Inclusivity in Fashion, why are retailers and designers struggling with this concept?

I was born with a rare hereditary disease, Hereditary Multiple Exostosis, which was diagnosed at the age of five. The disease made me different from other children. The disease made some of my bones larger and some smaller, which altered my physical proportions. As a result, I was chubby, and finding clothes was not easy […]

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I was born with a rare hereditary disease, Hereditary Multiple Exostosis, which was diagnosed at the age of five. The disease made me different from other children. The disease made some of my bones larger and some smaller, which altered my physical proportions. As a result, I was chubby, and finding clothes was not easy in the late 50’s and 60’s for a “fat” child. This left its impression on me. I saw myself as a “fat” person, a fate that impacted my self-confidence all the way to my fifties. But this is also what led me to the work I do, and to realizing that much needs to be done across fashion, in how it provides inclusive and diverse options for all body sizes, or the fashion of inclusivity, as the sector is now called.

Fashion is my passion. From an early age, I had trouble buying clothing. Due to the bone structure, my hips were bigger than most and my waist was tiny. Finding suitable clothing was a challenge. I cried in dressing rooms. It created frustration. But this is how it is; we’re taught to see ourselves in the eyes of others. We dysmorphise our bodies, thinking that they should be one way or another. And, as a result, the clothes we wear – I wore – impacted how I saw myself. I was not thin. I was me. And I deserved to be catered to.

My family worked in fashion. My father (along with his brothers) owned one of the largest manufacturers of children’s wear in Canada. He taught me how to produce clothes and the ecosystem of the sector. While times have changed, this carried me into my passion, linking a desire to cater as possible to all body types with a desire to find clothes that suited my body type, because I realized I’m not unique; there are others like me. So I created Allistyle, a clothing line that honoured all sizes. We were made using sustainable viscose from bamboo, and we manufactured in Toronto, Canada.

Allistyle was co-founded by my daughter Alli just prior to her passing away. She knew how important it was to honour the curve market as she was one, having gained significant weight while going through cancer treatment. We honoured all women, through our materials, production, and spirit. Our designs were size inclusive. There was no discrimination; no saying one size is more lucrative than another. And for a time this was a good business decision. We were the first curvy brand to show at the IMG MasterCard Toronto Fashion Show. We had public support, from models and industry insiders. And I’m proud of what I accomplished, not just for Alli and myself, but also for demonstrating that inclusive fashion – in its core – is not a nice to have. It is a need to have. When we were manufacturing Allistyle 10 years ago, 60% of women were over a size 14. Now over 68% of women in North America are over a size 14 with the average being a size 16 and 18.

We should not be debating the impact, or importance, of inclusivity and diversity in fashion. It should just be this way. And I believe this is where we’re headed, and what I have been working on for years. For example, look at luxury website, 11 Honore, who are highlighting luxury curve fashion. And this is just the beginning. Inclusive fashion should simply be fashion. Full stop. The customer base demonstrates this.

So what does this mean? This means recognizing that more women (and men) are accepting their body as it is, and there’s gold in those hills. No longer should plus-size departments be are merchandised far away from mainstream fashion. Woman and men want to go into a major retailer like Bloomingdales and find larger sizes integrated into mainstream fashion. And this not only drives sales, it also drives revenue. As such, we should applaud all plus size designers’ concentrate on their niche market, especially as their niche market will soon become the market. We must celebrate all women, of all sizes, in fashion. As I want to ensure my experience and expertise support this. If we focus on clothing beautiful women, rather than the label size, we impact how women are viewed, seen, and interpreted. If we celebrate all sizes, everybody wins.

Given my experience with Allistyle and work in the market, I recognize that now is the time to focus on inclusive fashion. This is what I am now doing, and what I invite you to join me in. Retailers and designers, who want to understand this market, please get in touch.

Remember, the more people we cater to, the more value we yield from engaging with them. More travel improves your perspective on life. More music improves your cognition. And looking more inclusively at our fashion ecosystem improves bottom lines, but also the confidence and pride of the buyer. And if someone loves the design and sees themselves in it, than we should have a size to cater to them, and that size, that conversation and that purchasing experience, be as seamless as any other. With my help, this will happen. Everywhere. Count on it.

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