The market for plus-size apparel has been heating up in recent seasons, bolstered both by brands that are actively expanding their size ranges—and those built on the premise of inclusivity.
Fashion to Figure is an example of the latter philosophy. The New York-based retailer, founded in 2002, serves shoppers who wear sizes 12-24, and on Friday it launched its newest initiative lending more fashion-forward styling to the plus-size community.
The FTFLAB program aims to bring new design perspectives into the fold through a series of collaborations with creatives and tastemakers, the company said in a statement. These personalities, who include Instagram influencers, YouTubers and other social media stars, will be selected “periodically,” will have the chance to launch their own capsule collections sold exclusively through Fashion to Figure.
“We get approached so often with amazing design ideas from our community,” founder Nick Kaplan said. “FTFLAB is the perfect platform to help champion their entrepreneur spirit and help bring these ideas to life.”
According to Kaplan, FTFLAB’s collaborators will retain creative autonomy, and their designs will remain exclusive to them. The company will help guide them through the product development process, manufacturing the pieces through its supply chain and selling them on FashiontoFigure.com. In addition to designing their pieces from scratch, collaborators will also receive a budget to execute marketing campaign visuals. Influencers selected to design collections will be paid for their partnership, and will also receive royalties on sales.
The first name on FTFLAB’s collaborative roster is New York-based Puerto Rican influencer and model Frankie Taveres, whose Instagram followers top 117,000. “Growing with Fashion to Figure from a customer to an influencer and now a designer is unreal,” said Tavares, a long-time supporter of the company. “I’ve always dreamed of what my first designs would look and feel like and FTF made it happen,” she added. “It was my goal to make every woman feel like a sexy boss babe, look expensive and scream confidence without uttering a word.”
Tavares’ three-piece capsule, which launches Friday, is made up of a chartreuse short-sleeved jumpsuit, a cream, long-sleeved silky tie-front top and matching high-waisted trousers with pleats. The styles range in price from $49.95-$89.95. According to Fashion to Figure, the next FTFLAB collaborations include plus-size model La’tecia Thomas and lifestyle blogger Kelly Augustine.
“Fashion to Figure is part of a growing trend of brands partnering with influencers to promote body positivity and the acceptance of different body types in fashion,” Evy Lyons, vice president of marketing for Traackr, told Sourcing Journal. Lyons added that in 2020 alone, the number of active influencers talking about body positivity and acceptance increased by more than 50 percent, with a 345 percent increase in engagement on those posts. The flurry of interest indicates to influencers that “there’s an appetite from their audiences for more inclusive content.”
Companies selling apparel are taking note of the trend, too. “Brands have definitely seen success with influencer campaigns that feature or highlight plus-sized fashion,” Lyons added, citing Instagram star and entrepreneur Katie Sturino’s longstanding partnership with Stitch Fix on the company’s size-inclusive line. “When they announced their collaboration in June of 2019, her engagement on that post was at 4.25 percent, significantly higher than her 1.32 percent average,” Lyons said.
Meanwhile, plus-sized model Hunter McGrady saw similar results in her collaboration with swimwear brand Playful Promises, which is sold on Asos, Lyons added. When the line was announced in 2018, McGrady saw a 4.7 percent increase in engagement, up from an average of 1.8 percent on her posts, demonstrating shoppers’ appetites for size-inclusive swimwear designed and modeled by a trusted and relatable face.
In November, plus-size retailer Eloquii partnered with six influencers over the course of six days, each of whom touted a single product on their social channels. Entrepreneur Nabela Noor and musical artist Tasha Cobbs Leonard headlined the campaign. “The collection completely sold out,” Lyons said.
“Partnering with influencers who are advocates for body acceptance is a great way for brands to bring to life their promises to create a more inclusive fashion industry,” she added, explaining that influencers like Sturino have “gained influence and popularity from their work in the body positive and size-inclusive space, making them ideal authentic partners.”
“When a brand like Fashion to Figure partners with this type of influencer, they show that they understand these issues and they display a more authentic commitment to inclusivity,” Lyons said. “While popular brands such as Revolve still dominate social media, brands like Eloquii and Universal Standard have become increasingly popular because they speak to an audience that has been underserved by traditional brands for a long time.”