The large size e-retailer Dia & Co. is expanding.
The fashion platform has reached an agreement to acquire another plus-size 11 Honoré e-tailer for an undisclosed amount. Like Dia, 11 Honoré — who was founded by Patrick Herning in 2017 – offers a number of brands, including its own brand, but at premium prices at luxury prices. (Think beyond yoga to Diane von Furstenberg and everything in between.)
“Patrick and I have met many times over the last two years and I think what has become very clear is that the offering we can build together – truly offering our customers everything from Madewell to Carolina Herrera in one place – is in a very fundamental way (and I say this as a plus-size consumer and CEO of a plus-size company) the ultimate dream shopping experience becomes a reality,” said Nadia Boujarwah, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Dia & Co. WWD in an exclusive interview “By coming together, we can bring to life experiences for consumers that the category has been unable to deliver, until here.”
Herning added: “Where we complement each other is in bringing a brand point of view that will be newer to the [Dia] platform, this marriage of size, scale and brand. What this now creates is the destination vehicle for distribution. This is where we come in, as a fully integrated partner, where we can talk to brands at all price points now and having this vehicle to introduce the product to the right audience is a perfect match.
Boujarwah pointed out that even though marketing campaigns and advertisers have made great strides in recent years to include a more diverse range of models, such as plus-size models, there is still a lack of options in space.
“The good news coming out of the pandemic is that the conversation about representation and inclusivity has never been clearer and that’s wonderful,” she said. “I think the flip side of that is that the reality of what’s happened to plus size options during the pandemic is that they’ve actually been significantly reduced.”
In 2021, Loft said it would stop selling sizes 18 and up. Lane Bryant and Catherines, both of which sold plus size women’s clothing and were owned by Ascena Retail Group, also closed. Meanwhile, brands like Good American, Christian Siriano and Target have gambled on the plus-size market. Last summer, Old Navy, the brand owned by Gap Inc., expanded its size range to size 30.
But Boujarwah insists that is not enough.
“The consumer more wants to have access to more brands; she wants access to fashion, more style, more choice. The opposite of the settlement story this client has always faced,” said Boujarwah, who founded Dia in 2015 with Lydia Gilbert. “At the end of the day, our goal is to serve the majority of American women and when you look at the bell curve, that’s really where our sizes drop.”
Just how many consumers are plus size is unclear. The average American woman is 5 feet 3 1/2 inches tall and weighs about 170 pounds, according to 2018 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most recent data available.
But there are nuances. On the one hand, this is only an average of about 170 million women. Another downside is that there’s no clear definition of what plus size is – some brands say size 16 or 18 are plus sizes, while other brands go too. low than 10. There is also no universal size in fashion. Meaning what one brand calls a size 10, another might label a size 14 or 16. Factors like size play into the equation. A 6-foot-tall woman weighing 170 pounds may be within her medically-recommended BMI (and doesn’t need plus-size clothing), while a 5-foot-tall woman at the same weight would be included in the plus size range.
“There’s not a lot of consensus in the industry,” Boujarwah acknowledged. “At the end of the day, this confusion serves customers very badly.”
What is known is that market demand for plus size fashion among available brands and retailers is growing – and quite rapidly. U.S. women’s plus size apparel revenue grew 18% in 2021 compared to 2019, according to market research firm NPD. That’s three times faster than consumer spending in the remaining women’s market.
Year-to-date – or from January 2022 to April 2022 – the plus size women’s market grew 24%, compared to the same period in 2021. Meanwhile, the remaining women’s market only grew only 3% in the first four months of 2022.
“This growth, you can’t ignore it,” said Kristen Classi-Zummo, apparel industry analyst at NPD Group. “There is a desire for more. When the assortment is there, she will buy. The consumer will spend in categories where she feels well represented.
This represents a business opportunity for people in the plus size market. But Classi-Zummo warned: “There are a lot of bumps on this road. A brand or retailer has to find the right fit. It’s not just about scaling a model, but [it is about] really work on an inclusive adjustment structure, work on a totally new size structure for this market.
“It’s hard to find the right size,” she added. “Fit and size are so important. And then, once you really understand that, having the right assortment and mix of sizes is really the struggle. And this is a difficult place to understand.
In fact, many retailers have shunned the plus-size space due to the added expense of new designs and more materials. But Boujarwah said his – and Herning’s – expertise in the category will ultimately benefit other brands, helping them grow without fear of massive losses.
“One of the things that we’ve really focused on – and this acquisition is really a testament to that strategy – is the idea that we need to be able to have a way for brands to be successful in M&A. more, without them having to do everything – from fit, tech and design, to distribution and marketing,” she said. “This playbook has been played multiple times and the truth is that it is a very difficult task for most brands to be able to succeed. Instead of asking brands to attempt to go from zero to 100 on their own, [the brands can] working with a partner like Dia and 11 Honoré who are really able to specialize in this value proposition for the client and [then the] brands can focus on producing the absolute best product and best assortment possible. And we can really help with the marketing and distribution of this product.
“We have always believed that inclusive fashion is a team sport,” added Boujarwah. “And we really, fundamentally believe that there’s a way forward together.”
Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. But Boujarwah said Dia acquires 100% of 11 Honoré. The deal is expected to close in May and Herning will remain co-founder of 11 Honoré and Dia & Co.
“It’s a role that’s going to be rooted in brand building, awareness and excitement and bringing more brands to the platform and really being a great thought partner for Nadia in what she’s built, as she leads this next generation of truly inclusive retail,” Herning says. Additionally, the Los Angeles-based designer and fashion entrepreneur will continue to focus on 11 Honoré’s own brand.
In February, just before Herning and the crew of 11 Honoré returned to New York for New York Fashion Week, he told WWD that 11 Honoré was on the road to profitability.
“Thanks to this acquisition [11 Honoré] is now profitable,” Herning said recently. “Part of what made this acquisition so attractive is the financial health of 11 Honoré. And so, in this commitment to profitability, this [acquisition] the conversation could begin.
Erin Milley, the current CEO of 11 Honoré, will remain during the transition before leaving the company. Also in the short term, the two websites will continue to live on separate platforms, but Boujarwah said the goal is to fully integrate the experiences going forward.
“In what world isn’t it exciting that she can have all of these options under one roof? It’s amazing,” Herning said. “This roster is a step in the right direction to keep doing that. ”