Tags: Active Plus Size, Body Positive Movement, Emphasis on Women's Clothing, Industry Insiders

Finding quality plus-size clothing is a challenge, and when more specifically looking for active plus size clothing that challenges increases. Luckily more options are becoming available more than ever before and the industry is moving in the direction of inclusivity and equality. Lots of progress has been made and there is certainly more hurdles left to clear, but active plus size is securing a place in the fashion industry.

Ignoring Plus Size in General

The plus-size segment has largely been overlooked by the fashion industry. Many brands simply do not carry clothing above a size 12 or 14. In some instances, this is due to a sense of elitism on the part of brands that do not want plus-size individuals wearing their clothing. The void of quality options is also the result of brands making the assumption that plus-size consumers will shy away from trends and styles that are fitted or feature bold colors or patterns. A lack of understanding at a design level has perpetuated this problem.

Limited Plus Size Options

The options that have been available tend to fit poorly and have a general lack of quality. This has spurred some brands, such as Target, Old Navy and ASOS to create divisions that cater specifically to the plus-size consumer. In other instances companies, like perennial favorite Lane Bryant, along with Eloquii and Ashley Stewart were created just to fill this void.

Influence of Body Positive Movement

An emphasis on loving the body you are in and embracing different body shapes and sizes are responsible for the recent influx of size inclusive clothing options, and even an increase in plus-size runway models. The body positive movement promotes acceptance and understanding and living a healthy and happy life. This movement has encouraged ladies to embrace their curves and seek out clothing that is stylish and on trend.

Social media has been pivotal in pushing the body positive movement forward. Consumers have always been able to give feedback to brands via their purchasing decisions. Social media has made it possible for consumers to directly engage with brands in a productive and constructive manner.

Ignoring Athletic Women and Active Plus Size

The activewear industry, in general, has mostly ignored women. The focus of the industry historically has been creating options for men, and primarily men deemed average size.  Even plus or big and tall men are being left out as well.

Until recently most clothing lines specializing in activewear would just size down men’s clothing. The notion to ‘shrink it and pink it’ was protocol. There was no consideration taken at a design level regarding how clothing would fit and perform for female athletes. Traditionally the activewear industry has been even less accepting and forgiving to female active plus size consumers.

Emphasis on Women’s Clothing

An increased demand for quality women’s activewear has caused brands to take notice. Clothing lines have slowly come around and are creating offerings for women, while also featuring female models in their marketing. The body positive movement has taken hold and there is a demand that is slowing being met for active plus size clothing.

As brands have begun to create activewear for women the market has responded. Overall sales in the clothing industry have stalled in recent years. Numbers are not dropping, but increases have been minimum. The sportswear segment, particularly women’s sportswear, has shown significant growth.

Brands Tailored to Women

Matt Powell, sports industry analyst at a market research company, The NPD Group, explained, “When you look at the landscape, multi-brand retailers tend to be very male-focused. When we think of the sportswear retailers that have been successful, like Lululemon, while they carry some men’s products, it is clearly a women-focused retail store. Women-specific products and women-focused retail are key components to brands being successful. The mere fact that five of the top 10 largest women’s activewear brands are women-specific tells us something here.”

Consumers want different products for different activities. It is no longer enough to just create activewear for women, but consumers want specialized clothing tailored for different sports or activities. For instance, a runner has different needs than a yogi. Consumers expect to find offerings that meet the needs presented by different sports.

Non-Athletic Brands In the Mix

“The women’s market today has become very crowded and it’s no longer the domain of traditional pure athletic brands,” said Bridget Brennan, chief executive of The Female Factor, a female-focused consulting firm. The major sportswear brands are definitely in play, but other brands are expanding their offerings to include activewear, and new activewear focused brands are emerging.

Active Plus Size Options

The steady increase in women’s activewear covers a range of sizes. The market is still dominated by so-called average size clothing, but active plus size clothing is also available. Many brands have expanded their sportswear offerings to include active plus size options. Major brands like Nike, Champion, Zella for Nordstrom, JC Penney and Target have added size inclusive sportswear lines. Brands such as Full Beauty and Juno Active were created with the sole goal of creating active plus size clothing.

Focus on Active Plus Size

Amy Montagne, vice president and general manager of Global Nike Women’s explains,

“Our women’s business is one of the categories that we’re supercharging and putting more resources against, with the greatest potential for growth and highest returns.”

Nike’s “Black and White” collection is designed for active plus size athletes and carries sports bra, tees and leggings up to 3X. The response to the active plus size offerings made available has been so positive that major brands, like Nike, feel there is room for growth. Brands have confidence that this segment of the market can support more variety of options.

Emergence of Leisure Athletic Apparel

All consumers, including active plus size, want athletic gear to wear when they work out, but they also want comfortable clothing just to wear. This subset of the athletic wear industry is known as athleisure. Industry experts thought athleisure was a trend that was sure to blow over by now, but this option is going strong. Active plus size clothing within the athleisure segment has been embraced.

Bridget Brennan of The Female Factor, explained,

“It feels like there are new brands being born every day in the athleisure space. Even celebrities have gotten in on the action with their own brands. But the opportunity is still great. Women of different types of fitness levels are looking for a different kind of apparel for their fitness needs.”

Women certainly want specialized athletic clothing, and active plus size women are no different. Luckily, there are a variety of brands looking to provide for this niche.

Just about everything when it comes to women’s athletic clothing differs from the male sportswear side of the industry. Brands are beginning to understand that in the same way, men’s clothing cannot simply size down to fit ladies, the marketing experiences that appeal to men will not work for female consumers.

Store Experience

Research shows most female athletes prefer shopping in brick and mortar stores. Online shopping still holds a significant place in the retail world, but at least when shopping for sportswear most women prefer the convenience of being able to try clothing on. For this reason, stores are catering to the female shopper. In some major cities brands like Nike have created stores that only carry female athletic clothing. Even in stores that carry clothing for both genders the women’s department is significantly larger.

Changes to Marketing

Even the way female athletes portray in marketing changes in order to appeal to the demographic. The women’s department general manager at Under Armour, Pam Catlett, breaks things down by explaining, “When brands talk about women’s performance, their achievements have always compare to men. At the Olympic games, the female swim champion was compared to ‘the Michael Phelps of swimming’. [Women] want to be measured by their own success and achievements.” Women want to be seen as women, not as the female version of men. This also translates to active plus size women. 

Whether part of the active plus size segment or not, overall women want to see other women in advertising. This representation appeals to and motivates the female consumer. Nike has launched campaigns with FKA Twigs and Bella Hadid, while Reebok is working with Gigi Hadid. Puma has seen success with their campaign featuring actress Cara Delevingne, singer Rihanna, and model Kylie Jenner.


Nike’s Active Plus Size Campaign

To commemorate the launch of their plus size collection. Nike launched a marketing campaign featuring several plus-size models, including Paloma Elsesser and Claire Fountain. The campaign was lauded not only for the body positive message and inclusion of active plus-size models. But also because the advertisements do not promote the active plus size aspect. Everything presents the same as it would be in any other campaign. There is no emphasis or even acknowledgment that the campaign is promoting a line of active plus size clothing.

Nike’s active plus size campaign was a positive not just for the brand, but also for consumers, and even the models. Fountain stated in an interview, “I was so excited to do this because it’s so relatable to lots of women. The feedback has been so great, with women saying, ‘This makes me so happy, this makes me feel better about myself.’” The success of this campaign should ensure that Nike will continue to feature body positive marketing around their active plus size lineup. There will always be marketing with smaller size models. But this campaign proved active plus-size models can hold their own in the same format. Hopefully, this campaign will also serve as a case study for other brands, mainstream and otherwise, in the active plus size industry.

Real World Role Models

The only place to consistently see active plus size athletes are in social media and niche fitness blogs. An abundance of active plus size ladies is inspiring others to get out there and be active. From powerlifters to ultra-marathoners to yogis female athletes are proving that strong and athletic come in different sizes and shapes. One such role model is Morit Summers, a powerlifter and personal trainer. Who also works as a fitness expert for Lane Bryant. Through her blog, Summers offers advice and motivation for active plus size individuals. Summers promotes healthy and happy lifestyle choices without an emphasis on weight loss. 

Future of Active Plus Size

The plus size demographic continues to cement their place in the market. More quality and on-trend options are coming available constantly and representation is drastically improving. As sportswear continues to dominate the market active plus size has secured a place in the industry. A strong community, both literally and figuratively, supports the active plus size segment of the industry.

The post ACTIVE AND PLUS SIZE appeared first on Plvsh Style.

Back to blog