Contributing Writer, Melissa Watkins
History of the company
Fun Fact: Did you know that Lane Bryant, created in 1904 by single mom and seamstress Lena Bryant, started as a maternity retailer? In addition, Lena was the first designer, with a store on 5th Avenue, to create clothing for plus-size women during World War I. In the early days of Lane Bryant’s development, it wasn’t normal nor popular to promote maternity clothes or clothes for women above an average size. It’s safe to say that the vision of Lena Bryant has a long-standing history. And the visibility that Ms. Lena was fighting for back in 1904 is still a big fight today.
Conservative not cutting edge
Lane Bryant is the country’s largest plus-size retailer with more than 700 locations in 48 states. Its online presence can’t be denied either, www.lanebryant.com is the home to not only the namesake, but several other plus-size retailers including Catherine’s.
Even though Lane Bryant is a staple in the plus-size community, in latter years it hasn’t been known for creative or cutting edge designs. One could find the standard black slack, a good bra, or a nice dress for a family event at the store. but cutting edge and flattering designs for the young plus-size lady? That hasn’t been the thought process.
The crew at Lane Bryant heard the complaints of the plus-size consumer. How could the country’s largest retailer be off the mark when it came to design aesthetics? Plus, the arrival of social media has brought attention to smaller plus-size designers. No longer stuck with big-box stores, customers could have one-on-one contact with designers who understood the plight of the shopper. Lane Bryant, became that store our moms shopped at.
By 2013, Lane Bryant knew it was time to step up their game. The company used a technique other retailers have used, collaborating with a well-known designer. This move proved to breath life into the brand.
Lane Bryant started with an Isabel Toledo holiday capsule collection that virtually sold out. The company partnered with Toledo again for a spring collection; this time promoting the designs with a fashion show in Times Square. And once again, the collection sold out online. 2014 bought a lingerie and sleepwear collaboration with Sophie Thallet.
Moves like these helped the company resurge as place for sophisticated plus-size designs. It was time for Lane Bryant to make bolder moves, getting into the view of new plus-size consumers: The Millenials and their love for social media.
Social Media saves the day
Spring 2015, Lane Bryant decided to take the social media world by storm by developing the ‘I’m No Angel’ hashtag. This hashtag was accompanied by an amazing photoshoot featuring some of the world’s most beautiful plus-size models: Candice Huffine, Ashley Graham, Precious Victoria Lee, Georgia Pratt, Justine Legault, and Sabina Karlsson. The visual campaign was a stunning, non-photoshopped affair that featured a diverse cast of women.
#ImNoAngel was a shock to the world of plus-size fashion . . . according to Lane Bryant. The models posed in the company’s bra and panty line – Cacique. There was video campaign and a fashion show. Lane Bryant didn’t exactly say that the slogan was a direct attack to the Victoria’s Secret campaign, but some thought the hashtag was divisive, pitting all body types against each other. Still, ‘I’m No Angel’ appealed to plus-size women across social media platforms. The company’s underwear was also more risqué, sexy, and made to make plus-size women feel included in the sexy conversation.
Late summer, the company came up with the ‘Plus Is Equal’ campaign. This time, the company wanted to be more inclusive by basing the hashtag on its core audience. The #PlusIsEqual campaign was once again accompanied by an amazing photography. The models wore the company’s new fall 2015 line. The looks were far from boring and conservative.
Now, you can still find your casual separates and sleek business wear, however there’s an addition of bold prints, edgier ‘online only’ and super trendy designs. When, Lane Bryant’s president, Linda Heasley noted, “67 percent of women fall in the range of sizes from 14 to 24, there is limited industry representation.” She really campaigned for the company to design great looking clothes that can be worn by any . . . body.
Fighting for women to be seen, in an industry that tries to keep plus-size women silent is no easy feat. These recent months, Lane Bryant has really hit the mark and echoed the sentiment of its creator, Lena Bryant. The number one plus-size retailer in the country is proving that they are here to stay in that position.