“The whole issue of being the perfect size eight is so yesterday,” the late great Alber Elbaz told me during one of his last interviews for Australian Vogue. “It really should not be an issue anymore,” he lamented, in reference to his new direct-to-consumer brand AZ Factory, which celebrates body positivity as a founding principle. The Richemont-backed business launched in January and drew an end to Elbaz’s largely unwanted five-year hiatus from fashion, after his shock ousting from Lanvin where he was as creative director for 14 years.
For Elbaz, who was part of FTA Prize’s judging panel in 2020, inclusivity and diversity had to be at the center of any new fashion concept launching in 2021. His first evergreen dress capsule, My Body, utilizes AnatoKnit technology to engineer 13 different tensions so that the one fabric can hug and release, supporting and shaping the figure in all the right places. “The dream was to make a magical dress that gives you the perfect body,” he explained of the line that’s cut in nine sizes from XXS to 4XL.
Elbaz’s chief concern? “How can I shift from compressing to hugging? Growing up, my dream was to be a doctor, so I said, ‘let me see what I can do?’” He also re-imaged the notion of corsetry, taking boning from the front and redirecting it to the back for support rather than compression. “I thought about all the underwear that women wear, and I thought I will do a dress that you don’t need any of those foundations.”
Patrick Herning is another industry visionary proactively moving the needle forward on fashion’s perception of plus-size designer clothing with his size-inclusive, multi-brand platform 11 Honoré. “I launched 11 Honoré with a vision of inclusivity and creating an innovative retail experience for plus-size women to have access to luxury designer clothing that was previously unavailable to them,” says Herning, speaking from Los Angeles.
Founded in 2017, the platform is educating designers and the industry at large about this market segment that has long been overlooked by fashion. “I think it comes down to production capabilities,” Herning explains, adding that 11 Honoré’s sizing ranges from 12-24. “I also believe that designers were just taught that size 12 and under was the ‘norm’ for the industry and did not explore the extended sizing category.”
In the four years since its launch, 11 Honoré has become a go-to destination for the 68% of American women who are size 12+. The site currently works with an enviable brand lineup including Mary Katrantzou, Carolina Herrera, Altuzarra, Adam Lippes, Diane Von Furstenberg, Roland Mouret and Christopher Kane. “It has been extremely positive,” he says of his experience with bringing new designers onboard. “My first-hand experience is that brand and designer partners want to be part of this industry and are interested in learning the grading/sizing process for extended sizing. I have personally noticed perceptual shifts in attitudes changing at a fast pace, but there is still a lot that needs to be done. The catalyst is the fear of breaking into unknown territories for brands and trying to convince them to work with us.”
11 Honoré recently made headlines with a capsule collection designed by actor, writer, producer and director Lena Dunham, who has openly documented her own complicated relationship with fashion and figure in recent years. “Lena’s collaboration was well received and is on track to sell out,” confirms Herning of the five-piece capsule that celebrates the wunderkind’s love of clothes. Surprisingly, this is the first product line she has been asked to represent, let alone design. The union sprung from Dunham’s frequent patronage of the site. Herning confirms that it’s hit the mark: “There was a desire for new pieces at this price point, and we were thrilled to offer core pieces for our consumers’ wardrobe under US$300.”
Stand by for season two. For Herning, it’s about turning momentum into a movement. In 2019, 11 Honoré took on US$10 million funding from Nordstrom, and in July 2020, Herning and creative director Danielle Williams Eke launched the site’s in-house label, The 11 Honoré Collection, which they have plans to expand into new categories. All of which is proving that size inclusivity is as good for business as it is for every-body. And as brands from Chanel to Versace expand their show casting to include fuller figured models, things are also looking up on the runways.