Thin, white, young, stereotypically “feminine” or “masculine”—those are some of the characteristics that traditionally defined who the fashion industry prioritized.
That’s starting to change. Fashion is under mounting pressure to cater to all customers, as tech-empowered shoppers wield more influence over brands and new upstart labels, willing to serve the shoppers established brands have ignored, are rewarded. This isn’t a passing phase: By 2025, management-consulting firm Bain & Company predicts luxury shoppers will consider a brand’s values, such as inclusivity and diversity, just as much as the quality of the products it sells when deciding how to spend their money.
One area in fashion seeing major strides on this front is size inclusivity. Plunkett Research, a market-research firm, recently estimated that 68% of women in the US are now a size 14 or greater. But historically brands have treated anything above a size 14 as a whole separate category, so-called plus sizes. Many brands didn’t even bother making clothes in these sizes, and when they did, the designs were bland and the fit often terrible. They left a giant gap in the market that trend-conscious, fit-focused labels such as Eloquii and Universal Standard are now filling, with quite a bit of financial success.
Runways have similarly tended to a very narrow range of body types—literally. That’s shifted as well, in part thanks to brands such as Chromat, a New York label that has made a name for itself with its diverse casts and energetic shows.
Exclusivity is going to continue to be a big part of fashion, in the sense that limited quantities and high prices will still be important ways for brands to keep their cachet. But brands are also beginning to recognize that it doesn’t apply to customers any longer. On that front, inclusivity is the future.