****Hey guys, today I’m using the blog to write an open letter to one of my favorite online retailers who will be closing their doors. Plus sized shoppers are an under-served, largely ignored demographic, and instead of just complaining I’m doing my part to let the fashion world know that we’re here and we want real fashion choices!****
Last week you announced that you would be closing your plus-size concept store operating under The Limited. I’m not a fashion blogger, much less an influential one, but I’m writing this on the off chance that you or another plus-size retailer will read my thoughts as a plus-size shopper.
I’m 25 years old and an “in-betweener”: at a size 16/18, I can shop straight size for most things but some things I have to go plus size for (namely dresses, suits, and bras). I’m finishing grad school and will soon be joining the work force, so I’m trying to develop a wardrobe appropriate for a young professional. Eloquii has really helped me develop my personal style this past year by offering chic blouses, classic dresses, and cute, well-fitting (!!!!) suiting separates that can take me from a job interview to a dinner date. Frankly, Eloquii filled a niche for the young, fashion-obsessed plus size customer who lives in the real world. Your target demographic remains massively untapped, and I can tell you why. ASOS Curve is great, but overall skews edgy and doesn’t have a lot of pieces that work for me every day (in addition to being above my price point). Lane Bryant caters to an older demographic, and Avenue works better for women on the larger end of plus size. Lines like Rachel Pally White Label and Igigi have great products, but as boutique labels they a) are out of many folk’s price ranges and b) can’t offer a broad range of styles that appeals to the mass market. Eloquii, as part of The Limited brand, has a huge advantage here, and you capitalized on it by not only offering many The Limited styles in Eloquii, but by going beyond being a copycat line to develop your own aesthetic.
The bottom line is, I am a loyal Eloquii customer because the concept is great! The designers clearly put some thought into what looks good on full-figured women. You acknowledged that plus size women are not all hourglass or pear shaped! The Shape My Style feature allows shoppers to find styles that are most flattering for their body type, and can choose from 5 different shapes (top heavy, bottom heavy, hourglass, boyish, and full waisted). Pants and skirts come in curvy fit (waist smaller than hip) and classic fits (waist larger than or equal to hip size). You focused on designing clothes that fit different body types, rather than trying to make every style fit every body type (which results in shapeless clothing, or spandex overkill). Second, the clothes are fashionable. If I see a particular style in magazine, I cango to Eloquii and find a chic, plus sized version of it. Military, peplum, leather, prints- it’s all there! No more looking like grandma.
Unfortunately, there were many things that could have been done better from a branding perspective starting with the name. Distancing yourself from The Limited was a huge mistake. For example, I’ve never referred to your brand as “Eloquii by The Limited” to any of my friends, so you voluntarily divested yourself of a lot of social capital. Second, there was no advertising to speak of. Not once have I seen a print ad for Eloquii! The Limited only carries up to a size 14, so I would never have gone to your site to see the Eloquii tab (and neither would 90% of your other potential plus size customers). I never would have heard of your brand, in fact, had I not been a subscriber to The Curvy Fashionista blog. Speaking of bloggers, sending out gift cards or sample clothes for a social media campaign would have been the way to go if you were trying to drum up business through word of mouth. And while the durability and style of your clothes was on on point, a little less polyester and a little more natural fibers would have been great. As a practical matter, we thick girls get a little hot under all that non-breathing polyester!
You also shot yourselves in the foot by keeping the concept online. Online only is NEVER going to work if you are trying to go mainstream and your demographic isn’t solely the under-30 crowd who accept online shopping as part of their lifestyle. Forever 21+ remains profitable (despite lower quality and inconsistent sizing) because it is available in Forever 21 stores across the country, and it’s available in far more stores than you can count on one hand. I’m past the Forever 21 phase of my life, but I appreciate that they at least make their aesthetic available to a wider range of sizes. Target and Old Navy could definitely stand to expand their in-store plus offerings, but a customer can at least try something on to get a feel for the sizing so they can order online with some degree of confidence.
A few final thoughts. First, a glance at the comments on your Facebook page revealed many complaints about fit and pricing; I hope you take these with a grain of salt because consumers who really care about fashion will pay more for quality. Moreover, your pricing was right in line with comparable mainstream retailers like The Limited (of course), Gap, New York & Company, Ann Taylor, and White House|Black Market. As for the complaints about fit, that will never be perfect. It’s impossible to make off-the-rack clothing that will fit every person perfectly. Proportions are different on every woman and some designs are simply meant to fit looser or tighter. However, that could have been mitigated with more in-store retailing.
Although I’m deeply disappointed in your decision, I will continue to shop Eloquii until the site closes down. However, I hope that you will do your best to put the brand in the hands of someone with the fortitude and foresight to give it a real shot of succeeding.
Eloquii will be back in spring 2014! More details at The Curvy Fashionista. I’ve definitely missed the brand and look forward to seeing what they do differently this time around. And I’m glad that the fashion industry is finally noticing that plus size women are not to be ignored!