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It may not be getting the attention it fully deserves just yet, but plus-size fashion is no longer the ignored market it once was.
Over the last few years, brands like Eloquii, Universal Standard, Gwynnie Bee, and Dia&Co have seen explosive growth, celebrity funding and collaborations, brick-and-mortar investments, and overall critical acclaim.
Why the industry doesn’t have a Shopbop of its own — that is, an online shop that curates brands at one comprehensive destination — is a question four former Gilt executives had in mind when creating their latest project, CoEdition, a new plus-size fashion website. Launching today, CoEdition comes from Keith George, Brooke Cundiff, Kent Helbig, and Kevin Ryan — all past Gilt employees who met at the former flash sale company.
“There are actually a lot of brands doing really exciting things in the space, but no one that is bringing them together,” Keith George, CoEdition’s CEO, tells Racked. “There’s a huge opportunity for something like CoEdition, which won’t just be selling clothes, but will be talking about size and fit, and will provide guidance and discovery.”
CoEdition will sell clothes, swimwear, shoes, and intimates from brands like Tahari, Rachel Roy, Stuart Weitzman, Cosabella, and Cynthia Rowley. Its average price point is $150, and it features glossy photography and curated pages with editor’s picks. While the site, interestingly, isn’t stocking hot e-commerce brands like Eloquii or Universal Standard, chief merchant Brooke Cundiff says it will sell about 150 different brands by the end of the year, and will partner with fashion companies that haven’t made plus-size clothing until now, like Splendid.
CoEdition, which has 15 employees and is headquartered in New York, raised $4 million in funding. Charlotte Ross, an associate on the technology investing team at NEA, which led the round of funding, says her company sees a lot of opportunity in CoEdition because the plus-size market could benefit from data research on fit.
“The plus-size market has a huge problem with fit, and returns are also a big issue,” says Ross. “There’s an opportunity to gather feedback and data in one place, and understand why one brand fits a certain way, and others don’t fit at all. It’s been one of those markets where brands have been lazy to tackle the problem of fit and manufacturing.”
Last year, Aimee Cheshire, the founder of the plus-size fashion site Hey Gorgeous, which shuttered after failing to nab investors, told Racked that “the tech world is male-dominant, and [plus-size] is not where these men are putting their money.” Despite years of lack of interest, though, plus-size is now finally seeing interest from investors. Just yesterday, luxury e-commerce site 11 Honoré raised $8 million, which follows Universal Standard receiving $7 million in funding last month from investors like Gwyneth Paltrow. In 2016, Dia & Co received a $20 million investment, and Eloquii raised $15 million that same year.
All this funding is no doubt a response to more brands jumping into the space — Madewell, Mara Hoffman, Loft, and Stitch Fix, just to name a few. But there’s also been plenty of talk about how much opportunity there is in the space, and brands like Eloquii have proven there can be plenty of success.
Plus-size is a $21 billion industry, according to research firm NPD group, and Ross says it’s one that’s growing twice the rate as regular apparel sales. With that, she notes, “where there’s real opportunity, there’s dollar value.”