Q&A: The Limited Cozies Up To Plus-Size Women

Anne-ConnellWhen it comes to idealized women, the name "the Limited" is probably most likely to evoke Victoria’s Secret models: Lithe, stick-thin angels with centerfold-worthy breasts. But the company, now under separate ownership from parent Limited Brands, keenly aware of the growing number of American women who can’t squirm their way into a regular pair of skinny jeans, launched an online plus-sized brand called Eloquii late last year, and is planning branded brick-and-mortar stores soon. Anne Connell, SVP/strategy for branding agency Hornall Anderson, explains how her team hatched the positioning:

Q: So plus-sized women have always been neglected, which is extra curious considering how fast Americans have gained weight in recent years. Why is the Limited doing this now?

A: It started with its CEO, Linda Heasley. Turns out she is just passionate about providing fashion to this woman. And this shopper is so underserved: More than 50% of women in the U.S. are plus size, yet plus-size clothing accounts for only 19% of sales. Linda’s mission wasn’t just selling clothes that fit, but clothes that are fashion-forward. Much of what is out there is black, because it is considered slimming, or oversized, to hide women’s shapes. She saw that as a huge gap, and a huge opportunity. Eloquii will follow runway trends closely, so she can really be up-to-date.

Q: What does the name mean?

A: It’s a combination of eloquent and soliloquy, and the idea is that we are giving the plus-size woman a little chance for a monologue. She hasn’t had a voice, and now she does.

Q: What’s special about this demographic, besides size?

 A: Because the plus-sized woman has been denied fashion, she has a little less confidence about what she can mix and match, for example. But she has been denied quality and value, too.

Q: Why the importance of social media?

A: Again, because she’s been so ignored by mainstream sources of information about fashion, the plus-sized blogging community is important to her. So the social media strategy was huge in the launch, reaching out to bloggers, getting feedback on the clothes and the fit. The Limited enlisted one of the best-known bloggers to serve as a voice for the brand.

Q: What else makes the brand unique?

A: The fit is set up on five different body types. Women are very different, and the idea that all plus-size women were either an apple or a pear just didn’t work.

Q: How has it gone so far?

A: Very well. With no regular advertising, and just an online teaser campaign, social media and PR, the site has done very well. I think much of it has to do with the spirit of the clothes. It’s not just work clothes, but fun clothes, cool clothes—a bomber jacket, for example, belted capes, leggings, smocks. They are clothes that are fun and actually show your curves. And the colors are very bright, and follow runway trends. Most are aimed at women between 25 and 35.

Q: The site sells a lot of jewelry. Why?

A: Plus-size women tend to buy a lot of accessories—scarves, hats, shoes, jewelry. They like the idea of a complete outfit.

Q: So what brands does Eloquii compete with?

A: Well, certainly, Lane Bryant, and Talbot’s. But more importantly, I think what makes this brand possible is larger trends, like what Mossimo has done for Target. There’s been this industry shift toward more affordable fashion. Good design sells, and retailers know it. There’s no reason the plus-size shopper shouldn’t expect that, too.

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