A plus-size luxury e-tailer launched its inaugural celebrity collab last week. The backlash on Instagram was swift and severe.
11 Honoré’s first foray into the world of high-profile partnerships underscores the potential pitfalls of parlaying a polarizing personality into the fleeting face of the brand. On April 6, the Los Angeles e-commerce startup trafficking in Reem Acra caftans and Dolce & Gabbana day dresses debuted a five-piece capsule created with “Girls” star Lena Dunham, who numerous Instagram commenters branded “problematic” and “tone deaf” for the “fat shaming” interview she conducted with New York Times fashion editor Vanessa Friedman.
During their one on one, the actress and writer spoke with Friedman at length about health issues she has faced in recent years, along with their impact on her weight, relying on self-deprecation and less-than-flattering descriptions of her body that left some readers feeling alienated rather than amused.
“I’ve always been a fluctuator, but it wasn’t until I got into my thirties and had a hysterectomy that I started to really settle into my adult body and—spoiler alert—she wasn’t a size 4,” Dunham captioned 11 Honoré’s promotional post, which included a photo of her in the collab’s midi dress. “Gone were the days I could keep a pair of too-small jeans then decide to subsist on coffee for six days in order to get them back on, and gone were the days that I wanted to,” she added. “Instead, I yearned to find some peace and sustainability in my body.”
“Lovely paragraph about how nothing fit you right,” Instagram user @cestclare responded on Tuesday. “Ever wonder how the people who are size 26 and higher feel?”
“Women don’t need to have a health condition to be considered ‘good’ fat woman [sic],” @gwynduns commented on 11 Honoré’s post announcing the collab, referencing Dunham’s commentary on the issue. “No one needs an ‘excuse’ to exist in their bodies. Being fat is no failure.”
User @modachrome was even more pointed. “[T]here are way more interesting and vibrant people that are actually involved [in] the plus community that have a much stronger story than ‘oops i became my biggest fear, better monetize it,” she wrote, adding, “[Y]’all are better than this.”
@musingsofafox expressed outrage at the lack of a “warning” ahead of Dunham reminiscing on times when she essentially starved herself to fit into jeans. “You want me to pay for clothes designed by someone who says such horrible things about where they carry their weight and calls it body neutral?” she wrote. “You want to uplift someone who is mad COVID side effects gave them the chin I’ve had since puberty?! I thought luxury plus size was about honoring plus size bodies with dream clothes, this sure isn’t that.”
Adding to the controversy, the digital native’s fans took umbrage with what they see as the capsule’s limited sizing, which spans 12-26, in keeping with the rest of the retailer’s offerings. By contrast, British luxury line Erdem’s recent denim-centric collaboration with Universal Standard includes sizes 00-40.
“Do you even know what fat people want?” @chubbydustbunny asked 11 Honoré. “Do you think we don’t care, and are willing to look past the actions of this person, cause you’ve made 5 pieces of clothing accessible in our sizes—well not even accessible in all sizes, after looking at the site.”
The Instagram user added that the “most offensive thing here is literally thinking we would be excited and thankful for this.”
In addition to taking issue with the line’s limited sizing, commenters questioned the company’s choice to offer Dunham—who revealed in the Times interview that she wears a size 14-16—a platform upon which to market to the plus-size community at large. Many noted that the sizes that Dunham herself wears often fall under the umbrella of offerings at standard retail stores, and they questioned the authenticity of choosing a spokesperson with relatively average measurements to craft a line for shoppers who often feel marginalized by the fashion industry.
For his part, 11 Honoré founding CEO Patrick Herning addressed how the capsule came to life, describing Dunham as “first a friend, then a customer and now a collaborator.”
“She truly stands for everything we believe in and there is no better person, in my mind, with whom to do our first collaboration,” he added, noting that “everything we do at 11 Honoré must have an authentic connection.”
The five-piece collection, made up of the ankle-skimming geometric-floral Madderlake dress (sold out), a pinstriped blazer with a scalloped hem and matching skirt, a white, sleeveless mock-neck tank and a silky, sunshine-yellow button down, was crafted with original prints and patterns conceived by Dunham and design director Danielle Williams Eke. These motifs were inspired by the artistic works of the actress’ father, Carroll Dunham, an American painter.
Williams Eke noted that the actress “had a very clear point of view regarding the overall aesthetic of the collection as well as the individual pieces.”
“Her vision made it easy for us to incorporate the 11 Honoré design and fit techniques, making this a true collaboration,” she added. “Her creativity and unique personality surpasses film and television and it was a pleasure to bring this to life.”
Dunham also espoused a desire to keep the line’s prices “approachable,” the retailer said, and the pieces range from for $98-$298.
Additional reporting by Jessica Binns.