First came the muted capsule staples from ethical brands dipping their toes in size inclusion, like Sotela, Only Child, and of course, Elizabeth Suzann, the sadly now defunct brand beloved by ethical fashion minimalists. Then just as quickly, in a desperate stretch to compete with the eye-grabbing prints and sequins of fast fashion houses like ASOS and Eloquii, select ethical fashion brands started releasing brighter and bolder collections. “We’ll have what they’re having!” proclaimed the plus-size consumer.
For me, it all started with a brightly embroidered matching wide-leg pant and tank set from Nettle Studios that arrived at my doorstep late February 2020. I had cautiously reasoned the set would mix well with my existing wardrobe. I was not prepared for how glorious it would feel to stand out, not because of my size, but because my outfit demanded such attention. That pull towards the ornate is how I found myself standing in Wray’s Brooklyn studio, a Latinx-owned brand known for its art-influenced patterns. Wray clothes have been worn by celebrities like Aidy Bryant, Maya Rudolph, Sasheer Zamata, and Hilary Duff, and on that particular day, me. Wray Serna was fitting me for a shimmery black and emerald floral cocktail dress.
Serna, the designer, founder, and namesake of the brand, wholeheartedly acknowledges the lack of maximalist, size-inclusive fashion, despite the demand from plus-size customers. After expanding its size range in June 2020 to include extended sizes up to a 5X (with plans to release its full line in a 6X by spring 2021, and 7X also in the works), Wray has seen unprecedented growth in its plus-size customer base: “We felt strongly that we don’t have the authority to decide what people want to wear for them, and that to truly be inclusive with our products and our sizing, we had to make every single garment in the full size range.”
On the other side of the country, Nettle Studios, an up-and-coming sustainable fashion brand in San Francisco, echoes the staggering growth of its own plus-size offerings. Its sales grew 300% in 2020 when it shot its fall collection exclusively on Virgie Tovar (a plus-size model) and introduced One Size Plus, which fits up to a 5XL. “We are most inspired by bold colors and our customers who wear them loudly,” affirms Nettle Studios. “Especially now, given the current political and social climate, our clothes act as a deep breath, and hopefully convey some joy to our customers! We don’t see why fat bodies can’t have the same access to happy things as straight sized bodies.”