Diversity is the basis of fashion. That’s why there are clothes in innumerable designs, colors, patterns, textures, and styles. That is also what makes fashion one of the biggest global industries, and one with a universal appeal.
But, paradoxically, fashion has also stayed uniformly and stubborn for a long time. It has demanded that humans reshape their bodies to fit into limited clothes sizes – S, M, L, XL, XXL. The models on fashion runways are of the same body type which is generally not the reality.
Is it time for a change, time to make fashion more inclusive? The change has already started happening.
The Rise of Inclusive Fashion
Inclusive fashion is a growing trend that emphasizes the importance of catering to all body types. For years, fashion has been synonymous with a single, thin body type. The tide is finally changing and brands are starting to understand the importance of inclusivity.
This means that fashion brands make people of all shapes and sizes feel included and comfortable in the clothes they wear. Brands are starting to realize that by expanding their size range, they can appeal to a larger market and offer more choices to their customers.
The size-inclusive market has been growing at a faster rate than the straight-size market, leading to a rise in demand for more size-inclusive clothing. Independent fashion brands and multinational corporations alike are responding to it by offering more sizes and styles that fit the needs of not only the fashion-conscious but people in general.
The benefits are clear. Brands that cater to a wider range of body types increase customer satisfaction, build a better brand reputation, and ultimately increase sales.
The Modeling Industry Leads Inclusivity
The lead representative of fashion is the modeling industry. While it is doing a tremendous job in making fashion popular, it has long been associated with a certain standard of beauty. For decades, models were young, thin, and mostly white, with a specific set of physical attributes that were deemed necessary, or made necessary, for success in the industry.
But as times change, the modeling world is slowly acknowledging that it needs to reflect what the majority of consumers want to wear and to become more diverse and inclusive.
A promising move in this direction has been the appearance of plus-size models on the global fashion runways. These models are breaking the traditional mold and paving the way to welcome more models of all sizes, shapes, and backgrounds, and are increasingly becoming popular. They have also had a positive impact on society's changing perception of beauty.
With this brands are catering to the demand for plus-size offerings and promoting a more diverse and inclusive standard of beauty. Among the recommendations for change and growth for brands, The State of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Fashion report by PVH Corp. and the Council of Fashion Designers of America, recommends that brands include a diverse range of models in their communication.
Social Media is Bringing Body Positivity to The Forefront
Social media also has a significant role to play. Over the past decade, it has brought about significant changes in the way the fashion industry operates, bringing connectedness, innovation, and diversity to the forefront. Through social media, people can follow influencers and models who represent their body type and lifestyle, making it easier for them to find fashion trends that work for them. This is a significant shift from the past when mainstream fashion magazines were the primary source of fashion inspiration, and plus-sized individuals often had trouble finding clothing that fit them properly.
Despite the many benefits, there are still challenges that need to be addressed. For instance, while social media has enabled more diversity in the industry, there is still work to be done in terms of representation. Brands need to continue to diversify their models and showcase different body types and skin tones to truly promote inclusivity.
Tech-Driven Fashion Revolution: Making Plus-Size Fashion Accessible
There are more changes to be made to how clothes are manufactured for diverse body types. One reason why plus-sized clothing has traditionally fit consumers poorly is the grading process used by fashion brands. This process involves taking the standard-size fit model and scaling up or down to create a range of sizes. This is not the best approach.
Human bodies don't scale up or down in a linear fashion, so this method usually results in poorly fitting clothing for plus-sized consumers. Brands should instead use plus-size fit models when designing their clothing and determining their grading to ensure a better fit for all consumers.
Another mistake made is designing for a single body shape, which leaves many consumers with fit issues. To design clothing that fits a wide range of body types, brands must ensure that their garments cater to all shapes and sizes by carefully selecting styles and fabrics.
Finding fit models to match all body shapes and sizes can be challenging and expensive, but technology is changing that. One example is mobile 3-D body scanning allows consumers to scan themselves with their smartphones, which then uses their body dimensions to make personalized size recommendations.
This technology not only helps consumers find a better fit when shopping online but also provides brands with a database of anonymized consumer 3-D body models that can be used to optimize sizing standards based on the actual body shapes and metrics of their customers. By digitizing the technical design operation, brands can ensure a better fit for consumers, reduce returns and carbon footprint, and contribute to sustainable brand initiatives.
The Future of Inclusive Fashion
The rapid growth of the plus-size fashion market is indicative of a larger trend in the fashion industry. The one-size-fits mold is ready to be thrown out of the window. The change in consumption habits, especially over the past pandemic years, is making consumers re-evaluate how they want to spend their money and what they want to demand from brands.
Fashion brands that take the necessary steps to get it right early on will benefit from brand loyalty among their new customers. They will need to focus on using plus-size fit models and accounting for multiple body types when designing their clothing, while also leveraging 3-D technology tools to simulate garment samples on 3-D avatars.
Leading retailers and brands have already begun to develop extended sizing, but smaller brands are showing that catering to all body shapes and sizes can lead to immense success. They are an indicator of how the market is evolving and demonstrate that the fashion industry needs to continue to evolve its practices to meet the needs of its diverse customer base. In the end, the most successful brands will be those that prioritize inclusivity and make it a central tenet of their business philosophy.