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Patrick Herning CEO and founder of 11 Honoré
Herning launched 11 Honoré after acting as the founder and president of influencer marketing company PMH Partners Consulting.
When 11 Honoré had its debut at New York Fashion Week this past February, it was a watershed moment. The e-retailer, which sells designer, plus-size apparel from a wide array of brands including Prabal Gurung, Chromat, Christian Siriano and Marc Jacobs, opened the entire week with a size-inclusive runway show.
But the moment — the shining light that stood as the epitome of everything Fashion Week could be — came when Laverne Cox closed the show wearing a Zac Posen tulle, berry-colored gown with a sweetheart neckline. It was spirited and glamorous and dramatic. It was an announcement that plus size is taking center stage.
"That without a doubt was a pinnacle moment," said 11 Honoré founder and CEO Patrick Herning in an interview with Retail Dive. "It was really a culmination of so much work since we've launched. To go from brands turning us away saying there wasn't a customer, there wasn't a market, to being the marquee show that opened Fashion Week. It showed the evolution of the conversation."
Indeed, since its 2017 launch, the dialogue around size inclusivity has accelerated, even though it is far from over. "Back when we started this conversation it was a very different time than it is now," Herning said of brands that initially turned him down to be part of 11 Honoré. "At the end of the day, I'm doing this for one reason and one reason only. It's for our customer. Some of these brands have said no in a very unkind way. Those are brands that my customer wants. So I keep it to myself and I just lean in."
And there are many reasons to lean in, especially since the average American woman wears a size 16 to 18, according to a Coresight Research report sent to Retail Dive. It's a market that, up until recently, has been largely ignored by the apparel sector even though customers are ready and willing to pay for properly fitting clothing. The NPD Group forecasts that the plus-size market will grow an average of 4% annually, with American shoppers spending over $21 billion in 2016 alone.
Some retailers have answered the call for extended sizes. Last summer, J. Crew introduced a collection with Universal Standard with sizes available up to 5x, Anthropologie launched inclusive apparel sizing this past February, and brands like Eloquii, Lane Bryant and Torrid have been mainstays for years.
Yet, even as it begins to dawn on retailers that there is money to be made in this part of the apparel industry, there still seems to be a disconnect between simply having an inclusive collection and offering an array of fashion that fits bodies in a myriad of ways that flatter. A survey by subscription clothing service Dia&Co found that 72% of respondents don't believe that fashion designers create clothing with the average American in mind, and that 78% would be willing to spend more money on clothing if designers offered plus-size options.
That intersection of not only having apparel available, but demonstrating that luxury products can be sold to a plus-size audience is what Herning champions with luxury companies. "Eighty-five percent to 90% of the brands are doing it for the first time through us. They are really looking to us to help them with narrative. Help them with fit. Help them sort of get comfortable with how to do this," Herning explained. "Not that they don't believe in the customer, they just want to have this plus-sized customer have the exact same experience as your straight-sized customer."
"If you don't get it, you don't get it. You will eventually get it, and when you are ready — here we are."
CEO, 11 Honoré
And Herning is still chasing after companies in an effort to understand that offering designer apparel to a plus-size audience is a smart business decision. "If you don't get it, you don't get it. You will eventually get it, and when you are ready — here we are."
Bringing brands through a process means that 11 Honoré collaborates to help companies enter into a space where selling extended sizes can become a reality. The company at first had 15 brands on its site, but now boasts nearly 80 and is growing, including an upcoming launch later this year with Diane von Furstenberg. Herning says the objective is for the customer to, "find the exact same style, the exact same print in the exact same color story, except in her size. Because we want this customer that has been historically marginalized in a traditional, big box environment to have that high-end retail experience."
That type of retail experience may expand for 11 Honoré. The company, through a partnership with Shopify during its New York Fashion Week runway show, provided attendees with a catalog featuring runway looks alongside QR codes. Users could scan the codes with their smartphones, resulting in a real-time mobile shopping experience. The partnership also resulted in a physical pop-up shop featuring runway looks and products that were available from the retailer's online store. "Having a partner like Shopify allowed us to go from being purely digital to also being omni in that pop-up space [and] has really helped our business grow," Herning stated.
He also alluded to the possibility of continuing to investigate different markets through pop-up concepts. "You can't negate the power of physical retail. But, the ability to be way more nimble in how you activate within that ecosystem is where I'm super excited. Because I love testing it. We love getting to know our customer. The amount of data you get from a conversation. I don't care how many processes you have in place in your back-end systems. That conversation is so powerful when you are building a brand."