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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

11 Honoré: designer plus-size clothing is now only a click away

The size-inclusive online shopping retailer provides luxury and designer clothing for a wider pool of women has launched in the UAE

Designers offer plus-size versions of their straight-size clothes on the website. Courtesy 11 Honore
Designers offer plus-size versions of their straight-size clothes on the website. Courtesy 11 Honore

Walk into your favourite designer store in The Dubai Mall, or any boutique that stocks clothing by Zac Posen, Reem Acra, Prabal Gurung or Naeem Khan, and see if you manage to find a size US12 or UK16 by these luxury brands that you’d love to add to your wardrobe. Or, in fact, anything above a size US4.

Two years ago, tech executive, PR guru and fashion consultant Patrick Herning had his light bulb moment, when he realised that the Net-A-­Porter equivalent for plus size women didn’t exist on the fashion landscape. Women were, finally, able to find some plus-size options in high-street stores, but luxury brands and designer labels just didn’t cater for larger sizes. And considering that in the United States alone, according to Herning, 70 per cent of women are a size US14 and up, that meant that the majority of women simply weren’t finding what they wanted when it came to ­beautiful clothes.

The idea for e-commerce platform 11 Honore was born, and starting this week, the size-inclusive online shopping retailer providing luxury and designer clothing for women from size US10/UK14 to size US24/UK28, will deliver to the UAE, as well as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Designers like the ones mentioned above, and dozens more, have created exclusive pieces for the site in larger sizes.

This means that when you walk into a Christian Siriano store and admire a size 4 navy jumpsuit, you’ll be able to find that exact same jumpsuit on the site, in US sizes 10 to 24, at the exact same price. But only on 11 Honore.

“Brands have really turned to us for marketing, messaging, positioning,” says Herning, the site’s founder and chief executive. “They want the shopping experience for the plus-size customer to be exactly the same as all their customers, and they trust 11 Honore to be a distribution ­channel for them. So now, they create exclusive products? for our website,” he explains.

What Herning never wanted was a watered-down version of fashion. He didn’t want that navy jumpsuit to be redesigned as a navy kaftan because of some misconception that women of a larger size only want loose fitting clothing, or would never wear a form fitting jumpsuit. “We are saying that the customer wants the exact same thing offered to straight sizes, the same luxury experience,” he says. “We’ve listened to our customer and created the clothes edit for her that she wants, not what we think she wants. People have so many hypothesis about this customer, when at the end of the day, she’s just a woman. As a straight-size woman, you maybe prefer to show your legs but not your arms, or your arms but not your legs. Doesn’t matter your size; you have specific feelings about fashion. So we have a little bit of everything, for everybody, regardless of age.”

In August last year, 11 Honore went live in the US with 15 luxury brands: Sally LaPointe, Lela Rose, Brandon Maxwell, Dima Ayad from Dubai and Marchesa, among others. Today, there are more than 50 brands on board, and by the end of the year, there will be north of 80. The site’s brands have dressed everyone from plus-size models Ashley Graham, Candice Huffine and Precious Lee to celebrities like Rebel Wilson and Octavia Spencer.

Ashley Graham:

The styles cater to women of ages between 25 and 65, and include everything from classic evening gowns to contemporary, modern clothing to loungewear, activewear, swimwear and even lingerie. And although this is about luxury fashion, there is still a diversified price point. “The trajectory of brand acquisition we demonstrated was never the challenge,” says Herning. “The challenge had really been the retailer roadblocking this initiative and not stocking these sizes. The brands want to support this new foray into fashion, they want to be more size inclusive. Our platform allowed this conversation to make major movement.”

He is in talks with Dolce and ­Gabbana, Alexander Wang and Diane von Furstenberg; all brands that will be joining 11 Honore next year. “So many women have been wanting this for so long,” he says. Fashion, maintains Herning, should be fun and inclusive, regardless of your size. His platform is not about being “plus size” as much as it’s about creating options for a customer who can’t find what she wants anywhere else and who is often offered fewer options in the fashion world. “That’s why we don’t carry smaller sizes; there are plenty who do and straight-size women have plenty of options. We’re here for the woman with less options.”

Too much focus is placed on sizing, he says. Someone who is a size US4 would be a size 8 at Yves St Laurent, or a size 00 at St John. “There is no consistency across brands, so we focus on fit,” he explains.

Jessica Raiter, fashion director at 11 Honore and vice president of merchandising, inspects and touches and tries on every piece of clothing before it’s photographed for the site. “It’s about finding clothing that makes a woman feel food and look good. How many times can she wear the item, and in how many different ways? Is it itchy? How does it drape? Where would she wear it? I’m buying for a woman who works, who has a family, who has a social life, she has passions, she likes to express herself, she has a beautiful home; wherever she is, aesthetics are important to her and self-­expression is important to her. What kind of wardrobe does she need?”

This hands-on approach allows Raiter and her team to go back to the brands that 11 Honore works with – the same brands who are creating exclusive sizes for the site – and tell them whether they need to make the waists higher, or the arm holes larger. “We have a relationship with our customers, but same goes for the brands. We’re educating them as well,” she explains. “We are forming a community, and we are de-stigmatising.”

Patrick Herning, Founder & CEO, 11 Honore. Courtesy 11 Honore 
Patrick Herning, Founder & CEO, 11 Honore. Courtesy 11 Honore

And although Dubai and the wider region is the first international market for 11 Honore to officially target, Herning is aiming for global domination. “Our customer is ­everywhere,” he says. “But we started with the [this?] region because it is known for luxury, known for fashion. And we are about fashion and fit, regardless of size.”

Growing with the times, and making inclusivity become the “new exclusive” is Herning’s mandate, and he makes an unarguable point: “Nothing will happen to the luxury, designer brand if it offers larger sizes; 11 Honore’s success has demonstrated that. So why shouldn’t a plus-size woman have access to every designer that the straight-sized woman can access?”

Why not, indeed.

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