Wet Seal on July 19 relaunched plus sizes, according to the company's Twitter feed.
The collection holds some 200 items, according to Glamour magazine. These include bodysuits, dresses, trousers, leggings, cardigans, blouses and jackets, most available in sizes XL to 3XL and priced under $50, according to Wet Seal's dedicated plus pages.
Gordon Brothers last year expressed confidence in the long-term viability of the teen apparel category, despite its challenges, and called Wet Seal a "pioneer in fast fashion… known for its surf-and-sun aesthetic targeted at fashion focused teens."
In 2002, when Wet Seal was still a public company, shares hit $25 as teens embraced its laid-back, surf-and-sun aesthetic, but styles inevitably changed, and two years later its stock plummeted. Just ahead of a 2015 Chapter 11 filing — which came after the company lost more than $150 million in two years — Wet Seal abandoned its Arden B brand and closed 338 of its mostly mall-based stores without warning, driving some employees to post angry signs in vacant store windows decrying management's handling of the situation.
Private equity firm Versa, which bought the beleaguered brand for $7.5 million in cash three months after it filed for Chapter 11, loaded the company with debt, and Wet Seal went bankrupt again last year. Now, with the economy in better shape and its SoCal aesthetic again enjoying wide appeal, the brand is trying to survive as a pure-play e-retailer. Adding plus sizes, a market hungry for stylish apparel that fits, could help.
A licensing deal could also work, considering the strength of Wet Seal's brand, according to Jasmin Yang, an associate attorney at law firm Snell & Wilmer, who has helped several clients in various aspects of bankruptcy and restructuring and who spoke to Retail Dive last year.
"I think there is some goodwill, and I think one of Wet Seal's most valuable assets would be their trademark, just as with American Apparel — their intellectual property," she said. "If someone were to buy it and enter into a licensing agreement with a Target or a Walmart, that might be a strategic and creative use. It's probably not valuable enough to sell to fix all their problems, but licensing is definitely one creative solution. The way teenagers shop is just different now."