Target has turned the criticism and campaign of a disgruntled fashion blogger into a first for the retailer—one that is long overdue—with the announcement of the brand’s first plus-size collection.
Chastity Garner Valentine, a popular plus-size fashion blogger with 68,000-plus followers on Instagram, launched a boycott against Target when she discovered, once again, that a designer collaboration would not be carried in plus-sizes.
Back in August, she published an open letter to Target, #BoycottingTarget #AltuzarraForTarget, that criticized the retailer for not adding bigger sizes to its designer collaboration with Joseph Altuzarra.[more]
“All I want is the clothing you offer all your other regular sized customers, but you always leave me out,” she wrote.
“The recent release of the photos of Altuzarra for Target collection has me feeling slighted… Literally 50 pieces of beautiful (and I mean beautiful) affordable clothing and none of it will be remotely close to the size that I wear… You have once again made me feel like a second-class customer and because of that I’m going to have to discontinue my relationship with you altogether.”
“You may ask, ‘Is there any way I will take you back?’ I will take you back, when and only when, you include true plus sizes in your designer range collaborations. Until then, I will take my money elsewhere.”
Target’s social media team spotted her complaint, and within the week Valentine received a call asking for her help in developing and promoting a new plus-size line.
Fast-forward five months and Valentine is now a brand ambassador for AVA & VIV, Target’s new plus-size brand to be unveiled this week in New York, its first new private-label apparel line in seven years.
Target is promoting the AVA & VIV collection with Valentine and two other plus-size bloggers—Gabi Gregg and Nicolette Mason. Target flew the women to its Minneapolis HQ to meet with the Ava & Viv design team and give their input, as Garner details in a blog post (sponsored by Target) today.
“Things don’t ever get better if all of the input is ‘We love it,’ ” said Stacia Andersen, Target’s SVP apparel and accessories, about their HQ visit in an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “They didn’t hold back.”
AVA & VIV will arrive in all Target US stores in mid-February through March. The line will be available on Target.com on Feb. 22.
The new line includes nearly 90 pieces in a variety of color and prints and offers tops and pants to swimwear and dresses.
— Target Style (@TargetStyle) January 21, 2015
It is Target’s only in-store plus size offering to date, as other in-house brands such as Merona and Mossimo will only be available online.
Target also took some heat recently for its decision to make plus-size apparel for its Lilly Pulitzer line available only online.
Competition in the plus-size space is growing—as well as it should, given that most American women are not a size 2 and 35 percent of female consumers wear a plus size on either the top or bottom. JCPenney and Macy’s are both paying attention, which also made Target execs realize they were missing an opportunity.
For Target, the launch “is kind of the flag on the mountain to say we’re going to go after this business,” Andersen said. “We feel this is our time to capitalize on this space.”
Valentine also blogged about her delight to find plus-size clothes in Target’s sure-to-be-a-hit Lilly Pulitzer collection:
“Last night, I attended the announcement party for Target’s newest designer collaboration, Lilly Pulitzer for Target. I’m excited to share awesome news that Lilly Pulitzer for Target will include plus sizes up to a 3X or a size 26W and will be sold exclusively on Target.com. The event itself, outfitted a couple of plus size models in pieces from the collection. This line will arrive April 19th.”
While the limited plus-size collections are a stepping stone to offering a stylish plus-size collection in-store year-round, the progress to this point exemplifies brand-adaptation to the new reality wrought by social media, and in this case, fueled by a growing market. The bottom line: consumers have a voice and a platform, and must be won one blogger, one customer, one person at a time—regardless of size, shape or BMI.
—Images via Chastity Garner and Target