Fashion and style are generally considered, in the context of mainstream media and business, as being for young, attractive, slim (or wanting to be) women. Those who do not fit this fashionably stylish profile are often excluded from consideration by retail businesses or thought of as an unattractive adjunct to the mainstream.
This statement, from one of the many emails I have exchanged on the subject, is evidenced nowhere more typically than by the most well-known plus-size retailer in the UK, Evans, who cater for a customer base that is fashionable and plus-size, demanding the same, seasonally changing, fashion product, as for the younger slimmer market.
Evans have, in one of their periodic attempts to appeal to a fashion oriented market, launched the Swan Collection by Clements Ribeiro for Autumn 2012 (one example of the range is pictured above) – this is the second such collaboration, I believe. Evans have been in business a lot of years and their business model has been copied online by many others so they are clearly doing something right … and, yet, I have never been able to find anything I like there. It’s not that I don’t like the outfit pictured, more that, on me, it’d look as if I were wearing PJ’s. That’s not to say it is all the same so do take a look and make up your own mind. I just can’t see many plus-size women over 40 wearing a lot of it.
The few Evans pieces I have bought, in previous years, have been disappointing in design, fabric and production quality even for just a basic t-shirt or pair of leggings. The garments didn’t wash well or hold their colour or shape well and I felt as if I had just wasted my money and time bothering. OK, they’re not hugely expensive but still… And, as the leading plus-size high street retailer, you would expect them to know about sizing and fit but even here, I felt let down. Maybe I just am a weird shape but surely not that different from anyone else!
For most grown-ups, the days of fast throw-away fashion are well behind them and yet the biggest plus-size retailer in the UK, doesn’t seem to recognise this. Evans only appeal to my kind of market is in stocking items of the right size. Is that alone enough of a selling point? I do think there are others out there like me who want style, not fashion; quality not quantity; ease of fit and style; in black and in natural fibres. But this seems to be totally at odds with the fast-turnover, pile-it-high, cheap and fashionable zeitgeist. It, kind of, worries me that Evans seem to do so well.