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Full Figured Fashion Week came to a close on Saturday with a fashion show and awards event at the Broad Street Ballroom in New York. As a celebration of women with curves, the finale show featured fall 13 styles from the country's leading plus-size retailers and boutiques, including Ashley Stewart, Curvy Couture, and Lane Bryant.
The plus-size industry is in an interesting place right now. Demand for larger sizes is growing in America, but consumers—and some industry leaders, like Project Runway's Tim Gunn—have been vocal about the lack-luster options for fashion-conscious women who wear anything higher than a size 12.
Before the show, we spoke with newly instated Lane Bryant CEO Linda Heasley about the state of the industry and her vision for the future of the company. Here's what she has to say about her new role, trend-driven fashion, and Michael Kors.—Christina Dun
Lane Bryant and Cacique from the Retailers/Boutiques Showcase and Industry Awards Event at Full Figured Fashion Week, courtesy of Estrella Fashion Report
This is the fifth year that Lane Bryant has been a sponsor for Full Figured Fashion Week, but this is your first on behalf of the company. What are you most excited about tonight?
I'm really looking forward to seeing all the fashion,s and also to see these wonderful women who auditioned to be a part of the show, which I think is really inspiring.
What are some of the biggest trends you've noticed in the plus-size fashion marketplace?
Well, I really think it's about giving her what everyone else is wearing and what I love seeing is how many of us are really focusing on that. We believe all women deserve great fashion and so, helping her find the style that works for her is what I think we should be doing. So I think it's very exciting to see more and more of the trends being incorporated into clothing for this customer.
An issue that's brought up among many plus-sized customers is that trends take a year or longer to come out in the plus-size market. How does Lane Bryant approach this problem?
We're actually implementing a fast-chase vertical in our approach, and my goal, my aim, and one of the things I will try to do now that I'm with the brand, is to be closer to when those trends come out. I agree. I think they are a little bit too late and I think she deserves things a lot closer to when the rest of the fashion industry sees them.
What vision are you bringing to this company?
What I hope to bring is a great love for this customer, which a lot of our associates already have, an emotional connection with her. And then I also believe it's a responsibility. It's about fashion first. And we happen to serve women in sizes 14-28. But it's really about fashion first.
Can you tell me a bit about how Lane Bryant finds the best fit for these women?
Actually, I think we have more work to do there. I think of the Cacique [Lane Bryan's underwear brand] side of the business, I think we've invested heavily in that. Not to say that we haven't on the apparel side of the business—we're very proud of our pant fits, for example—but we are in the process of reviewing every single area of the business to determine how she looks, how it looks on her, and how it makes her feel.
How has your business been growing so far?
We have some new lines that we've put into the sportswear side of the business, like our activewear line, and we're continuing to elevate and enhance and expand Cacique, which we feel is very important. It's definitely about beauty inside out. And there are a lot of new products that are coming, so stay tuned.
Tim Gunn has expressed the need for change in the plus-sized fashion industry. What do you think of his support?
I think it's time to change the conversation and I want more of us in the fashion industry to pay attention to this customer, and I feel very appreciative of those who have. So I want that to happen even more.
Who are some other individuals you think are making a positive impact in this industry?
Michael Kors obviously has been a big proponent of it and then I think there are a lot of designers that make women beautiful regardless. I think Donna Karan has done a fabulous job. I think there's more and more of us that are trying to elevate the conversation for the customer.
What are some of the biggest challenges you've come across so far?
We're regaining a new greatness.Lane Bryant has given up some ground and I think right now we have to elevate our thinking on the customer. I think we assumed that we knew more than perhaps we did. It's a new day. So I think that's a lot of what I'm facing right now.
What's up next for Lane Bryant?
We're continuing to open stores but I think we have to demonstrate that it's a new Lane Bryant. We're taking fashion seriously for this customer and sometimes we haven't always done that. I think it's about giving her the trends even faster, as we said, and I think that's what you have to look forward to the new year. I think the fall line looks like a new Lane Bryant and I would love to hear more from customers and others what they think about the line.