cottons,” Edited stated.
Distressed and ripped finishes were a clear trend investment, with 6 percent of tall jeans including this detail in their care descriptors. Green colorways are also outpacing other neutrals in the U.S.