The Rihanna Effect: Brands are getting real about sizing and shades


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Photo: Universal Standard

At New York Fashion Week this fall, Rihanna showed the industry how to put on a show where everyone’s invited, thanks to the body-diverse magic of her Savage x Fenty lingerie line—capping off a year where she also revolutionized the beauty game with the “Fenty 40” spectrum of shades.

And like the Fenty Effect on the beauty industry, there are major (ultra positive) changes happening in the world of fashion inclusivity, too. “The apparel industry is beginning to see the light—both in terms of financial benefits and the gains to the consumer,” says Alexandra Waldman, co-founder and creative director of Universal Standard, a brand with a mission to bring the same elevated shopping experience to a size 6 and a size 26. J.Crew, Madewell and Reformation are just three of the brands that have expanded their size ranges this year—and there’s more to come in 2019 from lingerie fave Lively and new denim brand ASKK NYY (founded by Rag & Bone alums Katrina Klein and Andrea Suarez), for starters.

“The apparel industry is beginning to see the light—both in terms of financial benefits and the gains to the consumer.” —Alexandra Waldman, co-founder and creative director of Universal Standard

Of course, the body-inclusivity movement has been the huge driving force pushing brands to change—but hey, a little Rihanna magic isn’t hurting, either. She makes inclusivity and diversity feel downright badass, as do models like Barbie Ferreira, Candice Huffine, Iskra Lawrence, and Paloma Elsesser. They’re not only as in-demand as their sample-size counterparts, they’re changing the hearts and minds of the public and fashion industry execs, one body-love Instagram post at a time.

It’s about time, too, since the average American woman is somewhere between sizes 16 and 18—yet most stores carry sizes 0 through 12. The size-inclusive market (meaning XXS to 5XL) is currently generating $21 billion a year worldwide, a fraction of the $46 billion that Coresight Research CEO Deborah Weinswig predicts is possible. And by 2020, Weinswig predicts the value will jump to $60 billion. ThirdLove’s Chief Creative Officer Ra’el Cohen says, “We know there is strong customer demand in this market, and that will only continue to grow. When ThirdLove launched 24 new sizes in June 2018, our waitlist included 1.3 million women.” If brands want to thrive in an ever-changing and difficult retail landscape, they’ll need to respond to the demands of consumers.

Waldman says the size-inclusivity movement could even “herald the end of ‘plus-size’ as a separate category.” Cohen adds that when the brand extended its size options, ThirdLove asked their customers about the plus-size label and found “the resounding answer was that they did not want the plus-size label. Our customers consider their size as just their size, not something different or separate,” Cohen says. Shame-free shopping, here we come.

This is just one of the healthy-living trends we’re predicting for 2019—check out the full list here!

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