Business Insider



By Mallory Schlossberg

ashley graham swimsuitsfor all

Ashley Graham has a swimsuit line for plus-size customers. (Courtesy of swimsuitsforallModel)

Retailers are missing out on a crucial opportunity: the plus-size industry. The category is worth $17.5 billion, according to industry research firm NPD Group. So why are retailers avoiding this highly profitable demographic?

Designers are afraid.

“I would argue that why many non-plus-size designers don’t go into plus-size is fear,” Amanda Czerniawski, sociology professor at Temple University, former plus-size model, and author of “Fashioning Fat: Inside Plus-Size Modeling,” told Business Insider.

Because many companies aren’t familiar with designing for plus-size clientele, they might be intimidated by the investment.

“Many of these designers, when they go to design school, they’re not taught to make clothes for plus-size bodies,” she said.

Supermodel Emme has developed a groundbreaking program called Fashion Without Limits at Syracuse University, which teaches students how to design and build clothing for larger sizes.

Fashion without Limits emme

(Syracuse University)

“We wanted to have designers to graduate our fashion design school with an inclusive fashion education that when they would walk out of these doors, they would be able to be … in high demand for those particular manufacturers and design firms that are looking to get into full figured,” Emme explained to Business Insider.

“They [manufacturers] are really, really nervous because there’s such a very high cost to get into the business if the designer does not [know how to make a dress] soup-to-nuts [for a] full figure,” she said.

When designers do delve into the plus-size industry, the clothing they make isn’t necessarily flattering and stylish. Many plus-size women struggle to find clothing that actually looks good.

plus size lilly pulitzer chastity garner valentine

Plus-size bloggers like Chastity Garner-Valentine were invited to the launch of Lilly Pulitzer for Target in New York City on April 15. (Getty Images)

One woman who’s working against the fashion industry’s standards is plus-size supermodel Ashley Graham.

Not only has she become an ambassador for body acceptance, but she also has teamed up with lingerie company Addition Elle to make her own lingerie line for larger women.

“I felt like there was a huge gap in the market for sexy and supportive lingerie,” she said to Business Insider.

As the plus-size market becomes more influential, perhaps more retailers will follow suit.


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