Lane Bryant, a plus size retailer, said earlier this month that it is expanding into higher-end designer clothing. It will debut its first designer collaboration with Isabel and Ruben Toledo on a collection of holiday clothes and later a spring line.
"This is a big deal for us and we're treating it in that manner in every way we can," said Linda Heasley, Lane Bryant's CEO.
And online retailer Asos three years ago launched a plus-size category called Asos Curve with sizes 14 to 24. The company fits everything on a size 16 model to "ensure we are offering the right fit and comfort to our customers," says Natasha Smith, an Asos Curve buyer. The company wouldn't disclose sales figures but said they've been stronger each season.
"Our customer comes in all shapes and sizes and our range should reflect that," Smith says.
But for every chain adding to their plus-size offerings, there are many others that continue to cater to smaller sizes. Abercrombie & Fitch, for instance, has been criticized for only offering sizes 0 to 10 and its CEO's comments that the chain caters to "cool" and "attractive" kids.
The company says it is an "aspirational brand" which targets a "particular segment of customers." The comments received widespread backlash online and Abercrombie has since begun anti-bullying initiatives. But it has not started offering bigger sizes.
Whether to carry plus-size clothing is a risk calculation for most retailers, said Daniel Butler, a vice president for the National Retail Federation. "Most retailers can't afford to fit everybody," he says.
Indeed, Alison Diboll, founder of Gabriella Rossetti, a new high-end line of women's clothing ranging from size 12 to 22, agrees that it's a tough choice for retailers. The Gabriella Rossetti line offers plus-size skirts for $250 and jackets for $650. But Diboll acknowledges that designer clothes for plus-sizes can be more complex than smaller sizes. "You can't just take a size 6 and upsize it for (a size) 20 and expect it to work," she says.